What Are My Options
There are many ways to cover up hair loss. Hats, scarves and turbans are popular options for men and women.
- hats there are many styles to choose from
- scarves versatile with many colour and fabric options, lightweight materials such as cotton are best
- turbans easy to wear and widely available
- wigs you can continue with a familiar style or try something new
Some hats, headbands or bandanas have optional fringe or hair attachments. If you still have some hair, changing your hairstyle can help cover up hair loss. Specialist hairdressers like mynewhair can offer advice.
In certain situations surgery to replace hair might be an option if your hair loss is permanent. This treatment is not available through the NHS.
You may not want to wear anything on your head. Accessories, clothing and makeup can express your style and draw attention away from hair loss.
Ways To Manage Hair Loss
Talk with your health care team about ways to manage before and after hair loss:
- Treat your hair gently. You may want to use a hairbrush with soft bristles or a wide-tooth comb. Do not use hair dryers, irons, or products such as gels or clips that may hurt your scalp. Wash your hair with a mild shampoo. Wash it less often and be very gentle. Pat it dry with a soft towel.
- You have choices. Some people choose to cut their hair short to make it easier to deal with when it starts to fall out. Others choose to shave their head. If you choose to shave your head, use an electric shaver so you wont cut yourself. If you plan to buy a wig, get one while you still have hair so you can match it to the color of your hair. If you find wigs to be itchy and hot, try wearing a comfortable scarf or turban.
- Protect and care for your scalp. Use sunscreen or wear a hat when you are outside. Choose a comfortable scarf or hat that you enjoy and that keeps your head warm. If your scalp itches or feels tender, using lotions and conditioners can help it feel better.
- Talk about your feelings. Many people feel angry, depressed, or embarrassed about hair loss. It can help to share these feelings with someone who understands. Some people find it helpful to talk with other people who have lost their hair during cancer treatment. Talking openly and honestly with your children and close family members can also help you all. Tell them that you expect to lose your hair during treatment.
Looking After Your Scalp After Hair Loss
Looking after your scalp if you experience hair loss is important as this area may feel tender and the skin may be sensitive.
Its important to protect your scalp from the sun. Cover your head when in the sun or use a high protection factor sun cream at all times, as the scalp is particularly sensitive.
We lose a lot of heat from our heads so cover your scalp in colder weather.
If your scalp is dry, flaky or itchy you can use unperfumed moisturiser or natural oils such as almond or coconut oil to help with this. Some people use aromatherapy oils, but it is best to consult a trained aromatherapist as the oils can be very strong.
Continue to wash your scalp regularly. If you are wearing a wig, head scarf or hat wash these regularly to keep them clean and avoid irritation to your scalp.
If you are having radiotherapy to treat breast cancer that has spread to the brain, your treatment team may discuss what skincare products you can use on your scalp.
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What Can I Do To Prepare Myself
If you are having a chemotherapy treatment that is likely to make you lose your hair, there are things you can do to prepare yourself.
Hair usually starts to fall out about two to three weeks after the first chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy hair loss is usually quick and happens over a couple of days.
You may decide to shave your head when your hair starts falling out. The advantage of this is that it keeps the mess to a minimum and gets the process over with. Some hairdressers have a private room where they can shave your head in private, or you may like to ask your hairdresser if she or he would come to your place for a private visit.
Alternatively, you may prefer to wear a scarf, cap or turban until most of your hair has fallen out and then shave what is left.
If you have children, its a good idea to let them know that you might lose your hair so they can be prepared as well.
What Else Contributes To Hair Loss
There are a number of non-cancer-related medications that are also associated with hair loss. These might accentuate the effects of chemotherapy drugs if used alongside them.
Some of these include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Antidepressants like tricyclic antidepressants and Wellbutrin
In addition to medications, illness, surgery, or dietary changes may lead to hair loss.
Thyroid disease may cause hair loss and may occur as a result of cancer treatment .
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Help With The Cost Of Wigs
You can get free synthetic wigs on the NHS if:
- you’re under 16, or you are 19 or under and in full-time education
- you’re a hospital inpatient
- you or your partner are getting Universal Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance or the guarantee credit of Pension Credit
- you have an NHS tax credit exemption certificate
- you are named on a valid HC2 certificate
Cancer Research UK has more information on getting a wig on the NHS.
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.
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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.
How To Prevent And Manage Hair Loss
If youre receiving treatment for breast cancer that can cause hair loss, its important to know you have options. Below, you can learn about ways to prevent and manage hair loss as a side effect of breast cancer treatments.
If chemotherapy medicines that will cause hair loss are part of your breast cancer treatment plan, there are steps you can take to prepare, possibly lessen hair loss, and protect your hair as it grows back. Learn more about Managing Hair Loss From Chemotherapy, including tips for hair loss on your head, eyebrows, and eyelashes.
Cold caps and scalp cooling systems are tightly fitting hat-like devices filled with a cold gel or liquid coolant. Cold caps and scalp cooling systems have helped many people keep some or quite a bit of their hair during chemotherapy. Learn more about Cold Caps and Scalp Cooling Systems
Many people find that wearing a wig is a good solution for them if they experience hair loss from breast cancer treatment. A wig can provide a sense of normalcy, consistency, and privacy during cancer treatment. Experimenting with different wig styles and colors can also be quite fun! Not sure if a wig is right for you or where to begin looking for one? Read more about wigs to learn about where to buy a wig or get one for free, how to choose one that suits you, how to care for a wig, and more.
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Is Chemo Working If I Dont Lose My Hair
Medically reviewed by Clare Sullivan, BSN, MPH, CRRN
Its well known that many chemotherapy medications used to treat cancer can bring undesirable side effects, such as hair loss, lack of appetite, and fatigue. But experiencing such symptoms is not an indication of whether cancer treatment is working.
Chemotherapy interferes with a cells ability to grow and divide, so it tends to kill rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. However, some normal cells in our body also divide rapidly, such as hair cells and cells that create the stomach lining. Whether or not you will have side effects during cancer treatment depends on a variety of factors, including your overall health, the drug dosage, and the types of medication you take. A number of chemo drugs, for example, dont cause hair loss because they are better able to target cancer cells not healthy cells.
Doctors can choose from more than 100 different chemo drugs, used in many combinations, to treat specific types of cancer and related diseases. All of these medications and drug combinations come with their own unique set of side effects, which can vary from person to person. Some patients report only relatively minor side effects that last a short time during chemo treatment, while others may have more serious complications. But these side effects have nothing to do with whether a treatment is working.
When Can I Perm Straighten Or Dye My Hair
Ask your medical team how long you should wait after finishing treatment before you colour, chemically straighten or perm your hair. Traces of chemotherapy in your hair strands could react with the chemicals used in the styling processes.
Natural, temporary dyes might be better than permanent chemical products. If youd like to dye your hair, you could ask your clinical nurse specialist if a vegetable-based hair dye that you wash out is suitable for you. These are milder and less damaging to your hair and scalp than chemical ones.
Whichever treatment type youve had, your new hair might be fragile so you should wait for at least six months after your hair has started to grow back before you have woven-in or glued-in hair extensions.
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Will My Hair Grow Back After Radiotherapy
Hair regrowth after radiotherapy will depend on lots of things, including the:
- type and dose of treatment
- number of treatments given
- area of your body affected.
Your radiographer can usually tell you before the treatment if your hair is likely to grow back.
If you have been told your hair will grow back, this can start once your skin has healed after treatment. Usually, your hair will start to grow back 3 to 6 months after finishing your treatment. But it may take longer if the treatment dose has been high. The hair that grows back may be thinner, patchy or a different colour.
Sometimes the hair loss is permanent. This can be especially upsetting if it affects the hair on your head. If you have hair loss on your head, you may want to wear a hairpiece, wig or some other type of headwear. It may also be possible to have a hair transplant.
Caring For Your Scalp
During chemotherapy treatments, it is important to treat your hair and scalp with care. If you are fortunate enough to keep your hair during chemo treatments, it can often become brittle, thin and damaged. Your scalp may also become dry, itchy and flaky. Protect your hair by avoiding any unnecessary stress. Use a mild conditioning shampoo, such as Alra Shampoo, and use warm but not hot water when washing your hair. Pat your hair dry with a soft towel instead of wringing or twisting it. Avoid chemical treatments, colors, bleaches, perms, hair dryers and heated styling tools.
If you do lose your hair, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
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A Short Haircut Might Make A Difference
Shorter hair often looks fuller than longer hair. As a result, hair loss might be less noticeable if you have a short hairstyle. If you typically wear your hair long, consider cutting it before you begin chemotherapy.
After you start chemotherapy, hair loss might make your scalp feel itchy, irritated, or sensitive. Shaving your head may help ease the discomfort. Many people also prefer the look of a cleanly shaved head to partial hair loss.
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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/ When Will My Hair Start To Grow Back After Chemotherapy
Your hair will start to grow back after your chemotherapy treatment. Some people will notice immediate growth, and in other cases it might take a month or two. But it is equally possible for your hair to start growing back during your treatment. This usually happens just before or during your last chemo treatment. Its also worth remembering that it is a myth that wearing a wig, hats or scarves after chemo prevents your hair from growing back. Your hair will grow back just as quickly with or without headwear. Its up to you to decide when you feel your new hair is long enough to start walking around without a wig or a headscarf.
/ How Do I Care For My Hair During My Chemotherapy
During chemo we recommend gentle care for your hair. Dont wash it too often and always use a gentle, mild shampoo. If you need to use a hair dryer, make sure you always use the lowest temperature setting. Try not to let your hair dry out due to sun exposure, colour treatments or perms. Hard brushes and curlers are definitely to be avoided as well.
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/ Does Hair Loss After Chemo Hurt
Some people feel pain when their hair starts to fall out. This is often called scalp pain. But others only experience itching or an odd, tickly feeling. It generally only lasts a few days or weeks and experiences vary from person to person. A soothing scalp mist may help to soothe, moisturise and nourish your sensitive scalp.
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.
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