Earlier I shared my frustration over my thinning crown of glory, a by product of getting older and some cruel genetic joke from my ancestors.
After getting the diagnosis of early female androgenic alopecia from a derm that specializes in hair loss, my only option seemed to be Rogaine 5% and, according to my hair colorist, Viviscal. “Models pop it like pez” she tells me.
Together, the Rogaine 5% and VIviscal work pretty well, but considering all of the advances in medical beauty I can’t believe this is all there is short of a hair transplant.
But there was one stone left unturned and that was a visit to The Philip Kingsley Salon to see a licensed trichologist.
This has been on my beauty bucket list for while, but what’s held me back is the $300 price tag. I couldn’t find any online reviews aside from Philip Kingsley hair products, so I wondered if this was merely hocus with a hair treatment.
Besides, a trichologist isn’t a medical doctor, but more of a highly trained specialist who lives and breathes the science of a healthy head of hair and scalp. What were they going to tell me that I didn’t already know after visiting two dermatologists?
But after learning that August is National Hair Loss Awareness Month, I got to investigate for the better of womankind once and for all. After all, according to Harvard Medical School over one third of women will suffer from thinning hair in their lifetime. And I’m glad I took the plunge because I met my follicular fairy godmother in the form of Elizabeth Cunnane-Philips, MIT.
Finally, someone took my thinning hair seriously.
I told her my hair history – from my days with long, thick, glorious locks in my teens and twenties, followed by complete baldness due to cancer and chemotherapy in my mid thirties. When it grew back it, my hair was thinner on top, my pony-tails were skinny and my scalp was getting sunburnt.
Two dermatologists, a full blood panel and one scalp biopsy later, I’m sitting in her chair, hoping for answers.
She told me that I’m on the right path, and that my blood work looks pretty good although my zinc was low, she would like to see my iron closer to 80 instead of 65 and suggested I get my ferritin checked.
On the upside, she told me that my thinning hair is only a 1 on the Ludwig scale of female pattern baldness, meaning not noticeable outside of a clinical setting.
On the downside, after reviewing all my labs, she confirmed what the hair derm already told me, which is that I just got dealt a crummy genetic hand.
(I’m not sure which parent to blame for this, but it will be brought up at Festivus).
She went on to explain that there isn’t a one stop fix for thinning hair. Rather, hair health is a by-product of your energy, nutrition, stress, endocrine system, genetics and androgenic sensitivity (meaning anything that might impact your hormones like birth control pills).
However, there are 6 things people overlook when it comes to thinning hair:
1. Eat five small meals a day with plenty of protein and no processed food. This nutritional emphasis was the biggest Holy Cow and if I were paranoid would have thought she was in cahoots with my nutritionist who evangelizes the same approach.
According to Cunnane-Philips, hair is a secondary organ and at the bottom of your body’s nutritional food chain. This means your vital organs get the nutrients first, and if there isn’t enough for skin, hair and nails, then too bad. However, when you eat 5 small meals, the body believes there’s enough for everyone and gives your hair the ration it deserves.
The meals should be balanced with protein, carbs and fat, with an emphasis on high quality protein, especially in the morning and at lunch. The surprise protein of choice? Kippers!
2. Wash your hair more often. Another surprise because urban legend has it that you should wash less (and I’m lazy, so it fits with my lifestyle). The reason for washing more is to ensure optimal absorption of the minoxidil. After she saw me groan, she said I could probably get away with washing every other day.
3. Check your thyroid annually. This is very common in women as they stride thru middle age and one the major causes of hair loss. I’ve had mine checked before and it’s normal, but a wonky thyroid can come out of nowhere, so make sure your doctor is actively checking it before the clumps come tumbling out.
4. Use a widely spaced brush with rounded pins. Hairbrushes confuse me as much as eye cream and sunscreen. There’s the ionic this, the ceramic that, the boar bristle, the vented, the rounded, the paddle.
Unfortunately I have them all, but they’re wrong for thinning hair.
Apparently, when you’ve got thinning hair and a tender scalp, wooden vented cushion brushes are better because they don’t get as hot as the ceramic ones do. The rounded pins and wide spacing prevent too much hair from being pulled out and are much more gentle to your scalp.
5. Supplement only has needed. While Philip Kingsley sells supplements, Cunnane-Philips was hesitant to recommend anything until I had additional blood work to see if I was deficient. Otherwise, supplementation is a waste.
What Philip Kingsley sells is is a basic multi-vitamin, gelatin protein, chelated ferrous bi-glycine sulfate (for low iron) and a supplement containing B12 and Lysine for those who are vegetarians or don’t eat a lot of red meat.
She did suggest I look into an amino acid, but I noticed my Viviscal contains a blend of amino acids called AminoMar so assumed I was covered on that front.
6. Exercise! Yes, it’s the cure all for everything except the economy. In the case of your scalp, not only does help with blood flow, it helps to regulate your hormones which translates into a happy head of hair.
Then came the fun part, the scalp treatment.
A nice lady washed my hair then rubbed greenish goo the consistency of toothpaste into my scalp. On my hair itself, she massaged in the famed Elastizer deep conditioning treatment. (It was kinda fun, like hair mud wrestling). Next my hair is wrapped up in plastic and I’m set to cook under some hot lights for about an hour while I flip thru US Weekly. (Can you believe what a dirtbag Lamar Odam turned out to be?)
I was bummed that I had to blow out my own hair, but it certainly felt full and bouncy, despite my blow drying butterfingers.
Then came the not so fun part; the bill.
After the $300 consultation, came the product recommendations, of which was a much more expensive alternative to my Rogaine 5%. It cost twice as much, but the Philip Kingsley version has zinc, which is calming to a sensitive, itchy scalp so I’m giving it a whirl.
But wait, there’s more:
- Philip Kingsley scalp cream 1x a week
- Philip Kingsley Elastizer 1x a week
- Philip Kingsley scalp cream 1x a week
- Philip Kingsley green shampoo (for after my weekly scalp/Elastizer treatment)
- Philip Kingsley Moisture Balancing Shampoo
- Philip Kingsley Moisture Balancing conditioner
- Philip Kinglsey scalp tonic
- Philip Kingsley special brushes.
So was it worth it?
The consultation with Elizabeth Cunnane-Philips, MIT was great, but I suggest if you pay them a visit, make sure you have your blood work done in advance so she has more information to work with. Same if you need a scalp biopsy.
Do the Philip Kingsley products work? The scalp treatment was nice, and I’ll be back in the winter, but only time will tell if the products are worth the price tag (they’re comparably priced to Kerastase).
The whole experience wasn’t a thinning hair silver bullet, but I don’t think one exists yet. What I did get was the peace of mind that I’m doing everything I can.
Anyone else out there experiencing thinning hair?