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How to Build a Cross-Referral Business for Hair Loss

Anne Moratto | August 27, 2018 | 7:39 AM
Evie Johnson, a certified trichologist and a master stylist for Mizani's International Developmental Team.
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Dr. Ken Washenick from Bosley Inc.
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Candy Lewis Williams, Ph.D., a board-certified naturopathic, master herbalist and certified trichologist.
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Maggie DiFalco and Kelli Yoder of Maggie The Salon and K&M Hair Systems in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
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K&M Hair Systems in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
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As our HAIR+ interview was coming to a close with Candy Lewis Williams, Ph.D., a board-certified naturopathic doctor, master herbalist and trichologist based in San Antonio, she urged us to follow up with any additional questions. “And, if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find somebody else who will.” 

This willingness to collaborate is a shared trademark of the dedicated health and beauty professionals who passionately strive to help their clients who suffer from hair loss.

Developing working relationships with practitioners who possess complementary skills creates a full-circle approach to client care. Stylists in salons identify their colleagues who are certified trichologists. In turn, trichologists connect with dermatologists, endocrinologists and gynecologists who can order and perform testing that leads to a proper diagnosis. Physicians want to ally themselves with knowledgeable salon professionals who not only can keep a patient compliant and on track with their treatment regimen but are also in the position to spot additional clients with hair loss needs. 

Joining forces begins with outreach and an acknowledgement that no one person can know it all.

Doctor’s Orders

“We (stylists) can be a bit ego-driven,” says Lewis Williams, who has been a licensed cosmetologist for 35 years. “We are natural artists and helpers, but we have to be aware when an issue is out of our scope of practice. When you’re not confident that you can help that client, then you need to know someone who is and who will work with you. In the medical community, we sometimes war against one another, and there can be a lot of negativity. Instead, keep the client the priority, and create a good team.”

Lewis Williams employs alternative health programs and therapies in her practice, and she educates on connecting beauty with wellness.

“A lot of people want to do natural and holistic treatments but the challenge can be if there is no monitoring because ‘natural’ is not just taking a vitamin or eating whole grains; it’s a full lifestyle, and the client may not have the will, knowledge or discipline to follow through so the practitioner needs to coach them through the process. A physician, like an endocrinologist, typically isn’t going to have the time to spend with the client, so I bridge that gap.

“When I have trichologists refer to me—always respecting HIPAA laws—the three of us have a meeting, including the client, trichologist/stylist and me, and the client understands that confidentiality is key. I have had to leave a little of the salon atmosphere behind; we have to be very respectful when a client begins to share and opens up.” 

Evie Johnson is a certified trichologist of the International Association of Trichologists (IAT) as well as a master stylist for Mizani’s International Developmental Team. As such, Johnson lives in two worlds—the trichology world and the professional beauty world. Her trichology skills and smarts are enhanced by her hair artistry, but she is an advocate for referring clients when their problem needs different attention.

“I have developed a network of specialists, but I don’t refer to someone unless I’m confident in them and vice-versa,” Johnson says. “Reputable doctors won’t cross-refer unless they’re sure that the stylists knows what they are talking about. Currently I work with multiple doctors, and that referral business is major for me and for them. The things I learn from a doctor, I can take back and communicate to my clients, and they become really open and receptive.  Clients like to see that people are collaborating on their care.”

With so many possible causes for hair loss, including alopecia, autoimmune disorder, hormone imbalance, reactions to drugs, illness and/or stress, testing is required to positively identify and get to the root of what’s happening and, most often, it needs to be ordered by a medical doctor.

“If a person has a scarring alopecia, then a firm diagnosis from a physician via a biopsy is warranted,” Lewis Williams says. “It’s important to have that accurate information because if you know it is autoimmune dysfunction, for instance, then you know to support the immune system and slow down the progression. It’s not a permanent fix; it has to be managed, and if the client doesn’t adjust her lifestyle, the autoimmune response is staying active. It’s important for us to understand the mechanisms and what happens in the body.”

“Doctors can do many things we can’t such as hair transplantation or PRP (platelet rich plasma) therapy treatments, so I need to seek out a doctor who can perform those services if I have a client who I think would benefit from them,” Johnson says. 

The Front Line

In the comfortable setting of a salon, concerned clients may relax and open up about their hair loss, and the challenge can be if there is no monitoring because ‘natural’ is not just taking a vitamin or eating whole grains; it’s a full lifestyle, and the client may not have the will, knowledge or discipline to follow through so the practitioner needs to coach them through the process. A physician, like an endocrinologist, typically isn’t going to have the time to spend with the client, so I bridge that gap.

“When I have trichologists refer to me—always respecting HIPAA laws—the three of us have a meeting, including the client, trichologist/stylist and me, and the client understands that confidentiality is key. I have had to leave a little of the salon atmosphere behind; we have to be very respectful when a client begins to share and opens up.” 

Evie Johnson is a certified trichologist of the International Association of Trichologists (IAT) as well as a master stylist for Mizani’s International Developmental Team. As such, Johnson lives in two worlds—the trichology world and the professional beauty world. Her trichology skills and smarts are enhanced by her hair artistry, but she is an advocate for referring clients when their problem needs different attention.

“I have developed a network of specialists, but I don’t refer to someone unless I’m confident in them and vice-versa,” Johnson says. “Reputable doctors won’t cross-refer unless they’re sure that the stylists knows what they are talking about. Currently I work with multiple doctors, and that referral business is major for me and for them. The things I learn from a doctor, I can take back and communicate to my clients, and they become really open and receptive.  Clients like to see that people are collaborating on their care.”

With so many possible causes for hair loss, including alopecia, autoimmune disorder, hormone imbalance, reactions to drugs, illness and/or stress, testing is required to positively identify and get to the root of what’s happening and, most often, it needs to be ordered by a medical doctor.

“If a person has a scarring alopecia, then a firm diagnosis from a physician via a biopsy is warranted,” Lewis Williams says. “It’s important to have that accurate information because if you know it is autoimmune dysfunction, for instance, then you know to support the immune system and slow down the progression. It’s not a permanent fix; it has to be managed, and if the client doesn’t adjust her lifestyle, the autoimmune response is staying active. It’s important for us to understand the mechanisms and what happens in the body.”

“Doctors can do many things we can’t such as hair transplantation or PRP (platelet rich plasma) therapy treatments, so I need to seek out a doctor who can perform those services if I have a client who I think would benefit from them,” Johnson says. 

The Front Line

In the comfortable setting of a salon, concerned clients may relax and open up about their hair loss, and trained hairdressers know how to broach the sensitive topic. The salon is very often the launching point for a client starting on a journey to treat hair loss.

“Unless they are at home, doing their own hair, at some point every person has to go for a hair cut,” says Ken Washenik, M.D., PhD, from Bosley, Inc., based in Beverly Hills, a world class medically approved hair restoration practice. “That stylist is the first point of contact with someone who has been professionally trained to look at your hair and your scalp.”

Dr. Washenik, who is on the faculty at New York University, is a dermatologist, and when he wants to refer out, he accesses the network of salons and stylists via Bosley Professional.

“People, myself included, often develop a close relationship with their stylist, and they feel comfortable discussing things they wouldn’t with everyone else. They will talk about the side effects of medication, and a knowledgeable stylist will steer them back to the physician if there are questions or concerns. It’s important to have someone we trust to bounce it off.

“From a physician’s standpoint, I know that going to a doctor can be a pain but a client will go to their stylist over and over. It is great to have a partnership with someone who understands hair and understands the treatments. If clients are going through a period of shedding hair, which is actually normal and part of the cycle of hair transplantation, it is so helpful to have the stylist as a calming influence.”

Hair Partners

Maggie DiFalco and Kelli Yoder are partners in K&M Hair Systems, a business specializing in hair replacement and extensions, which was born two years ago at the inaugural HAIR+ Summit. Yoder, a stylist at DiFalco’s salon—Maggie The Salon in Pembroke Pines, Florida—expressed a keen interest in learning more about hair loss and how to help clients suffering with thin and disappearing hair.  Seeing Yoder’s passion, DiFalco supported and empowered her to pursue her interest by taking the esthetics room in the salon and transforming it into a private room for their new business—K&M Hair Systems.

“You know your team is strong, but you also know that they need wings,” DiFalco says. “When Kelli came back from the HAIR+ Summit, she was flying, and I knew we had to do something to make this real for her.”

K&M Hair Systems was easily marketed to their Maggie The Salon guests, past and present,. But to expand their business, DiFalco and Yoder knew they had to expand their outreach.

“We contacted a dermatologist in our area so she could perhaps refer clientele that they can’t help, who have lost too much hair and who need that prosthetic. We can do the same. We have some clients that come in who could benefit from the dermatologist’s point of view and treatment.”

Yoder is part of Dr. Alan Bauman’s HairCoach program, which provides licensed professionals with the knowledge and tools necessary to help with hair loss.

“When we meet clients who are just noticing hair loss, they aren’t ready to wear a hair system, but they want to find out why and if they can stop it,” she says. “I can’t do biopsies or PRP or blood work to determine hormone or thyroid levels, and a lot of clients want those things done to get answers before they move on with their hair-loss treatment. So we work well together. We get referring clients from dermatologists who might want a little hair added along their journey to feel good while they are treating their hair and scalp.”

An important piece of this cross-referring relationship extends beyond the two parties and into the community. K&M Hair Systems is hosting their second “Wigs for Kids” fundraising event to enlist community support and build awareness of hair loss.

“We’re also going to partner with our dermatologist to do a women’s seminar in the salon,” Yoder says. “Teaming up, we’re able to give our clients a better understanding of the hair’s life cycle and to address skin and scalp issues that can lead to loss and thinning.”

“The nature of this business is so different from the salon business,” DiFalco adds. “We have to make sure there is privacy, time to answer questions, and that we have established trust. This can be very traumatic for some people so we don’t want to go through a list of doctors and just start referring. We need to know their follow-through and their bedside manner.”

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