Trichotillomania is a hair-pulling disorder that falls under the category of body-focused repetitive behaviours. Clare Mackay is an advocate for raising awareness about this condition and promoting understanding and support for those affected. As part of the NHBF's latest campaign, she shares her insights to drive positive change.

What is Trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania affects around 2% of the population, both men and women. Individuals with this condition experience an irresistible urge to pull out their hair, leading to visible thinning or bald spots, commonly on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes, or beard. It is not a symptom of another disorder but a distinct condition causing distress and shame. Awareness and education play crucial roles in reducing stigma and supporting those affected.

Although trichotillomania often begins in adolescence, it can emerge at any age. Genetics may play a role in its onset, as it tends to run in families, but for many, there is no clear cause. Traumatic events or periods of high anxiety may trigger hair-pulling urges. However, more research is needed to understand its correlation with conditions like autism or ADHD.

While there is no cure for trichotillomania, management strategies can help reduce symptoms. Drug treatments have shown mixed results, and more research is ongoing into promising options like memantine. Psychological therapies are valuable, although specialised understanding in this area is lacking. Peer support from communities like Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours (BFRB) UK & Ireland can be invaluable.

Advice for hair stylists

For hairdressers and beauty therapists, understanding and empathy are key to supporting clients with trichotillomania. It's important to avoid asking clients why they can't simply stop pulling their hair, as this can exacerbate shame. Validating their experience by acknowledging the uncontrollable urges is important. Offering private spaces for consultations and being open to discussing concerns can also help. Trusting your intuition and prioritising making clients feel comfortable and confident is essential.

The ideal salon experience for someone with trichotillomania involves inclusive language and information on the website to alleviate the need for explanations. Private consultations to discuss concerns without judgment are also important. Stylists with basic knowledge and a willingness to help clients look and feel their best are crucial.

There are generally no specific services or products to avoid for clients with trichotillomania. However, it's important to be cautious with harsh products if clients have open wounds. Otherwise, standard services like colouring and styling are suitable.

Raising awareness

While specific training for trichotillomania is not widespread yet, initiatives like 'BFRB friendly salons' are in the works, aiming to provide education and accreditation for supportive spaces.

By raising awareness, fostering understanding, and offering support, the hair and beauty industry can play a vital role in empowering individuals with trichotillomania to embrace their unique beauty with confidence. Let's work together to create inclusive environments where everyone feels valued and supported.

To find out more about trichotillomania, please visit our trichotillomania webpage.