Chemo Hair Loss

[tips from 12 reliable sources]

Worried about chemo hair loss or hair growth after chemo? We’ve collected tips from reputable websites such as Mayo Clinic, Cancer Research UK, National Cancer Institute, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, etc. to give you more information to deal with chemo hair loss.

Before treatment


Prepare for chemo hair loss

Both men and women report hair loss as one of the side effects they fear most after being diagnosed with cancer.

  • Make hair loss less scary by asking your nurse or doctor what exactly will happen from your treatments. Hair loss (also called alopecia) can be a side effect of cancer treatment, but not all cancer treatment causes hair loss.
  • Consider joining a support group – It’s normal to feel anxious, depressed, or self-conscious about losing your hair. A support group can connect you with others going through the same thing. They can share your feelings and offer advice.
  • Look Good Feel Better is a free program that helps all cancer patients improve their appearance and self image by teaching hands on techniques to overcome appearance-related side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. These classes are offered throughout the United States and in several other countries.
  • Ask your doctor about Minoxidil (Rogaine) .Applying minoxidil, a drug approved for hair loss to your scalp before and during chemotherapy isn’t likely to prevent your hair loss, although some research shows it may speed up your hair regrowth.

Shopping therapy for chemo hair loss

  • Make the most out of your appearance. You may feel that worrying about your appearance is silly when you are dealing with a cancer diagnosis, but some people feel happier and better able to cope when they feel they look the best they can. Buy a new pair of earrings or a pretty, colorful scarf.
  • If the eyebrows start to thin, try using a clear or colored brow gel. These can be found at any discount or department store. A brow pencil can also be used to fill in gaps. Many cancer support groups have workshops to help patients learn these techniques. Another option is to use eyeglasses with heavy colored frames. You can find these with or without a prescription.
  • Shopping therapy – Wigs and head coverings along with other fun accessories are helpful coping tools with chemo hair loss.
  • Buy colorful and attractive scarves turbans or hats. Sometimes wigs can be uncomfortable. Scarves and hats can be a good break from wigs, but Make sure your headwear is not too tight or irritating to your scalp.
  • Use makeup to accent other features. Use eyebrow pencil, or even try fake eyelashes.

Shave your head before chemo

  • Consider shaving your head – Some people shave their hair off completely to avoid the distress of seeing their hair fall out. If you choose to shave your head, use an electric shaver or have it done at a barbershop. Plastic razors can cut your scalp. With the immune system depressed due to the chemotherapy, a cut could raise the risk of an infection.
  • Shaving your head can reduce the irritation – Some people report that their scalps feel itchy, sensitive and irritated during their treatments and while their hair is falling out.
  • Get a short haircut to give yourself time to adjust – If the thought of losing your hair bothers you, think about having your hair cut short before your treatment starts. This might help you get used to seeing yourself with less hair. A shorter style will make your hair look thicker and fuller. It also will make hair loss easier to manage if it occurs.

Wigs

  • If you think you might want a wig – Buy it before you lose your hair, so you can get used to it and the wig shop can better match your hair color and texture. Also look for a wig that adjusts to any head size to allow for variations as you lose your hair. If you are feeling adventurous, choose a wig for a whole new look, why not try the color and style you’ve always wanted! For health reasons, always wear a nylon stocking cap when trying on any wigs and headwear. Ask the wig specialist or sales person for one.
  • Some insurance plans cover the cost of wigs – If so, ask for a prescription for a “cranial prosthesis” or “hair prosthesis”, so don’t use the word “wig” on the prescription. Also If you buy a wig, save the receipt. It can be a medical tax deduction.
  • You may also consider borrowing a wig or hairpiece, rather than buying one. Check with the nurse or social work department at your hospital about resources for free wigs in your community.

Prepare your family before treatments

  • Prepare your children or grandchildren for your hair loss to help them reduce their feelings of fear or anxiety. Depending on their age, children may be scared or even embarrassed by your hair loss. Let them know what to expect and why your treatment is so important. The more positive you can be, the better they’ll react. There are also books you can read with your children to help them understand that hair loss is common during cancer treatment
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During treatment


Reduce chemo hair loss

  • Protect your scalp – If your head is going to be exposed to the sun or to cold air, protect it with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and a scarf or hat. Your scalp may be sensitive as you go through treatment, so extreme cold or sunshine can easily irritate it. Having no hair or having less hair can make you feel cold, so a head covering may make you more comfortable.
  • If your scalp flakes or itches this means it’s dry. As you lose your hair, your scalp may get tender or itchy. Some people even feel a tingling sensation. You can use oil or moisturizer, not dandruff shampoo. Gentle massage and moisturizing of the scalp can be invigorating, reduce flaky areas and prevent skin problems.
  • Stay warmYou may like to wear a soft cap, scarf, turban or beanie to keep your head warm as having no hair or less hair can make you feel cold.

“cooling cap” or “scalp cooling”

  • Ask your doctor about “cooling cap” or “scalp cooling”- If you are going to get chemotherapy that might cause hair loss, talk to your health care team about whether a cooling cap might help reduce your risk. During your chemotherapy infusions, a closely fitted cap that’s cooled by chilled liquid can be placed on your head to slow blood flow to your scalp. This way, chemotherapy drugs are less likely to have an effect on your hair.

Gentle hair strategies

  • Be gentle to your hair. Use a wide-toothed and comb thinning hair gently. Reduce hair loss by avoiding too much brushing or pulling.
  • Avoid Hair treatments that contain harsh chemicals such as bleach, peroxide and ammonia (gel, hair sprays and mousse) which can irritate the scalp.
  • Don’t use perms or hair colors on thinning hair – colors may not take well and perms can damage the hair and make it fall out faster.
  • Avoid heating devices such as curling irons, hot rollers and instead of using a hair dryer, let your hair dry naturally or by patting (not rubbing) it with a soft towel.
  • Wash your hair only as often as necessary. Try not to wash your hair for about two days after chemotherapy, especially if having scalp cooling and use warm rather than hot water.
  • Consider using a gentle shampoo (protein-based) and conditioner that can dry out your scalp. Stay away from shampoos that contain strong fragrances, alcohol, or salicylic acid.
  • Wear a hair net at night to collect any loose hair.
  • Sleep on a satin, polyester or cotton pillowcase to keep hair from coming out in clumps. Also you won’t wake up with hair all over your pillow, which can be upsetting. (Nylon pillowcase can cause irritation).
  • Using or sleeping in hair curlers can pull on the hair and cause it to fall out quicker.
  • Avoid hair extensions and weaves as these can also weaken the hair
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes against dust /particles until your eyelashes re-grow.
  • Avoid perfumed deodorants – If you have lost hair under your arms.
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After chemo treatment


Encourage hair growth

  • When new hair starts to grow, Continue gentle hair care. Your new hair growth will be especially fragile and vulnerable to the damage caused by styling products and heating devices. Avoid coloring or bleaching your new hair for the first few months until it grows stronger. Most experts say to wait six months after the last treatment before using any type of hair coloring products.
  • Keep hair short and easy to style.
  • Shampoo only twice a week.
  • Thoroughly massage scalp to remove any scaly or dry skin and it may help by improving the blood supply to the hair follicles.

You must be patient and let your hair grow in its own time

Regrowth is a process that doesn’t happen overnight, so I’m trying to be patient.

  • Be patient. Most people notice their hair growing back within a few weeks to months after they’ve finished chemotherapy. It’s likely that your hair will come back slowly and that it might not look normal right away (different color or texture). But growth takes time, and it also takes time to repair the damage caused by your cancer treatment.
  • Speak to your hairdresser before you color your hair for the first time after treatment. You could ask him or her about natural products such as henna and nonchemical colors. For example, vegetable-based products may be less harsh. Test the dye on a small, hidden area of hair first to make sure it will not damage your hair.
  • Consult with a Dermatologist – A dermatologist can help address issues around skin sensitivity that may result from losing hair on your scalp and other areas of the body. They can also suggest topical drug formulations such as such as minoxidil for the scalp and bimatoprost for the eyelashes that may be used to speed up the regrowth of hair post-treatment. A dermatologist can also run blood tests to determine if the cause is due to a thyroid problem or low levels of iron, zinc, or vitamin D, which can be replenished to stimulate hair growth.

References


1. Hair Loss. Cancerorg. 2018. Available at: cancer.org. Accessed April 27, 2018.

2. 4 Things to Ask About Cancer and Hair Loss. CancerNet. 2018. Available at: CancerNet. Accessed April 27, 2018.

3. Chemotherapy and hair loss: What to expect during treatment. Mayo Clinic. 2018. Available at: Mayo Clinic. Accessed April 27, 2018.

4. Cold F, Health E, Disease H et al. 12 Ways to Handle Hair Loss From Chemotherapy. WebMD. 2018. Available at: WebMD. Accessed April 27, 2018

5. Hair loss, hair thinning and cancer drugs | Cancer drugs | Cancer Research UK. Cancerresearchukorg. 2018. Available at: Cancer Research UK. Accessed April 27, 2018.

6. Hair Loss – Cancer Council Victoria. Cancervicorgau. 2018. Available at: Cancervic.org.au. Accessed April 27, 2018.

7. Clinics U. Dealing with Cancer Therapy Hair Loss. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. 2018. Available at: uihc.org. Accessed April 27, 2018.

8. Hair Loss (Alopecia). National Cancer Institute. 2018. Available at: cancer.gov. Accessed April 27, 2018.

9. Hair loss and cancer treatment. Cancerie. 2018. Available at: cancer.ie. Accessed April 27, 2018.

10. Hair Loss | Cancer Support Community. Cancersupportcommunityorg. 2018. Available at: cancersupportcommunity.org. Accessed April 27, 2018.

11. Hair loss during cancer treatment – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute | Boston, MA. Dana-farberorg. 2018. Available at: dana-farber.org. Accessed April 27, 2018.

12. Cancer treatment and hair loss | Cancer Council NSW. Cancer Council NSW. 2018. Available at: cancercouncil.com.au. Accessed April 27, 2018.