Dermatologist emboldens salon hair stylists to recognize hair loss

Yolanda M. Lenzy, MD, MPH

Yolanda M. Lenzy, MD, MPH

Shortly after graduating from high school, Yolanda M. Lenzy, MD, MPH, became a licensed cosmetologist. This background has given her a unique perspective in her lifelong effort to help African-American patients who have risk factors for hair loss.

“Very early on, I had this interest of bringing both worlds — the artistic side and my love for science — together,” said Dr. Lenzy, medical director of Lenzy Dermatology and Hair Loss Center, Chicopee, Massachusetts.

She shared the preliminary results of Project H.A.I.R. (Halting Alopecia Initiating Regrowth) March 7 duringUpdates in the Epidemic of Hair Loss in African-American Women” (F146).

The purpose of the multicenter trial was to improve hair stylists’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to identifying hair and scalp conditions of concern in salon clients.

“Within the African-American community, there are shared social spaces where people gather information, such as churches, barbershops, and beauty salons,” Dr. Lenzy said. “We can use these areas to promote health.”

She pointed to a 2008 Institute of Medicine Report, which found that innovative community-based interventions build trust with respected community partners. Another study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2014, showed that barbers and stylists want to share — and already talk about — health information with customers, and customers are interested in receiving health information from their stylists or barbers, she said.

During her talk, “Prevention and Earlier Detection of Cicatricial Alopecia in African-American Women by Partnering with Hair Stylists,” she described how Project H.A.I.R. trained student and professional hair stylists to recognize early signs of alopecia in clients.

On average, patients who come to her clinic have been experiencing hair loss for five to 10 years, she said.

“Our ultimate goal is to diagnose patients earlier,” Dr. Lenzy said.

Of the 187 participants, 62 percent were black. Fifty-four percent were between 20 and 40 years of age. She and other dermatologists conducted the training in Connecticut, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Participants took part in three steps: a pretest with five questions, a follow-up presentation with a dermatologist, and a post-test with the same pre-test questions. The questions focused on identifying tinea capitis in children who come into a salon, the prevalence of central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA), cicatricial versus noncicatricial alopecia, identifying a medication that commonly causes hair loss, and signs of systemic disease through hair loss.

While a majority of stylists correctly answered between two and three pre-test questions, they fared better on the post-tests by correctly answering between four and five questions. Those numbers for students were between one and two correct pre-test answers and between three and four correct post-test answers.

“We’re not teaching them to be doctors and do what we do,” Dr. Lenzy said. “If they can bring things up with their clients and send them to us earlier, we can have a huge impact.

Indeed, the impact can be huge. Dr. Lenzy said that even with stylists who see about 10 clients a week, the training reaches more than 1,800 women who visited those stylists.

The afternoon also featured talks on the etiology and epidemiology of CCCA and traction alopecia in women of African descent; diagnosis, workup, and medical management; hair restoration in scarring alopecia; and quality of life and the economic toll of alopecia.

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