A couple of weeks ago I spoke over the telephone with Karen Gordon, Salon Owner, (WTS) and President of Cosmetologists Chicago. Karen has been a salon professional for 40 years. She is a Hair Color Specialist and has trained with many of the worlds’ top colorists. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Intercoiffure America/Canada and is a former member of the Board of Directors for the International Association of Trichologists (IAT). Though her credentials are commendable, it’s her dedication, her ambition and her drive to be the best that she can be that left me feeling truly inspired. 

Karen GordonWithout a doubt, most Trichologist’s will tell you that the reason they chose their profession was because they, or someone they love, were affected by hair loss. What really intrigued me about Karen was her honest and unique story behind her journey and how she came to love her hair loss family.

In her early 50’s Karen started to notice attrition in her appointment book. She was sensible of knowing that younger people wanted to see younger stylist’s and knew that she needed to enhance her books. Upon brainstorming how to do so, she reflected upon the fact that more and more of her clients were talking about hair loss. Whether they were concerned about hair loss in their brush, the shower or on their pillowcases, the questions were there. Karen tries to be the best professional she can be and distinctly remembers the feeling she had when she noticed the inquiries rising. “I felt inadequate as a professional not being able to answer my client’s questions. That was a terrible feeling. That is when I decided to go online and start looking into hair loss. I went to my first seminar in DC and immediately fell in love with the family of Trichologist’s. Everyone was so serious and professional but also passionate. I remember calling my husband and telling him that I had found my home. That is what brought my career to the next level.”

So now imagine that you’re one of the world’s top Colorist’s and Stylist’s and you now want to become certified in Trichology. That is quite a bit of scientific information to absorb, all the while maintaining a fully established clientele. Karen recalls what that time was like. “The most challenging part was that being a Hairdresser tends to be more on the artistic side of things. Now I was engaging in the science part. It was a lot of studying at night and very hard to be engaged after a long day of work. In the beginning it’s a lonely sport. There’s not a lot of interaction. I found myself studying alone and just trying to get through the first couple of chapters of science. Still I was intrigued and wanted to learn it all.” Well she did just that!

Karen has been practicing Trichology for six years now and continues to learn every day. “It’s tricky and can be very deceiving. You have to make sure that there’s a proper analysis. Most people want to think that there’s one answer and far too often there’s more than one reason for hair loss. It’s very systemic. That’s one of the hardest things to deal with in this practice is that we know that hair loss has multiple causations.”

Take for instance her very first patient. “It was like a first love. I was excited but so nervous that I wouldn’t have the right answers. This particular patient suffered from Trichotillomania.” Trichotillomania, which is classified as a Body Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB), involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull hair from the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, and other areas of the body. “I was able to find a psychologist to work alongside her treatment and ended up treating this patient for about a year and a half. I studied everything I could about the disorder as well. I was determined to do whatever I could to help her gain control and see results. Unfortunately, due to issues beyond my control, she eventually stopped treatment. That was hard for me. It’s heart wrenching to watch people suffer and not be able to help.” 

Though that was a tough first case, Karen has had many success stories and is firm in her belief that she will be able to help not only her clients, but her fellow hairdressers as well. “I see my practice growing and I see myself seeing more people. I’m based in Chicago but I’m also seeing clients in New York and I want to expand to Atlanta and L.A. I would honestly love to train and educate more hairdressers and help them integrate into this industry.”

Hearing Karen talk about her clients and her fellow Trichologist’s made me truly aware of what a champion she is. She manages to so fluently combine her professionalism and her compassion in order to provide an expansive list of services to her clients. Karen is waiting for the breakthrough. She foresees amazing things happening in the near future with regard to stem cells and reproducing hair cells. “I see interesting things on the forefront that will really regrow hair. Trichology is well known in Europe, the Middle East and South America. I look forward to the day when Americans know what a Trichologist is and how dedicated they are. I’ve seen so many advancements and changes in just the short time I’ve been involved.”

Karen has rapidly become one of the most in-demand guest speakers around the globe in her field. The thing that stood out the most to me though was how humble she is. She’s so invested in everything she does. Whether she’s coloring, styling or diagnosing, she’s all in and willing to do whatever it takes. I literally could have talked with her for days because her passion for what she does is intoxicating. She is one of a kind and I can’t wait to see what her future holds and where her passion for Trichology will take her.