We caught up with Fiona McNulty, Founder of Healthy Hair from Within, about her career as a Trichologist, and how she got to where she is now.
Fiona started her career as an apprentice with Toni and Guy, worked her way through to becoming an educator of apprenticeships and now has just retrained as a Trichologist. She is very passionate about education and passing on knowledge.
What inspired you to do the career you’re doing now?
So about five years ago I started experiencing hair loss, in the form of hair shedding, and that was just one of the symptom! I had irregular sleep patterns and muscle aches and just felt really fatigued. All things that really affect your job as a hairdresser! So you can imagine that trying to do a full list of clients was difficult.
So I’d had enough, and went to see a doctor. He was fabulous and did a blood test, which had some interesting results! He explained that a normal range for your B12 is 200 to 600, and anything under 200 is deficient. My results were showing just at 100! I was diagnosed with Pernicious Anaemia, which is actually quite common now due to the popularity of Veganism. So I have to have regular B12 injections. This experience gave me a new found understanding of how nutrition and your hair are linked.
Also at work when I was doing hairdressing it would come up again with clients and obviously I wouldn’t diagnose because I wasn’t qualified then, but I would just be able to share my experience. I enjoyed being able to do this and my thirst for knowledge increased. I was surprised to find out even just adding different things into your diet helps your hair and quality of life, and then, in turn helps you at work.
I’ve always been quite a sensitive person. I’m quite empathetic as well, which I hid in hairdressing. So I was thinking ‘Oh, I should be really confident and driven and loud’ and I wasn’t really. I’m quite sensitive. Then on my first day of the Trichology training, they were talking about the qualities that really successful Trichologists would need. And guess what? They were sensitivity and empathy.
So it started with the hair shedding, which led on to this getting to know me and how the body works, and then I ended up in this place that really suited my personality, which is amazing!
And what did you want to do when you were younger?
My mum is my role model, she had a really successful career in marketing. She and I are really different. We’ve got completely different strengths, and I always felt like a bit of a failure because I didn’t have those things that she had. I was completely different in the way I approached things. I’ve now realised actually my creativity and my sensitivity are my strengths and not my weaknesses. I am different to her, but I can also be successful.
How did you get to where you are now and would you encourage others to follow the same route?
Absolutely. But it definitely boils down to finding out what your strengths are, and where they lead you. I think lockdown was a big influence, as I couldn’t actually do any hairdressing and I was thinking, how am I going to get in front of a patient remotely or a client and talk about hair, and do my job? It was a real time of reflection.
I would definitely say to anybody else, you’ve got to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are and not everyone’s are the same.
What advice would you give to a young person embarking on a similar career?
With hairdressing you’ve got to have the drive and determination, then you can fine tune your skills along the way. But to get where you want to be, determination is key.
When I was doing my teaching training, I was working for free, and finding it difficult to juggle everything. However, the determination got me through it, and the given me the experience to manage multiple projects. When I was doing trichology, I was getting up at 5am before I started work to study, as I would have fallen behind if I hadn’t. On the course there were so many different people, so many different stories, with hectic home lives etc., and it made me feel blessed that I didn’t have those things, and pushed me put everything I had in to the course.
What do you think the future for those embarking on a career in your industry looks like, and are there any skills you think are particularly important in the industry today?
Trichology is one of those areas that’s just going to get more and more coverage, due to the links between nutrition which we’re all learning about more now, and mental health has an impact on trichology as well.
You need to go on that journey of self-discovery to be able to work out what you need. Having personality traits such as being a good listener are vital as a hairdresser. Being empathetic to other people is also key, especially if it’s something stress related, as the way we feel stress compared to someone else is completely different. You can’t judge anybody else’s situation or what impacts them.
You mentioned your mum before, but what would you say is your biggest influence to what you’re doing now?
This role is such an influence because even just those few conversations in the salon with people about what happened to me and being able to help them.
The biggest driver for me is that feeling of ‘I really did or shared something there to help this person’.
Trichology is still quite unknown so it gives me the drive even more to want to push it because I want people to know it can be the little simple things that can make a big difference.
What would you tell your younger self?
I wasted a lot of time looking at other people and thinking how much more successful, talented and interesting they were than me. I wish I’d just not done that. But it goes back to understanding that we all have our own path, and to just stick with it and trust the process. I would definitely tell myself to be more patient and stop wishing something was going to happen instantly.