Thursday, April 26th, 2018

S Shopper Stories


VIRGINIA DERMATOLOGY & SKIN CANCER CENTER

Virginia’s original Clinical Trichology Practitioner has a heart for helping the forgotten

by Candance Moore


Karen Brace understands that hair loss is often an indicator of one’s physical and mental health.

Karen Brace understands that hair loss is often an indicator of one’s physical and mental health.

A 13-year-old girl recently stepped into Karen Brace’s office at Virginia Dermatology. The young patient, in the middle of her junior high school experience, suffered from a form of alopecia that left her with only 20 per cent of her hair. Thanks to Karen’s extended education and keen intuition—a gift that borders on prophetic—the problem was traced to abnormal activity in the adolescent’s digestion system. This was a typical day at work for Karen.

As Virginia’s first Clinical Trichology Practitioner, Karen is qualified to offer a medical diagnosis related to hair loss and scalp damage, with the oversight of the highly respected Brian Johnson, MD of Virginia Dermatology.  Patients often seek her out after other treatment options fail and cosmetic products turn out to be placebos. “The key as with any disorder is early diagnoses” Karen explains.

“Hair loss stands at the intersection of medicine and beauty,” she continues. “Doctors haven’t studied cosmetology, beauty professionals haven’t studied medicine, and neither side has moved in to fill the gap. Now we have trichology to address this need.”

Trichology is a specialized discipline of dermatology often pursued by hair stylists, since they routinely encounter the depression and embarrassment felt by unfortunate clients who are slowly losing their hair.

“Spending every day behind a stylist chair taught me quite a bit about life,” Karen shares. “I started to see that a client’s hair was truly a bellwether for their physical and mental health.” This revelation sparked a passion in her to help these forgotten patients.


“Hair loss stands at the intersection
of medicine and beauty.
Doctors haven’t studied cosmetology,
beauty professionals haven’t studied medicine,
and neither side has moved in to fill the gap.
Now we have trichology to address this need.”

  —Karen Brace


Karen discovered trichology in 2006, after opening her business—The Remedy Hair Salon—in 2004. The nearest school with a medical board exam was in Georgia.  Initially, Karen dabbled in the emerging field, attending workshops while working full time to grow her salon. Since trichology uses knowledge of drug side effects, Karen completed pharmacy technician courses at Norfolk State University in 2009. She then became a phlebotomist in 2013, which enabled her to perform Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy on hair loss patients.  She also studied nutrition, which reinforced her suspicion that hair loss is usually the outward sign of an internal problem. Also in 2013, after she had learned as much as she could from one-to-three-day classes, Karen enrolled in the rigorous 12-month program at Georgia’s National Trichology Training Institute.

“That was an intense time in my life,” she says with a chuckle. “My husband left on a nine-month deployment just two weeks after I started school. I was running my salon, raising the children, and traveling back and forth to Georgia. By God’s grace, I did it.”

She passed the medical board exam in 2014. When she returned home, she was shocked to learn that American Medical Certification Association had not yet certified anyone in Virginia as a Clinical Trichology Practitioner.  Karen had unintentionally become a medical pioneer.


...the American Medical Certification Association
 had not yet certified anyone in Virginia
as a Clinical Trichology Practitioner.
Karen had unintentionally become a medical pioneer.


“The prestige was exciting, but then the responsibility hit me,” she reveals. “It was up to me to make this field successful in my life. I remember asking God what had I gotten myself into. This was far deeper than I thought when I stood behind a stylist’s chair.”

Next came the challenge of getting medical professionals to take her seriously. A hairdresser in the medical field? They were not interested, so Karen worked in her salon, quietly treating her clients to the best of her ability, but knowing that she needed the medical community’s help.  To get the word out about trichology, she hosted free seminars at community centers and local churches.

When she reached out to Dr. Johnson at Virginia Dermatology, he sensed her ambition to help people, and offered her a position in his practice. Karen currently sees patients every Monday at Virginia Dermatology’s Norfolk location.

Each new patient receives an hour-long consultation which includes questions concerning medications, diet and water intake, and other symptoms.  Based on the consultation’s results, Karen determines the best method of treating the patient’s hair loss.

“If someone wants a magic pill to fix their hair loss, I won’t be able to help them,” she notes with a smile. “I want to make them healthy on the inside so that beautiful hair will grow on the outside.”

She uses lab technology to confirm a diagnosis. Patients find themselves in awe when she asks seemingly random questions that are spot on. When her intuition is confirmed through evidence, she expertly offers solutions that get real results.

While the salon is not equipped for medical consultations, Karen encourages patients to preserve their new growth with the right tools. She has access to cutting-edge products—some of which she has helped to develop. This method of therapeutic styling has been proven to make results more permanent.

These results continue to bring more patients to her office. In looking for a trichologist, Karen advises patients to pay attention to credentials. While a two-day seminar on trichology may be helpful, it doesn’t make someone a state certified Clinical Trichology Practitioner.  Also, while a doctor in another field may study trichology, there is no such thing as a doctor in trichology.  Practitioner is the highest available title for a trichologist.

“I could not offer this level of care by taking a one or two-day class,” Karen says. “Education is very important to me, so I’m always seeking more knowledge. This is what the patient should be doing also—seeking knowledge, and seeking it early.”




Remedy Hair Salon

5630 Lowery Road
Norfolk, VA 23502

757-463-7026
http://www.theremedyhairsalon.com