About Hair Loss and Hair Alternatives
Many people who are being treated for cancer develop complete or partial hair loss (alopecia) from their treatment. This is often a very difficult time emotionally, and many patients are not prepared for the experience.
Reflections Boutique provides a safe environment where women, men, and children can find information and solutions to their hair loss.
Unlike most department stores, Reflections is a small boutique environment with staff who are knowledgeable and sensitive to patients' feelings about the changes in their hair. Since hair loss is common for many customers, Reflections provides a safe atmosphere to explore different types of hair alternatives and head coverings, and to find products that fit you as an individual.
Commonly asked questions and answers about hair loss and solutions:
The most common cause of hair loss during cancer treatment is from some type of chemotherapy. Not all chemotherapies cause hair loss; however, some always cause hair loss. Chemotherapies that are toxic to rapidly dividing cells are the most likely to cause hair loss. The hair follicle is composed of rapidly dividing cells, and therefore, is often affected as a side effect of chemotherapy. The hair loss can be on the head, chest, arms, legs, pelvic region and face.
Hair loss is sometimes only partial. It may occur in only some regions of the body or may be a thinning of the hair. Hair thinning can make hair look "raggedy." Different people make different choices about how to handle partial hair loss. Some people prefer to have their head shaved to avoid the "raggedy" look. This also allows their hair to grow back evenly. Others want to maintain what ever hair they have. This is a personal choice.
People who receive radiation to the brain also will experience hair loss as the radiation damages the rapidly dividing hair follicles.
The rate at which hair falls out during chemotherapy may vary. It may fall out over a few days or it may fall out over a few weeks. The rate of hair loss depends on the individual, and not much can be done to prevent it, especially with certain types of chemotherapy. The first sign usually is a few loose hairs that you may notice in the bathtub or on your pillowcase. It then may come out in greater amounts, possibly in handfuls.
Your hair will grow back when whatever caused the hair loss (e.g., the treatment) is completed. Once the hair cells are no longer under assault, new healthy cells can begin to grow and the hair regrows. Many people experience changes in texture, color, or style of hair as it regrows. Hair regrowth may begin within weeks after treatment is stopped. Everyone's hair grows at a different rate, but a general guideline is to expect about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch per month.
Almost everyone feels some degree of emotion around the loss of hair. It is important that you acknowledge your feelings. (It is one more loss in a series of traumas related to the cancer experience). Most people will tell you not to worry, "it will grow back," but few will tell you to go ahead and cry. It is okay to grieve this loss and to allow yourself the feelings that you have. You can have sad feelings and cope with them in an effective way. Acknowledge the loss, allow the feelings and then seek solutions that will help you to restore a more normal and/or attractive appearance.
If you live in the greater Los Angeles or Santa Monica area, come visit us at Reflections. If you don't, ask your medical team if they know of any place like Reflections near you where you can get assistance. If you are not near a specialty store for cancer survivors, then try to find these products and services in the retail stores that are near you. Some catalogues offer specific products, but the problem with catalogues is that you do not get to see what you look like in the product. How it looks on paper and how it looks on you can be very different.
You also may want to think about cutting your hair short before you lose your hair. This changes your look, gives you some control and helps you adjust to a different physical appearance prior to the hair loss.
There are many different options for dealing with hair loss and most people select more than one. Many women buy a wig, some scarves, and a couple of caps and hats to meet the needs of their lifestyle, where they are going and how they are dressed. The staff at Reflections can assist you with these different choices and show you how you can dress up or dress down different selections with scarves, bows, headbands, etc. Many men choose to shave off their hair and to buy one or two hats to protect their heads when they are outdoors.
Wigs - If you think you want a wig, you may want to choose one before you lose your hair so that your natural color can be somewhat matched. You also can save a bit of your hair for color matching. Some people use hair loss as an opportunity to try a new color. Wigs come in a wide variety of styles. Not everyone feels comfortable wearing a wig. It is up to you. (Wigs often need to be thinned or trimmed, so do not be afraid to take it to a stylist who knows how to cut wigs. Make sure they trim it on your head.)
Wigs come in a range of prices and can be made of synthetic or human hair. We have a selection of wig styles and colors and can fill special orders as needed. Most women opt for synthetic wigs. They can be washed, shaken and dried on a wig stand. Their ease of care helps individuals who have other concerns and problems associated with their treatment. Human hair wigs are more expensive and more difficult to care for. Reflections has a new and special relationship with a highly skilled and respected hair stylist from Westwood Village who volunteers his time and services to fit women with natural hair wigs and help them keep it styled and maintained. Natural hair wigs can also be dyed to match your hair.
Face Framer- We sell a face framer that can be worn under hats. They are good options for many women and are more comfortable than full wigs. This product comes in a long or short style and we carry many different colors.
Hats and Caps - There are so many styles of hats and caps that we recommend you set aside some time to come in and try on as many as possible to see which are the most flattering and comfortable. There are no right or wrong decisions, just personal preferences. We carry seasonal hats and a lot of standards that are crowd pleasers. They are made of felt, straw, and cloth and come with and without brims. We carry hats in a wide range of colors that are good for a variety of situations. Many people notice that their skin color changes with chemotherapy and that certain colors may make them look and feel better. Many people like the softer fabric hats which are comfortable and easy to put on. People who don't have hair tend to need smaller hats, so we try to carry those that are on the smaller side. We also have ways to help you manage hats that are large. Hats can cost from $10 for casual head coverings to several hundred dollars for handmade designer styles.
Scarves - Scarves can be beautiful and fun. Scarves can be worn alone or under a hat. They can also be used on simple soft caps and hats to completely change the look. We recommend and carry lines of scarves that can be easily tied and are less likely to slip. We are happy to teach a variety of ways to tie the scarves to give a more attractive appearance.
Sleep caps - Hair keeps our heads warm at night, so when it's gone a sleep cap can be comfortable. We carry a variety of these caps that are soft and comfy.
The Bald Look - Not everyone wants to cover up his or her head. There is nothing wrong with the bald look and this is a choice that anyone can make. See what feels comfortable for you.
Insurance companies usually do not pay for hats, scarves and caps. Medicare does not pay for wigs. Some companies pay for part or the entire price of a wig. Find out what your insurance company will or will not pay BEFORE you begin to shop for a wig. You will need a prescription from your doctor. We recommend that the prescription request:
"Hair prosthesis for alopecia from chemotherapy due to (cancer diagnosis)."
At Reflections, we are able to sell wigs to you without charging sales tax when the wig is prescribed as a prosthetic device for alopecia regardless of the insurance company's coverage policies. We do not bill for wigs. A prescription is needed at the time of purchase to not charge tax.
We try to price our items in the most affordable way. As a non-profit organization, all our sales are used to cover the cost of our operations and the psychosocial care that we offer at no charge as part of the Simms/Mann - UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology. The prices listed below are approximate guidelines for ranges of items that we carry:
Wigs $78 and up
Face Framer $35-45
Hats and Caps $10 - $200
Scarves $12 - $30
Sleep Caps $14 - $20
Reflections is a non-profit organization and is operated by the Simms/Mann - UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology at UCLA. The Simms/Mann – UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology provides many free psychosocial services to patients with cancer including groups, a lecture series, and a library of information. All proceeds from sales support the operations of Reflections and the Simms/Mann – UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology. See other parts of this web site for more information or call (310) 794-6644.