Modern Exclusive: How-To Approach and Treat a Client's Hair Loss
Diana Schmidtke, a celebrity men’s groomer whose impressive roster of clients includes Hollywood’s hottest leading men including George Clooney, Robert Pattinson, and Chris Hemsworth, offers her expert tips on how to broach a touchy topic with clients, men and women, alike—thinning hair. Schmidtke’s suggestions encompass everything from consultation, to cut and color, to product offerings for preserving your client’s crowning glory.
STARTING THE CONVERSATION
“Hair loss affects up to 60% of people but I definitely think hairdressers hesitate to speak about it because it is a very sensitive issue,” says Schmidtke. “How do you say to someone you are losing your hair? Hairdressers need to remember to refer to it as thinning or hair loss and not balding. It is almost always sensitive for women while every guy is very different; some will be devastated because it so affects how they feel about themselves and others will be more matter-of-fact but I know from working with men that they are well aware that it is happening and you have to put on your kid gloves and start the conversation.
“You have to find a comfortable way to have this conversation. If it’s a long term client you already have that trust. You can say in a gentle way, I notice this area near the crown it is thinning out—is that something that concerns you? And then be quiet.”
HOW-TO APPROACH IT:
- If it is a new client, then it’s even more challenging to bring it up. I don’t suggest doing it with a first time client. You can ask are there any concerns, anything you dislike about your hair. Tell me what you like and what you dislike. Always start with the positive. If they don’t’ say anything, that’s ok, you don’t have to bring it up.
- If some guy says I wish I had more hair, you can say I have some tips and tricks about how you can strengthen your hair and if you would like I would be happy to share them. Approach it as a question. You can’t assume that all men care. Some figure I’m just going to shave it. And there are the ones who really want to do something about it.
- Because we’re in the human touch industry, there is a closeness and trust we share with our clients. Also, they look at us—we’re hip, we’re fun, we’re relaxed—so they see us as approachable.
THINNING PATTERNS, PLUS PRODUCT AND PRACTICE TIPS
“With men, they thin in the hairline and all the way back to the crown. It can be both areas at once or just one or the other. Women thin out almost like a Christmas Tree; it branches out and fans out and gets larger. The male hormone DHT is the culprit in men’s hair loss. With women, it can be diet, it can be medication, it can be stress, vitamin deficiency or the result of treatment or a health-related condition.
- Ask them, how do you dry your hair? Get them to admit they are rubbing it back and forth and then tell them to pat their hair dray. Wearing a hat can also create that friction. Suggest they wear a hat with air vents.
- Are they blow drying every day? Having straightening treatments? Maybe it’s time to give your client the right brushes to preserve the integrity of the hair.
- There are so many updated and improved tools available now. You need to make sure that your own tools are updated and you have done the research to know the most cutting edge blow dryers and irons.
- You can’t assume that a guy knows how to use products and tools. They need to be shown. What makes a great men’s groomer is someone who makes a man feel confident. You have to know everything about hair, skin, shaving and they will look at you as their confidante.
- You can share that the B family of vitamins can help to strengthen and thicken hair. It’s also important to practice stress relief and a balanced diet.
HAIRCUTS and COLOR
“With women, a lot of that fullness can be created with the right layers and the right haircut. You don’t want it to be too long because you have the hair weighed down. With men, it’s not true that all the lines need to connect. You can hand cut certain areas. You have to be able to disconnect and realize that particular area is growing in a circle. You have to take your time, move it around and see how it lays. In the front hair line, you can lift up all the hair, take a tiny millimeter section and cut that down and so forth, and so forth, creating tiny sections that start short and go a little longer, and actually build a hair line. You can’t see that those shorter pieces are under there but it builds up the hairline.
“You can color the hair one to two shades darker to play around with the light. If the light can penetrate all the way down to the scalp, it makes the hair appear thinner than it already is. Because that hair follicle is shut down, it creates a shiny look so the light is penetrating down, the scalp is shiny and the light is reflecting back. It makes the hair line really accentuated.”
“If you have done your research, you can also say, ‘There are surgical and non-surgical options—can I share them with you?’”
- I’m big fan of male and female specific product lines. They put more research into the specific issues for men versus women. If a man, for instance, uses a volumizing product from a woman’s line, it might be too much. For women, I recommend everything that is volumizing, especially ones with peptides or silica that attach to the hair strand and create a fuller look.
- Stay away from pomade or silicones--anything too shiny or too heavy. You invite light into the hair strand and down to the scalp. Pomade and gels can be too heavy for thinning hair. If you put gel in the hair when it’s wet, you lock in that moisture and it has an overall shiny appearance plus the hairs stick together.
- Instead, recommend things with a matte finish—clay, putty, paste or thickening stylers in spray. For women and men, texturizing or dry shampoos are great. BUT you can’t assume a man will know how to use these products—you need to demonstrate.
- I do not think the shampoos or conditioners are strong enough on their own to make a difference. They are a good support but not a game changer. You need to do more. There are some thickening, volumizing shampoos. Ones with peptides or silica attach to the hair trand and create a fuller look.
- There are powders that can mask that natural light coming down from the scalp. It’s a daily thing you have to address and once you wash out your hair, it’s over. You would have to show your client how to use it and it’s not right for someone who works outside; sweat will make it disappear or clump up. They are great for a special event and at the end of the day it is their choice which direction they want to take it. You are just the provider.
- Rogaine is a topical product and it works in nine out of ten men. It must be used twice a day and while you will begin to see some results after a few weeks, you have to give it three months to get optimal results. Because men are not used to a lot of steps tell them to think of it like brushing their toothpaste. Recommend they actually keep it near their toothpaste.
- Rogaine can be applied on dirty, clean, wet hair—just get it in there—and it doesn’t affect the overall style. As hair loss begins to happen, the hairs haft closes down so the hair follicle is unable to do its natural shedding. There is no way to open the follicle again. When addressing hair loss, you need to talk about it as soon as you can. Minoxidil in the product goes into that shaft to keep it open so hair can regenerate and grow without that blockage. It keeps that hair shaft open so the new hair can come up without any kind of squeezing.
- I have seen remarkable improvement when both Propecia and Rogaine are used. Propecia is a male hormone, available by prescription. These two products do two very different things and the beauty of it is that they can work together. It’s not the choice for everyone, though, because there are side-affects.
“If you’re a real artist, you are going to know about all these things and be able to present them to your client as options. We’re not doctors but we can give them pluses and minuses of different approaches. That’s the best part of being a hairdresser--you are going to devise a plan that is best for your client and help them get to where they want to be.”