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Going South: Revisiting the psoriasis experts

March 24th 2014 / Imogen Edwards-Jones

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In her previous column, Imogen Edwards-Jones found herself facing the problem that blighted her childhood: psoriasis. After a visit to the same experts that helped her over thirty years ago, there is light at the end of the tunnel

So here I am, thirty-five years later, sitting the office of the famous trichologist Glenn Lyons, at the Philip Kingsley salon on Green Street, W1, discussing the same problem that brought me here as a child, over three decades ago. It is like a very blurred, seventies version of déjà vu, witnessed through a prism of Space Dust, Chopper bikes and Crackerjack pens. Glenn has barely changed. He is still slim, neat, charming, dapper, knowledgeable, with a full head of hair and is extremely kind. For there is something terribly depressing about sitting here, with my shoulders covered (yet again) with awful white flakes and my scalp itching like I’ve got a virulent nit infestation.

“Poor you,” he says, parting my hair with his handy biro. “It all looks very sore and itchy. You’ve got three different types of psoriasis on your head and one very bad patch at the base of your neck.”

“It’s itchy,” I say, giving my neck a scratch.

“I can see,” he says. “We’ll sort that out for you.” He smiles confidently as he walks behind his desk. “So how has your life been?” he asks.

“My life?”

“Yes, in the last thirty years, how have you been? Kids?”

“Two.”

“Husband?”

“Yes, still.”

“Career?”

“Fourteen books.”

“So it’s been good?” he nods enthusiastically. “Well done.”

I could have kissed him! I had been feeling so low and rotten and miserable and itchy and awful, I hated myself and my life and now suddenly my life, as it turns out, wasn’t so crap after all. In fact it was a "well done." I wasn’t a psoriasis-ridden failure permanently scratching her scalp like a meth head, but a functioning human being who managed to get through the last 35 years more or less intact. A two-minute audience with Glenn is like spending 25 years in daily Jungian analysis; I would recommend it to anyone.

“You’ll be pleased to hear that the treatment hasn’t changed much,” he says, rubbing his hands together. “It still involves scraping the scalp and tar based products.”

So off I go, upstairs into the salon, only to be accosted by the smells of my childhood. The peppermint shampoo, the tar scalp mask, the unctuous conditioners, even the dank smell of the steamers. It is so familiar, I am half expecting to see my mother in the next-door cubicle and perhaps a sneak peek of Joan Collins in the mirror.

For the next two hours my scalp is scraped, steamed and moisturised. My hair is then washed and conditioned and the ends are treated with a final product called Preen, to stop them shrivelling up like the over-dyed bits of straw that they are. As I stand, drying my own hair (a Philip Kingsley tradition – they are a trichology salon not a beauty salon) the relief is palpable. The itching has gone and the flakes have disappeared.

“How do you feel?” asks Glenn, coming back upstairs to check on proceedings.

“Great!” I say. “Really great. Thank you.”

As I leave I am given a carrier bag of creams to continue the treatment at home. I have a pre-shampoo moisturiser, the shampoo, conditioner, the Preen cream and a scalp tonic to use as and when the itching becomes unbearable. I am instructed to wash my hair every other day to prevent the build-up of flakes and I am asked to come back in a week to have my scalp scraped again.

Two months and two scrapes later and I am now entirely psoriasis free. I have shampooed and treated and washed my hair as instructed and I can now wear my black jumpers, my navy jacket and do downward dog in my yoga class with impunity. I have no flakes, no itchiness and even the ends of my hair have improved. In fact ALL my hair has improved. It feels thicker, softer, silkier and so much more healthy.

I know I am beginning to sound like an advert but I don’t actually care. Whatever your question is in life, Philip Kingsley is the answer! Still bringing hope and cheer to the miserable and itchy, thirty-five years later!

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