Chemotherapy & Hair Loss

There is no way around it. Managing your life with cancer has a great number of challenges. Some you can control or manage but others you cannot. For many individuals, the worst thing about chemotherapy is the thought of losing their hair. Understanding the process and being prepared for hair loss is half the battle. It’s important to know that your hair will grow back. Remember to draw on family and friends for support.Chemotherapy affects everyone differently. Some people will lose their hair while others may only experience thinning. Others may not see any affects at all.It is helpful to prepare yourself as you discover how chemotherapy may affect you. Begin by talking to your doctor or nurse. They will know the likelihood of hair loss based on the type of chemotherapy drugs prescribed. There is no medication to prevent hair loss so the natural place to begin is to decide if you prefer to manage the process by removing the hair yourself.You may feel more in control of your hair loss by cutting your hair very short or shaving it off altogether. This often makes the hair loss less traumatic and easier to manage. If you do retain a small amount of hair, a shorter hairstyle will make any remaining hair look thicker and fuller. If you decide to shave your head, use an electric shaver instead of a razor.

Without your hair, your scalp will be much more sensitive to sunburn. Do not forget to use sunscreen or sunblock to protect your bald scalp. Chemotherapy treatments can also make the skin more sensitive to sunlight so sunscreen is especially important wherever your skin is exposed to light.

Hair loss may be limited to your scalp area, or you may lose the hair on your entire body, including your eyebrows and eyelashes.The good news is that your hair will grow back following treatments. It is not uncommon for it to grow back with a different color or texture. One encouraging thing to remember is that your hair loss means that your chemotherapy treatments are working.

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 become dry, itchy and flaky. Protect your hair by avoiding any unnecessary stress. Use a mild shampoo with all natural ingredients. 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.

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As soon as you learn that your chemotherapy treatments will result in hair loss, begin shopping for wigs, head coverings, scarves, eyebrows and eyelashes while you still have hair. Give yourself plenty of time to shop. Being prepared will relieve much of the anxiety and stress that comes with losing your hair. It will also allow you to match your current hair color to your wig color.Many cancer patients come to us looking for a human hair wig. Although we custom make human hair wigs, we encourage our chemotherapy patients to select a synthetic wig instead. Our high quality synthetic wigs will be indistinguishable in appearance from a human hair wig, and they are more affordable and easier to take care of. If you choose a high quality wig, no one will be able to tell that it’s not your real hair.When you select a wig, you will most likely want to choose one that matches your own hair color. If you save a hair swatch and mail it to us, our cosmetologist will help you select the closest possible color match to your own hair. You can personalize your wig by having your hair stylist cut and style it. You should be wearing the wig while it is being cut. This will ensure that your hairpiece is cut to frame your face and that it is styled in the most flattering manner for your face shape. A wig is going to feel different at first. Give yourself time to adjust to the new sensation.

Many women find that they prefer to wear hats, scarves, turbans or head wraps instead of wigs. We offer both options to meet each individual’s unique personality.When you select a hat, choose one that is comfortable. It should be snug, but not too snug or too tight. To look most natural, you will want to look for a deep fitting cap that completely covers the hairline. A cap with a little extra height gives the impression of hair underneath. Regular department store hats will not typically conceal your hairline. They may feel uncomfortable without your hair as a buffer between your scalp and the cap. Our head coverings are specially designed for a comfortable secure fit. They will provide a flattering look and full head coverage to a bald head. Because they are fashionable, they will be indistinguishable in appearance from the hats you will see in your favorite fashion magazine. But they will be comfortable, they will fit, and they will conceal your hair loss seamlessly. Most of our customers like them so much that they continue to wear them even after their cancer treatments are over and their hair has grown back.It is important to maintain your body heat during hair loss because 30-50% of a person’s body heat is lost through the head. Hats, caps or wigs will help replace the lost insulation of hair.

When you are going through hair loss and chemotherapy treatments, it is important to talk about your feelings. Feeling angry and sad is a normal part of hair loss. Most cancer patients will go through the 5 stages of the grieving process as they begin to cope with their diagnosis.
Be aware of your feelings and recognize that they are normal and expected. The stages of grief are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Every person grieves differently. It is especially important to build your support network and lean on others for support. Cancer support groups bring great comfort to many patients. It helps tremendously to share your experience with others who are also going through the same experience. You will gain insight and inspiration from those who are completing their journey. We recommend to contact your nearest CANSA Care Centre for support. Talk to your health care professional, minister or someone you trust and remember to turn to your support network as you face this challenge.