Karen Gordon, Owner, J. Gordon esigns in Chicago Board member, Cosmetologists Chicago
Karen Gordon, Owner, J. Gordon esigns in Chicago Board member, Cosmetologists Chicago

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With an increasing number of clients asking questions about hairloss that she couldn’t answer, Karen Gordon, owner of Chicago’s J. Gordon Designs salon and board member of industry association Cosmetologists Chicago, was inspired to pursue education. Five years later, Gordon is one of few providers of trichology analysis in her area. She, however, is no stranger to entering unchartered territory, as Gordon and her late husband, Jerry Gordon, pioneered split-shifting in the salon.

Trichology, the branch of medical and cosmetic study and practice concerned with the hair and scalp, is a topic “only briefly covered in cosmetology school,” Gordon says. “Because of the aging baby boomer population and environmental factors, we are going to see more hairloss than we’ve ever seen before, and science and technology are bringing us to a new place. We need to have avenues to learn about hairloss so we can help people.”

Gordon’s menu of services includes two types of trichology analysis. The first is complimentary.

“We use a scope to look at the scalp and hair and recommend products or treatments,” she says. “People don’t even need to be having a hair challenge; they are intrigued to see their body magnifi ed at this level.”

Through this service, stylists are able to recommend take-home products to help combat treatable issues to create the ideal scalp environment for growth. Gordon prefers products comprising natural ingredients free from artificial aromas, parabens and other harmful ingredients that might create inflammation or irritation.

If a client wants to sit down with Gordon, a more in-depth trichology analysis can be performed for $150. Although Gordon admits she is only in the infancy of the process, she hopes to develop a core team that specializes in hairloss.

“Trichology analysis helps people with all types of hair and scalp problems—from more simple issues, such as a dry scalp or hair breakage, to more complex issues, such as alopecia areata [balding in spots] and telogeneffluvium [hair falling out prematurely in the resting phase],” Gordon says.

“Hairdressers are pleasers by nature,” she says. “When a client asks if their ponytail seems thinner, instinct tells hairdressers to answer, ‘No.’ Most of us don’t have the answers, quite truthfully.”

Although clients typically initiate the conversation surrounding their hairloss, Gordon isn’t shy about addressing it.

“As a professional, I wouldn’t hesitate to say, ‘Are you brushing your hair everyday? Are you noticing you’re losing more hair than you used to?’” Gordon says. More often than not, clients are eager to discuss their hair health and fi nd a solution.


Trichology analysis at J. Gordon begins with a consultation and a general health history, which aims to uncover recent illnesses, perimenopause, diabetes, thyroid issues, diet and any other conditions that might influence hormone levels and therefore the susceptibility to hairloss.

“I’m not a doctor, and I certainly don’t claim to be one,” Gordon says. “We take a holistic approach to hairloss.”

Once Gordon has a general idea of a client’s health history, she discusses expectations.

“The biggest fear for clients facing hairloss is, ‘When will it end?’” she says. “I try to find out what my client’s expectation is: maintaining where they are right now or if they are looking to go into a hair piece, hair system or extensions. This isn’t one-size-fi ts-all.”

Gordon magnifies the scalp to look for signs of inflammation, psoriasis or eczema. She analyzes strand diameter for miniaturization. She looks at the quantity of hair in a particular area to determine if it’s less than it should be, but more importantly to use as a baseline prior to any type of treatment.

“The proof is in the pudding,” she says. “Hair grows very slowly, about a half inch a month, and it’s easy to get frustrated. By doing a scope and a baseline analysis, clients can see if progress has been made when they come back in three months for a follow up.”

Many cases she has seen recently are women experiencing post-partum thinning. After a scalp analysis revealed no issues in two of these clients, Gordon was able to recommend quality shampoo and conditioner, as well as styling products to help her client’s hair look and feel thicker. Through her consultations, she learned both women stopped taking prenatal vitamins after giving birth.

“Their bodies are still going through so many hormonal changes,” she says. On her recommendation, “both women began taking a vitamin specifically designed to provide nutrients essential for healthy hair growth.” A follow-up scope will reveal progress.


Gordon encourages stylists to explore this specialty. “There is a need out there and an opportunity to create a point of difference for your business,” she says. “You can provide a service to your existing clientele and to a community at large who desperately need your services.”

For stylists interested in learning more, Gordon recommends seeking education from the International Association of Trichologists or the World Trichology Society. Both programs provide online learning modules and offer clinical training.

“The material can be dry for artistic types, as classes include a lot of science and biology,” Gordon says. “I would recommend to anyone: Take a shorter class, and if you like it, go and get your certification.”

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