I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told how much I resemble my father, from personality traits and gestures, to the way I talk. But when I went to meet trichologist Ricardo Vila Nova, dubbed the ‘hair whisperer’, I was surprised to hear my hair is like my father’s, too.
‘It’s scientifically proven that the first daughter will inherit more genetic traits from her father than her mother,’ he explains. A pioneer in his field, Vila Nova’s work is highly scientific, favouring medical technology as a means to determine how best to treat hair. His practice of analysing the DNA of hair to establish what’s going wrong, and why, could be the future of hair care. ‘Traditionally, trichology has favoured a holistic approach,’ says Vila Nova. ‘Like visiting the GP, it’s often a case of trial and error. Instead of getting referred straight to a hospital for scans, GPs start by trying a number of methods of treatment – as would a typical trichologist.’
With this new breed of trichologists, you start straight at the scanning stage the moment you arrive. Like a scientist in a lab, Vila Nova uses hi-tech tools to help him learn a lot about you from your hair. He can identify age, gender and genetic pattern as well as measure the impact of hormones and diet. He can also foresee future hair loss and treat it in a far more precise manner. ‘By magnifying and analysing a strand of hair, I can identify the emotional, nutritional, hormonal, environmental and genetic factors affecting the health and condition of your hair and scalp,’ he explains. ‘First, I look to determine hydration and toxin levels to see if the scalp is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs. I also examine cellular activity, which is responsible for the production of cuticle cells. The more cellular reproduction, the wider the hair diameter will be, resulting in thicker hair. If the cellular activity is low, then the cuticle cells will be smaller and the hair will become thinner. The third part of my evaluation is the scalp condition, where I check for bacteria as well as hydration and pH levels. If any of these are unbalanced, your hair won’t look its best.’
Personal hard drive
It’s possible to tell the history of your hair health going back as far as five years. For example, identifying a cause of death, paternity or drug usage can all be done prior to the fact as hair retains our personal information. But when it comes to good hair days, the phrase ‘you are what you eat’ resonates. ‘I can tell if someone has an eating disorder or just doesn’t eat well because their scalp will severely lack vitamins and minerals,’ says Vila Nova. ‘To combat this, I use beauty techniques such as micro-needling on the scalp to infuse as many vitamins as possible.’ He also advises clients to modify the way they eat to get the best long-term results – an increase in things such as nuts, fish, red meat, protein-rich lentils and beans will all be beneficial to the hair.
My hair and scalp, like my skin, are very dry. Just like the personality traits I get from my father, my natural hydration levels are determined by genetics, too (thanks, Dad!). If your scalp doesn’t produce enough oil, it will cause breakage and thinning, as it makes it difficult for the hair to grow. The damage my hair suffers caused by friction when attempting to grow is one of the reasons why it never gets past a certain point. All is not lost, though. Treatment oils and rich conditioners help at home; but Vila Nova has a clever technique up his sleeve. After a head massage that not only helped me relax but also worked a mixture of nourishing oils (including castor oil and rare Japanese Tsubuki oil) into my scalp, he applied a nourishing mask from root to tip and planted me under a laser. Hair removal is what first comes to mind when I hear the word ‘laser’, but Vila Nova uses the same type of laser in a reverse action, stimulating the follicle rather than destroying it. As I reached for my iPad to respond to emails, he suggested I switch off, breath deeply and meditate a little as – unsurprisingly – stress and hectic lifestyles don’t help hair health. Stress can exacerbate genetic hair loss as the adrenal glands secrete male hormones into the body, but it also causes us to burn too much of our energy stores, resulting in less important organs being automatically put on stand-by. ‘Prolonged periods of late nights, early mornings, stress and poor nutrition see your secondary organs – hair, nails and skin – take the brunt,’ says Vila Nova.
For stressed individuals, hair defence is key; he recommends injecting trace elements combined with vitamin dexpanthenol and amino acid cysteine. These occur naturally in the body, but when they’re being used elsewhere, it’s worth introducing them directly into the scalp to stabilise the hair cycle and reduce excess shedding. The results I saw were astounding. Other clients’ before-and-after images showed damaged, fanned-out follicles transformed into slimline, healthy-looking roots within six weeks, and my own dry hair felt so much softer and looked far glossier than it had in a long while. However, prevention is better than cure. Although scientifically advanced, these pioneering treatments aren’t a miracle cure, as they can’t alter your genetics. Realistically, up to 65 per cent of hair recovery should be expected when it comes to hair loss but more improvement can be expected with dehydrated, weak or thin hair. Vila Nova suggests seeing a trichologist before any issues arise so you have a better idea of how your hair will age and what is necessary to keep it in the best condition.
Ageing, malnutrition and stress are all causes of thinning hair. Thickness comes down to the amount of minerals your hair synthesises from your blood stream. Supplements such as spirulina, Biotin and iron work wonders on thinning hair.
Poor cuticles are the culprit here. When cuticles disintegrate, they cause split ends and hair breakage. Keratin masks are an effective at-home treatment.
If you have dry hair, scalp hydration is key. Massage a blend of nourishing oils such as castor oil, grape seed oil and concentrated vitamin D oil into the scalp once a week.
A full consultation and analysis with Ricardo Vila Nova costs £100; Visit joshwoodcolour.com for more information.