Chemotherapy and Hair Loss
When going through chemotherapy, patients may experience hair loss from drugs damaging hair follicles and preventing cells in the roots to help hair grow. It is a side effect that is feared by both men and women. Depending on the type and dose of medication you receive, patients will either lose little, none, or a lot of hair. Fortunately, hair loss from chemotherapy is usually temporary and hair can be expected to regrow about 3 to 6 months after treatment ends.
Other possible expectations include hair loss about 2 to 4 weeks after starting chemotherapy and your scalp feeling tender. Looking in the mirror can also become a constant reminder of the cancer. But once treatment has ended, you can expect your hair to eventually grow back for most people, and it may come back in a different shade or texture temporarily.
There is no treatment that exists to guarantee no hair loss during or after chemotherapy. Although some people have used the cold cap and different patients have different outcomes. Many report it to be expensive, difficult and uncomfortable, while others feel it has been worth it. Knowing that you can find a hair alternative solution that you can with which manage your physical appearance changes can be very helpful. While it cannot undo the psychological sense of loss and discomfort that many feel, over time people adjust and find ways to cope. We think it is important to rely upon the experts in this area to help you develop the best strategy that fits your needs throughout your cancer treatment.
Some options for patients as they lose their hair include:
- Buying a wig or two. It is recommended to shop for a wig either before you begin chemotherapy or during the beginning stages while you still have some of your hair to help match color and texture. You may also want to consider buying two wigs; with one being for everyday use and the other for special occasions. Keep in mind that synthetic wigs need less care and styling than human hair wigs and are also more affordable. Some women also report that these are uncomfortable to their scalp, so every day wear may not be for everyone.
- Wearing a turban or scarf. Some people may find the fabric coverings more comfortable than wigs, especially with scalp sensitivity from chemotherapy. Cotton fabrics will stay on smooth scalps better than nylon or polyester. Wearing a hat or scarf is also nice to stay warm and covered in cold weather. There are many options to choose from and it is important to find your look.
- Shaving your hair off. If the thought of losing your hair gradually bothers you, you may want to consider getting rid of your hair altogether to avoid losing it in clumps. Make sure to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher if you are not covering your head with an SPF rated option. Wearing a hat to protect it from the sun when going out can be a great solution as well.
At the Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, we provide a safe environment where women and men can find products to help manage the physical appearance changes brought about by cancer and its treatment. Reflections Boutique, a program of the Simms/Mann Center, provides a range of services oriented toward optimizing wellness after a cancer diagnosis. Some of the products sold include breast prostheses, mastectomy bras, post-surgical bras, wigs, scarves, hats, and caps. With skilled and compassionate staff to provide information and assistance with personal appearance concerns, Reflections is able to provide a setting where you are treated with respect, privacy, and support.
For more information on the Reflections Boutique, go to: https://www.simmsmanncenter.ucla.edu/?p=413
For more information on chemotherapy and hair loss, check out Mayo Clinic’s website at: http://ow.ly/OcfP6
To read what other options patients have in dealing with hair loss, go to American Cancer Society’s website at: http://ow.ly/OcfSu