This is a common misconception. Many people think that dermatologists are just involved with the diagnosis and treatment of conditions of the skin, but the truth is that they specialise in the skin and its appendages, which includes hair and nails.
Why is hair classified as part of the skin?
Because the hair itself is not a living part of the body – the part that is living is the hair follicle, which is found within the skin. There are other fields that claim to be experts in hair loss and hair problems, such as trichologists, however these are not medical doctors, so if – as is often the case – hair loss is a result of an underlying medical condition, a trichologist will not be able to prescribe the necessary medication.
What hair problems can a dermatologist treat?
A dermatologist can diagnose the cause of almost any hair problem, from thinning hair to complete baldness. Not all problems can be treated – alopecia androgenetica for example, more commonly known as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness – does not have a cure, although some topical medications can reduce further hair loss and encourage hair growth.
Alopecia areata, scarring alopecia and other forms of sudden unexplained hair loss are all examples of hair loss problems that should be treated by a dermatologist.
What if my hair loss problem can’t be treated medically – what options are there?
If you are suffering from male pattern baldness, or another form of permanent hair loss that cannot be treated medically, there are many different treatment options available.
One of the most popular treatments for male hair loss is hair transplant surgery, in which hair follicles are removed from a donor area – usually at the back of the head – and transplanted into the balding area. This can be an expensive process, however, and will not prevent further hair loss in future – most men find they need to have a second hair transplant at some point to deal with hair loss that occurs post surgery.
Another option is scalp micropigmentation, or SMP. In men, this is usually used to create the illusion of a closely shaven full head of hair, by inserting pigment into the skin of the scalp in a process similar to – but subtly different from – tattooing.
In women, SMP can be used to disguise thinning areas, to give the impression of thicker, fuller hair.