How Chemotherapy Affects New Hair Growth Following Treatment
Your hair is made up of living cells at their roots, or hair follicles. Typically, the rest of your hair is in various stages of resting or falling out. Chemotherapy is a treatment plan where a drug, or combination of drugs, is administered either orally or through an IV. The reason chemotherapy causes hair loss is because hair follicles are one of the fastest growing cells in the human body, and when compromised by chemotherapy this prevents the hair follicles from growing.
Some Health Insurance Plans Cover Wigs
If you have health insurance, it might partially or fully cover the cost of a wig. Consider calling your insurance provider to learn if the cost is covered. In order to receive reimbursement, youll probably need to ask your doctor for a prescription for a cranial prosthesis.
Some nonprofit organizations also help fund the cost of wigs for people in need. Ask your cancer care center or support group for more information about helpful resources.
Your Scalp May Be Sensitive And You May Lose Hair Wherever It Grows On Your Body
When youre in chemotherapy, chemicals are introduced to your body to disrupt cancer cells, so that they cant multiply. This same disruption interferes with your hair follicles ability to produce new hair cells. The result is a sensitive scalp and, often, hair that falls out close to the root from wherever it grows on your body.
A 2019 survey indicated that participants saw hair loss, on average, 18 days after their chemo treatments.
If the medication used for your chemotherapy does make your hair fall out, your hair may grow back in a little differently than it did before.
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Tips For Possible Complete Hair Loss
- Ask about a wig before you start treatment, so you can match the colour and texture of your real hair.
- If you are feeling adventurous, choose a wig for a whole new look why not try the colour and style you’ve always wanted!
- Think about having your hair gradually cut short before your treatment starts – this might help you get used to seeing yourself with less hair.
- Some people shave their hair off completely to avoid the distress of seeing their hair fall out.
- Wear a hair net at night so you won’t wake up with hair all over your pillow, which can be upsetting.
- Keep your head warm in cooler weather – some people wear a soft hat in bed.
- Rub in oil or moisturiser if your scalp feels dry and itchy, try unperfumed products such as Epaderm, Hydromol or Doublebase.
- Try a moisturising liquid instead of soap if your scalp is dry, for example aqueous cream, Oilatum or Diprobase.
- Protect your scalp by covering your head in the sun – your scalp is particularly sensitive to the sun.
Emotional Support During Hair Loss
Our hair can be an important part of our appearance and identity. It may be a way we express our personality. Often, when our hair looks good, we feel good. For some, losing their hair is one of the hardest parts of having treatment. For others, it is not as bad as they expected.
You may feel low in confidence, anxious or depressed. You may feel angry that the hair loss is a visible reminder of the cancer for you and for others. It may feel like you have to tell people about your cancer diagnosis when you dont want to.
All these different feelings are completely normal. Our information about the emotional effects of cancer suggests different ways to manage difficult feelings.
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Chemotherapy And Hair Loss Planning Ahead
People are often surprised by their strong reaction to losing their hair during chemotherapy.
In the beginning they may be more concerned about physically unpleasant or limiting side effects, such as nausea or fatigue. After all, hair loss is painless, and for most people, temporary. Yet something about seeing clumps of hair in the drain or balding patches on their head causes great emotional distress. Perhaps it makes their cancer real for the first time, or maybe they just werent prepared for how they would look.
So be proactive and learn what you can ahead of time. Ask your doctor or nurse if your chemotherapy regimen causes hair thinning or loss, when you can expect it to begin, and if they expect it to grow back after treatment ends.
Why Does Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss
Hair loss occurs because chemotherapy targets all rapidly dividing cellshealthy cells as well as cancer cells. Hair follicles, the structures in the skin filled with tiny blood vessels that make hair, are some of the fastest-growing cells in the body. If youre not in cancer treatment, your hair follicles divide every 23 to 72 hours. Because many chemotherapy drugs are designed to effectively kill all rapidly dividing cells, hair is the unfortunate bystander that takes the fall along with the cancer cells.
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When Will My Eyelashes And Eyebrows Grow Back
Eyebrows and eyelashes may grow back more quickly or more slowly than the hair on your head.
Eyelashes can be quite patchy when they start to grow back. They may take up to a year to grow back fully although they will usually grow back in about six months after treatment finishes.
Studies have also shown that applying the drug bimatoprost to the eyelids may improve the regrowth of eyelashes. You can talk to your GP, a trichologist or a dermatologist about whether this is an option.
Eyebrows will usually start to grow back after treatment finishes, but they may grow back thinner or patchier. They tend to grow back slower than head hair and in rare cases they dont grow back at all.
Why Will I Lose My Hair During Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, attack fast-growing cancer cells. These treatments can also affect normal cells that grow fast, such as hair cells.
Chemotherapy can cause hair loss on your scalp, pubic area, arms, legs, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Radiation therapy to your head often causes hair loss on your scalp. Sometimes, depending on the dose of radiation to your head, your hair may grow back differently from how it looked before, or it may not grow back at all.
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Taking Care Of Chemo Curls
As your hair grows back, its important to take as much care of those curls as you can during the process. There are a few steps you can take to make sure your curls stay as healthy as possible and ensuring that your hair is still growing. Here are some helpful tips:
- massage your scalp gently to stimulate follicles
- use a wet brush while brushing hair or trying to detangle knots
- avoid using hot water so you dont irritate your scalp
- research certain types of conditioners and ingredients that can help manage delicate hair
We should note here that some medications used for chemotherapy always cause hair loss, while others do not always cause hair loss. Thats why some people go through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and never lose any hair at all.
- Anti-microtubule chemotherapy causes hair loss in
It takes a few weeks after chemotherapy is complete to see hair begin to grow back on your scalp.
A 2019 survey of women in Japan with breast cancer showed that scalp hair regrew for 98 percent of participants, and that hair regrowth started, on average, 3.3 months after chemotherapy was completed.
Because of the multiple ways chemo impacts your cells, your body has some work to do to get back to normal. Regrowing your hair is just part of what your body is focused on. Thats part of why your hair that grows on your scalp after chemo may grow more slowly than your hair normally would.
Wigs And Other Options For People With Hair Loss
There are many practical ways to cope with hair loss. They do not make the problem disappear, but they can make life a bit easier for you during this difficult time.
Some hospitals run hair and beauty programmes for people affected by cancer. Most of these programmes are for women, but Look Good Feel Better also offers support for men affected by cancer. It includes practical tips on coping with hair loss.
You could try one of the following options:
Many people choose to wear a wig, as they want to look the way they usually do. You may not want people other than close family and friends to know you have cancer. You might choose a wig in a similar style to your usual hairstyle. Or you might try out different styles. If you have only lost some of your hair, there are also half wigs and three-quarter wigs that may be suitable for you.
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Tips For Hair Loss Or Thinning
- Use gentle hair products such as baby shampoos.
- Don’t use perms or hair colours on thinning hair colours may not take well and perms can damage the hair.
- Use a soft baby brush and comb thinning hair gently.
- Avoid using hair dryers, curling tongs, hair straighteners and curlers on thinning hair and pat your hair dry after washing.
- If your scalp flakes or itches this means it is dry use oil or moisturiser, not dandruff shampoo.
- Protect your scalp by covering your head in the sun.
Are Chemo Curls Permanent
While it may be alarming to see your hair grow back differently than it did before, theres usually no need to worry as it is often only temporary. Your hair will typically start growing back within 3-6 months, but the process can be slow. During the first year of hair regrowth its likely your hair will be a different texture, such as curly. However, after a year of regrowth its possible that your hair will start growing back as it did before treatment.
Try to be patient with your hair as it grows back after chemotherapy treatment. Here are some hair care tips to help the process:
- Use a soft brush to care for your hair after chemotherapy.
- Only wash your hair when necessary.
- Use a gentle shampoo that contains sunscreen to protect your scalp from the sun.
- Cover your hair with a hat or headscarf before going out in the sun.
- Make sure to rinse chlorine from your hair after going in a pool.
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Changes To Your Eyebrows Eyelashes And Body Hair
You may lose some or all of your body hair after starting chemotherapy, including eyebrows, eyelashes, nose hair, underarm and pubic hair, and chest hair for men. This can be a shock, especially if youre not prepared for it.
Losing your eyelashes and eyebrows can be upsetting, especially if youre not expecting it to happen.
Some people dont lose their eyebrows or eyelashes, other peoples eyebrows may thin, and others lose them altogether.
Trinny London, in partnership with Breast Cancer Now, offer free 1-2-1 sessions with a trained makeup artist for people affected by breast cancer.
Boots, in partnership with Macmillan, offer trained beauty advisors who can give skincare and beauty advice for people having treatment for cancer.
You may find it useful to watch our video tutorials on makeup and beauty tips after breast cancer treatment.
When Will My Hair Grow Back
Once you finish your treatments, your hair should begin to grow back. Hair regrowth can take 3 to 5 months. When your hair grows back, it may have a different texture or color. In rare cases, your hair wont grow back as fully as it did before.
There is a very small risk that your hair wont grow back after radiation therapy to your head.
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Tips To Help You Prepare For Losing Your Hair
If its likely you will lose your hair during cancer treatment, there are ways you can prepare:
- eat a well-balanced diet before treatment starts to help your body cope better
- talk to friends and family about losing your hair
- buy a hat or other headwear to protect your head
- talk to other people who have hair loss to share tips on how to cope
- if you decide to wear a wig, buy one before treatment starts it’ll be easier to match it to your colour and style, and you can get used to wearing it
- buy products to help you cope with losing your eyebrows and eyelashes
You could also consider cutting your hair short:
- you may find it easier to cut it in stages
- dont use a blade to shave your head
- its best to cut clean dry hair
- you could ask a salon that specialises in styling people affected by cancer to cut your hair
Why Chemo Causes Hair Loss
While chemotherapy drugs can be effective in killing cancer cells, they also damage normal cells that divide rapidly. This includes hair follicles , cells in the digestive tract , and cells in bone marrow .
Keratinocytes are cells in the hair follicles that help produce hairs. These keratinocytes divide faster than many malignant cancer cells, and they have a good blood supply that delivers chemotherapy agents to them efficiently. Their fast metabolism also puts them under oxidative stress. Chemotherapy drugs can enhance that stress to the point that the cell dies.
Whether or not you develop hair loss, and the severity of hair loss, depends on a number of factors, including:
- The type of chemo drug: Some are more likely to cause hair loss than others.
- Amount of drug: Higher doses generally have a greater risk of hair loss.
- The combination of drugs : Receiving a combination of drugs increases the risk.
- How the drugs are given: Intravenous drugs are more likely to cause hair loss than oral drugs.
- Your individual susceptibility: Some people are more likely to lose hair than others, even with the same doses of the same drugs.
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/ Why Doesnt Every Chemo Patient Lose His Or Her Hair
Chemotherapy uses a specific mix of cancer drugs. The mix you will receive depends on the type of cancer you have. Some drugs cause hair loss, others cause little to no hair loss whatsoever. Some chemo treatments do not make peoples hair fall out but it does become thinner or duller. Your doctor is the best person to inform you about how much hair loss you can expect.
Your New Hair May Have A Curly Texture
After chemotherapy, your hair may be a curlier texture than the hair you had before. Sometimes hair will have a different color, too. But typically, it wont be too drastic. The color might be a shade darker or lighter than your original head of hair.
There are a few factors that can influence how your hair grows back after treatment, such as family history and hair type. For those with thinner and straighter hair, you may experience your hair growing back thicker and curlier than usual for the first few months. Additionally, if you have a family history of a certain hair color or type, dont be alarmed if your hair comes back slightly different. Its typically only temporary.
Its important to take extra care with this new hair growth after chemo because when it grows in, your hair may be:
- textured differently
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Caring For Hair That Grows Back
When your hair begins to grow back, it will be much thinner and more easily damaged than your original hair. It may also be a different texture or color. The following tips may help you take care of the hair that grows back.
Limit washing your hair to twice a week.
Massage your scalp gently to remove dry skin and flakes.
Use a wide-tooth comb instead of a brush for your hair. When styling your hair, limit the amount of pinning, curling, or blow-drying with high heat.
Avoid permanent or semi-permanent hair color for at least 3 months after treatment ends.
Avoid curling or straightening your hair with chemical products such as permanent wave solutions until it all grows back. You may need to wait up to a year before you can chemically curl or straighten their hair. Before trying chemical products again, test a small patch of hair to see how it reacts. You can also ask your hairdresser for suggestions.
Why Chemotherapy Causes Hair Loss
Chemotherapy drugs are designed to kill rapidly growing cells. Some cells, such as those in our hair follicles, divide rapidly and are affected by chemotherapy as well.
Hair loss does not occur with all chemotherapy medications and people may have different responses, even with the same medications. You may experience complete hair loss or hair thinning, but you also may not notice any hair loss at all.
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Cancer Treatments And Hair Loss
You may experience hair loss if you are having chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or hormonal and targeted therapy. If you are having surgery in an area of the body that has hair, such as an operation for a brain tumour, an area of the head will be shaved. This is usually a small area of hair and it will grow back after the operation.