I’m dead serious when I say that my hair can make or break my day. I could be wearing a paper bag or feel sick as a dog but if my hair looks good, I feel confident. Hair not only affects one’s appearance, it is capable of changing your behavior. I decided my mane was a mess; I yearned for the softness and shine it once possessed. My locks warranted expert consultation. A bit of research led me to the Philip Kingsley Trichology Clinic in New York. Trichology is the science of hair and scalp. Kingsley, deemed by Vogue magazine as the “The Hair Wizard,” coined the phrase “bad hair day.” He opened the first-ever trichological clinic in London in 1960. The services encompass both medical and cosmetically related scalp and hair issues. Kingsley’s celebrity clientele includes Kate Winslet, Renee Zellweger, and Cate Blanchett. I made an appointment right away.

My mane expert was Liz, who, undeniably, had a healthy head of hair. The hour-long consultation included details regarding  family history, nutrition, physical and emotional health, as well as a request for blood work (sadly, the results revealed that I’m iron deficient). These are all relevant factors that enabled Liz to rule out potential causes of the trauma to my tresses (e.g., thyroid, malnutrition). She then examined my scalp with magnifying equipment and found it to be “unremarkable.” This pleased her as there were no strange bumps or inflammation – conditions you wouldn’t want anywhere on your skin. “The foundation of healthy hair begins with the scalp,” she remarked. The “tug” test, whereby she gently pulled my hair strands, resulted in the release of more than a couple of strands – not a good sign. She informed me that my hair was dehydrated and had poor elasticity – hair should have a bit of stretch.

Liz patiently answered my barrage of questions and shared some of her vast knowledge on hair health. She takes a holistic approach, connecting body health to hair health and nutrition. She told me the body allocates nutrients to hair tissue after supplying essential systems. And poor nutrition results in poor hair health. Because hair is made of protein, this nutrient must be consumed daily. Furthermore, the hair follicle is the second most prolific cell producer in the body. This explains why I’m not bald despite the number of hairs that fall out daily. Nutritional supplements can be terrific, but they should support the plate - not replace it!

What really surprised me is when Liz told me that hair should be washed daily. The scalp is skin and requires cleansing like the rest of the body. However, it’s important to focus on washing the scalp, not so much the hair. Here are some other tips she passed along:

-Not all sulfates are evil (Kingsley’s products contain sodium lauryl sulfate.)

-The best time to dry hair is when it’s wet. Never use a blow-dryer on dry hair; over-drying damages hair!

-When drying hair, keep the dryer moving, rather than focus on any one area.

-While boar brushes contribute to shine, they are damaging to the scalp. Vented brushes with cone-tipped bristles are best. Brushes with ceramic barrels only serve to fry hair.

One of the most important commandments is to treat hair like a cashmere sweater. “If you wouldn’t do it to a cashmere sweater, don’t do it to your hair,” Liz remarked. I should mention that Liz is not inflexible, and realizes life doesn’t revolve around hair and certain occasions will require mane maltreatment. Her maxim is try to do as little damage as possible to your hair. So you may want to think twice before you flip the switch on your ionic ceramic turbo 1875 watt hair dryer. Do you really need to torch your hair that day?

My head was spinning as I was led to the treatment room for a scalp treatment, which generally follows the consultation. I was thrilled when the illustrious “elasticizer” (a pre-shampoo conditioner), which was created for Audrey Hepburn, was  applied to my strands; especially after learning my hair had poor elasticity. The hour-long scalp treatment was exceptionally relaxing (yes, there’s a massage), and I highly recommend it!

I later reflected on what I’d learned at the trichology clinic, which was extraordinarily eye opening. I’ve never given proper attention to my scalp. I hadn’t shown my locks much love either.  While the initial immediate effects after a comprehensive blow-out had been lovely, I realized it wasn’t worth the years of abuse. My hair had just been diagnosed with “dehydration and poor-elasticity syndrome.” I started the prescribed hair regimen the next day.

Old habits are hard to break and I admit to committing the occasional hair sin. It’s taken more than a few post-it notes on the bathroom mirror to implement certain changes into my hair routine. I always dampen dry my hair prior to styling and I use a vented hair brush.  However, I wouldn’t say my nutrition would meet RDA requirements - that seems to be a life-long work in progress.  But most importantly, my scalp is receiving much needed TLC, and I’m treating my hair like a cashmere sweater.