/ 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.
Tips And Tricks For Managing Chemotherapy Hair Loss
Cancer is, unfortunately, one of the most common diseases people suffer from today. Those who manage to pull through successfully have yet another challenge ahead of them. Its the chemo. Often, it happens to be the most stressful phase of having cancer. It carries many side effects, and hair loss is one of the most frequent ones.
Hair loss that happened as a result of chemotherapy is also one of the most shocking effects people have to cope with. Why does hair fall off during chemotherapy? How can a patient prepare for this? What is the best way to care for your hair during chemotherapy? What can be done after chemotherapy? How fast will the hair grow back? Most people find that it is easier to deal with hair loss if they know what to expect, which is why we have made a list of tips and tricks that help manage hair loss in this difficult phase of life.
But before we list them out, let us learn about why hair loss is such a frequent thing
When Will I Begin To Lose My Hair
You may start to see your hair thin or fall out 1 to 4 weeks after your first chemotherapy treatment and 4 weeks after you receive radiation therapy.
The amount of hair that falls out or thins depends on the type, dose, and timing of your treatments. The speed at which it falls out also varies from person to person. You may first notice hair on your pillow in the morning or see it when you shower or brush your hair.
Some people will experience hair thinning rather than hair loss. Hair thinning is when your hair feels and looks thinner in texture. Talk with your healthcare team about what to expect after your chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Read Also: Radiation Therapy Programs In California
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.
What Does The Research Show
Controlled studies of older forms of scalp hypothermia have had conflicting results. However, some studies of newer, computer-controlled cooling cap systems have shown benefits. Recent studies of women getting chemo for early-stage breast cancer have found that at least half of the women using one of these newer devices lost less than half of their hair. The most common side effects have been headaches, neck and shoulder discomfort, chills, and scalp pain.
The success of scalp hypothermia may be related to the type of chemo drugs used, the chemo dosage, and how well the person tolerates the coldness.
Some research has also suggested that people with a thicker hair layer might be more likely to lose hair than those with a thinner layer of hair. This might be because the scalp doesnt cool down enough due to the insulating effect of the hair.
Cooling caps that are not fitted tightly have also been linked with more hair loss, often in patches where contact with the scalp is poor.
There remain some unanswered questions about the safety of scalp hypothermia. Some doctors are concerned that the cold could keep chemo from reaching any stray cancer cells lurking in the scalp. Some believe that the scalp cooling might protect cancer cells there and allow them to survive the chemo and keep growing. But in people who have used scalp hypothermia, reports of cancer in the scalp have been rare. More studies are needed to answer questions about long-term safety.
Recommended Reading: How Long Do Chemo Treatments Last
Caring For Your Hair During Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy treatment can be physically and emotionally challenging, and the side effects can be the same. One of the side effects of chemotherapy can be hair loss.
Hair loss is one of the most dreaded side effects of chemotherapy, which works by targeting the fastest-growing cells in your body. Among the most rapid-growing cells are hair follicles, which divide every 23 to 72 hours.
Hair loss is one of the most common side effects of cancer treatment and one of the most devastating ones. While it can be challenging, it is typically temporary, and hair grows back.
Read on to learn more about hair loss from chemotherapy and how to manage hair loss.
/ Should I Cut My Hair Short Or Shave It Before Chemotherapy
Cutting or shaving your hair is not essential but it is often recommended. Some people find it makes the transition from long hair to a bald head less abrupt if they cut their hair short just before chemotherapy. This also has a practical advantage: when your hair starts to fall out, you wont lose big, long chunks of hair but just short hair or stubble. Some people find this less confrontational. Others choose to cut their hair short because it makes them feel in control of the hair loss process themselves instead of being passively subjected to it. A tip: if you choose to shave off your hair, we recommend using an electric trimmer or clipper . Be careful to avoid cutting yourself. If you are not used to using these devices, go to the hairdresser or ask someone with experience.
Recommended Reading: Does Everyone Lose Their Hair During Chemo
Choose Mild Haircare Products
Many shampoos have fragrances and harsh chemicals that only serve to dry out already-irritated skin. Conditioners, by contrast, can sometimes be overly oily or contain emollients, humectants you don’t need.
The first rule of thumb is to simplify when it comes to hair cleansing. If your hair is thinning, use a mild shampoo that is gentler on the scalp. Healthcare providers often recommend a baby shampoo with the proper pH balance for dry, inflamed skin.
If your scalp is itchy or sensitive, rubbing baby oil or mineral oil on the skin can help.
Can You Prevent Hair Loss In Chemo
Thereâs no guaranteed way to save your hair during chemo. The most common method people try is a cooling cap, also known as scalp hypothermia. Itâs a fitted cap filled with cool liquid that you can wear during treatment. The idea is that it slows down the blood flow to your scalp so the chemo drugs canât kill those cells.
Some people say that if the chemo drugs canât get to your scalp, some cancer cells might remain — but thatâs rarely been reported. There are side effects as well, including head and neck aches. Ask your doctor if a cooling cap is OK to try.
Also Check: How Long Is Chemo For Breast Cancer
Curly Hair After Chemo
If youre going through chemotherapy, you might have questions about the treatment and its side effects.
You may be wondering if your hair is going to fall out after chemo, and if so, how long it will take for it to grow back. You also may be wondering, when your hair does grow back, whether its texture and color will be changed.
Your hairs response to chemo is hard to predict and can vary according to your particular hair texture as well as other health factors.
This article will provide you with general information about how hair responds to chemotherapy and how your hair might change in the months after your treatment.
Facial And Body Hair Loss
Every person reacts differently to treatments. Hair loss may be limited to your scalp area, or you may lose the hair on your entire body, including your eyebrows and eyelashes. Many cancer patients find this intimidating, but we offer several easy options for re-creating a realistic eyebrow including temporary eyebrow tattoos, eyebrow makeup and realistic human hair eyebrows that are easily applied to the skin.
Our false eyelashes are specially designed to create a natural look for chemo patients. They are easy to apply with a little practice.
Don’t Miss: How I Cured My Cervical Cancer
/ 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.
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.
You May Like: How To Gain Weight After Chemo And Radiation
/ Is It Only The Hair On My Head That I Will Lose
Besides the hair on your head, you can also lose the rest of your body hair, i.e., the hair on your arms and legs, your eyebrows, eyelashes, armpit and pubic hair. Again, this depends on the type of chemotherapy and it can also vary from person to person.
What Is Scalp Cooling
The process of cooling the head can prevent or reduce the extent of hair loss during chemotherapy, but this isn’t 100% guaranteed and some patients do still lose their hair despite scalp cooling.
In short, scalp cooling can reduce the blood flow to the scalp, stopping chemotherapy drugs from affecting your hair. This process is called vasoconstriction. Scalp cooling can also reduce biochemical activity, making hair follicles less susceptible to chemotherapy damage.
Different types of scalp cooling include a cold gel cap, which can be fitted and easily kept in place with Velcro. It should be changed every 20-40 minutes. Then there’s a refrigerated cooling system, which pumps liquid coolant through a cap. A patient needs to sit next to the machine while this is happening.
You May Like: Stage 4 Liver Cancer Life Expectancy
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.
/ Will My Hair Look The Same When It Grows Back
Hair that grows back after chemotherapy often looks different to begin with. The colour may be different to how it was in the past but the texture often changes as well. People who had straight hair before chemo might find they have curly hair and vice versa. Sometimes this is just temporary and you will get your own hair back after a few months to a year. Sometimes the changes are permanent. Hair growth after chemo is a different experience for everyone. Some peoples hair grows back thicker and more difficult to manage, while others find it softer and finer. Other factors can also influence your hair texture, such as hormone therapy for the treatment of breast cancer.
Please note that we have limited ourselves to the most common questions. Our answers are based on hair growth as experienced by the majority of the people after chemotherapy. There are always exceptions to the rule. Do you have any more questions or concerns? Talk to your doctor, your oncology coach or your nurse.
Instant Feel Good?
Read Also: Foods To Boost Immune System During Chemo
Can You Prevent Hair Loss During Chemotherapy
There is currently no pharmaceutical drug intervention to prevent chemotherapy-induced hair loss. However, there are practices you can adopt to ensure you are looking after your hair during chemo, as well as scalp cooling – provided it is safe for you and approved by your treatment team.
Van Onselen adds that minoxidil – a common drug used for alopecia caused by male pattern hair loss – may help reduce the severity of hair loss, or shorten its duration. It is not used to prevent hair loss, though. However, due the nature of this medication, you should only use it if your doctor has advised it is safe.
How to look after your hair during chemotherapy
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:
Also Check: Hot Water Radiators Home Depot
A Full New Layer Of Hair
Jessica started using the scalp cooling system in May 2019, when she had the first of eight chemotherapy sessions. About an hour before each session, she applied a conditioning treatment to her hair, then donned a cap connected to a refrigeration machine.
The treatment ended about an hour after each chemotherapy session. Overall, the cooling treatment lengthened each session by about two hours.
Jessica tolerated the treatments well.
Its cold when you first put on the cap, but you get used to it, she says. The more annoying part was wearing a tight cap for a long period of time.
While some patients experience a headache, most report minimal if any discomfort, says Dr. Kohli. The most common complaint is feeling cold, which can be managed by simply bundling up with blankets and a warm drink.
Its low-risk and very safe, she says.
Insurance coverage for scalp cooling is spotty, and out-of-pocket costs can run as high as $2,200, regardless of how many treatments a patient undergoes. Jessica says the money she paid was well spent.
I kept my hair almost until the end of my treatments when it became thin and I started wearing hats, says Jessica, who completed chemotherapy late last summer. Then, about three weeks after my last chemo session, I had a full, new layer of hair on my head. It was about a quarter-of-an-inch to half-an-inch thick. Now it seems to be growing nearly twice as fast as normal.
Its very satisfying to be able to ease peoples fears, she adds.
Skip Coloring Or Perming
Healthcare providers almost universally advise against coloring or perming during chemotherapy. Even if you don’t experience a lot of hair loss, chemotherapy can still damage the hair shaft and cause a dry, itchy, flaky scalp. Adding harsh chemicals can sometimes accelerate the thinning of your hair.
If coloring your hair is important, opt for temporary/semi-permanent hair coloring that doesn’t contain peroxide or paraphenylenediamine . On the other hand, if you want to lighten your hair, it is probably best to wait until you’ve finished chemo, as these hair products almost universally contain peroxide and bleach.
Don’t Miss: Side Effects Of Brain Radiation
Consider A New Hairstyle
If your hair has not entirely fallen out, you may want to consider a new, low-maintenance hairstyle. A pixie cut, for example, requires little hair product and allows you to style in whatever direction needed to conceal thinning patches.
Some people shave their heads to reassert their power over their bodies during cancer treatment and avoid seeing their hair fall outand this is also something to consider.
Protein Injection Could Prevent Hair Loss During Chemotherapy
Hair-promoting hormone could work with all types of chemotherapy
Mice injected with a hair-promoting protein did not lose their hair during chemotherapy. The finding raises the hope that people undergoing cancer treatment can one day avoid this distressing side effect.
There are few options for people receiving treatment. Scalp-cooling caps freeze and constrict blood vessels to stop chemo drugs from flowing into hair follicles. But they are expensive, work for only 50 per cent of people, extend treatment by two hours and cause discomfort and headaches.
Other people have experimented with using the hair loss treatment minoxidil during chemo, but a randomised controlled trial found no benefit.
Part of the problem is our limited understanding of how chemotherapy damages hair follicles, says Sung-Jan Lin at National Taiwan University.
To address this, his team looked at the role of a protein called p53. This protein is activated during chemo and helps to suppress tumour growth, but may also suppress hair growth, since hair cells rapidly divide like tumour cells. A previous study found that mice missing the p53 protein did not shed their fur during chemo.
You May Like: Good Gifts For Someone Going Through Chemo