While clients are always concerned with their strands – the color, length, shine, texture, straightening, curling, glossing, highlighting – they often overlook one simple fact: hair health begins at the scalp.
Stylist Amanda Boyd is a René Furterer scalp therapist and fourth-generation hairdresser in the Birmingham, Alabama-area salon owned and operated by her family. She’s been offering René Furterer scalp treatments for 10 years, and says, “I personally think that scalp treatments are the most important service that we can provide a client.”
As a participant in the HAIR+ program, she says, “In the chaos around COVID, our team is dedicating more time than ever before to helping people prevent and recover from stress-related hair loss, and we’re doing it with René Furterer scalp treatments.”
The effects of COVID on scalp and hair health are undeniable, with long-term stress being the common cause. Stress triggers a spike in cortisol, the prickly, agitating brain-chemical often called the “fight or flight” response. When faced with a crisis – such as the need to swerve out of harm’s way in traffic – a jolt of cortisol is literally life-saving: the hormone super-charges our nerves and reflexes for lightning-fast response.
But chronic, long-term stress – the daily stress of social isolation, loss of connection and contact, loneliness, anxiety about loss of income, etc. — feeds the body a lower-level, persistent stream of cortisol which depletes many of our natural reserves. Dull skin, weakened immune response and hair-thinning are common symptoms. (Luckily, all are reversible!)
In this light, the HAIR+ program, founded in 2017, seems prescient. Research from the program reveals that 81% of women and 75% of men are concerned with present or anticipated hair loss. And the solution starts with improving the health of the scalp.
Boyd’s Oak Street Hair Group location, where she works alongside eight family members, maintains a designated cabinet of René Furterer product, including brushes, combs, bowls and towels. Having this dedicated space “…helps make our scalp treatments run smoothly.” As one popular option, she presents a deeply relaxing, pre-shampoo massage-treatment with René Furturer Complexe 5 Stimulating Plant Concentrate.
The pre-shampoo treatment contains orange and lavender essential oils which make the experience spa-like and pleasurable. “These essential oils give my client a deep sense of relaxation, so they can just close their eyes and really enjoy the moment.”
Boyd tailors her recommendations to the specific needs of the client. For example, if a client has been experiencing hair loss over time, she recommends Triphasic Progressive. If the client has recently been experiencing high levels of stress, had surgery or is taking a new medication, she’ll suggest Triphasic Reactional. She adds, “Also using the Lumicia Vinegar Rinse is a great way to end a treatment. The rinse will clarify the hair and give it an incredible shine. It also acts as a detangler and light conditioner for clients with finer hair.”
Boyd reports that scalp treatments are now a viable and growing revenue center, building client loyalty and retention. She generally offers a clarifying or soothing, 30-minute treatment a-la carte between color services. “I like to pre-book their treatment appointment before the client leaves the salon,” she says. “I always mention to the client that we cannot perform the scalp treatment on the day of their color or any other chemical services, so we add these sessions into the long-term calendar, ideally once per month.”
Boyd encourages her clients to browse through the René Furterer scalp treatment manual as part of their education around scalp health. She and the client select a treatment together. She approaches the sensitive subject of hair loss with an attitude of collaboration and partnership, rather than authoritative prescription.
“It’s so important to treat the client with genuine respect, to honor their dignity as a person,” she says. Her Tupelo-honey ‘Bam accent and frequent, polite “Yes, Ma’am”s surely help the process.”
She explains that many of her clients are women who visit the salon like clockwork for an old-school wash and set. “I’m the only one who shampoos their hair,” says Boyd. “So we have this incredible trust between us, and I handle them like gold.” Her interactive technique combines honesty with subtle de-escalation. Her approach is genuine when educating her clients on scalp care which then enhances the everlasting bond between Boyd and her clients.
“You have to read the room, read your audience,” she says. “I’m an empath, and I pick up on body language and the subtlest expressions. Really, they don’t have to say a thing most of the time.” She invites clients to close their eyes the moment they land in her chair. “I make it my business not only to keep them comfortable, but to give them an experience that will refresh their body, mind and spirit.” More good news: Boyd reports that once a client becomes a fan of scalp services, other treatments are easier to add on. The result is a win-win: healthier hair, scalp, and a healthier bottom-line for the salon.
Because the team operates on commission, scalp treatments present stylists with a ready source of revenue, often scheduled as bookmarks between color services. Boyd recommends that the regimen be maintained at home as well, using the René Furterer Complexe 5. “Of course, coming into the salon feels great, and you get to relax! But also doing the treatments as a ‘ritual’ at home, you will see the best results.”
Why is hair-thinning more of a concern today?
Naturally shed skin cells, pollution and pollen from the atmosphere, cinders and smoke from the barbeque, excess sebum, and product buildup from styling waxes, pastes, gels, mousses, sprays and even dry shampoos can create a residue which may result in (sudden, temporary) hair thinning.
“Women’s hair tends to thin in the front, sometimes with the part getting wider,” says Boyd. “I talk to them about breakage, too, and make sure they aren’t styling with too much tension, like wearing an extreme, ballerina-type topknot or ponytail every day, and especially watching out for those edges of really fine baby-hairs right close to the skin. When men’s hair starts to create the donut effect, this happens to be their first sign of aging. With faithful treatment, the losses can often be alleviated, and as a results boosts their confidence.”
In addition to topical irritants which inflame the scalp and may upset the equilibrium of the scalp, other causes include the use of some medications, and changes in hormones. In addition to the role of cortisol, the loss of estrogen during menopause is a common cause for hair thinning in women. A corresponding cause for men is the natural decline in testosterone during andropause, or male aging.
While these hormonal losses are considered normal, they may be distressing to the client. If hormonal and endocrine changes are the source, the client may wish to consult a medical professional about appropriate hormone replacement.
And, the far-reaching effects of daily stress cannot be underestimated in regard to the health of the scalp and resulting follicle activity. All indications point to the fact that long-term stress often results in hair-thinning for women, in addition to underlying hereditary and hormonal factors. Multiple causes may be resulting in the hair thinning and hair loss we currently observe in our clients. Normal aging, signaled by hormonal and hereditary changes, intensified by stress, and exacerbated by a long absence from the detoxing, cleansing and nurturing treatments offered by professionals in the salon, may combine to present an unhealthy, inflamed scalp and damaged tresses, along with hair that seems to refuse to grow.
As salon professionals, we have a unique opportunity to restore confidence to clients experiencing unhealthy scalp and hair loss. In addition to supporting scalp health and ideally fostering resilient hair growth, we enter into a precious relationship of trust. We touch our clients in an intimate way— especially welcome after more than a year of pandemic isolation (and downright loneliness). We actively listen to our clients, another form of vital, human connection which has been interrupted since early 2020 in the interest of self-protection. And we apply our expertise and knowledge, along with state-of-the-art technology. The result is more than a healthy scalp and attractive hair. The result is a more centered, more relaxed, more confident individual — which is what makes our work so important, and such a privilege.
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