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Hair Loss During Chemo

During chemotherapy, there is a high risk of temporary hair loss which is why it is important to continue taking good care of your scalp and hair.

Losing your hair during cancer treatment can be a difficult experience. Nevertheless, just remember that it is only a temporary side effect and that you can still remain feminine while waiting for it to grow back. Why not have some fun with chemo head scarves, wigs and bandanas!

Your Symptoms During Chemo

Hair loss or Alopecia is one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy because it targets dividing cells. This means attacking not only cancerous cells, but also non-cancerous cells such as hair follicles. Even so, not everyone loses their hair as some chemotherapy agents do not cause hair loss. It can also depend on the dose of medication and the duration of the treatment.

Generally, hair loss begins 2 to 3 weeks after the first chemotherapy session and can last a few days. Depending on the doses of medication administered and the type of molecules used, your hair may fall out gradually after every session, or more quickly over a few days, most often whilst brushing and washing your hair. It is also quite normal to experience itching and tingling during hair loss.

Important Things to Keep in Mind During Chemo

Get Ready for Hair Loss by Cutting your Hair Short

Before doing anything, consult your Oncologist to check if your treatment causes hair loss. If it is the case, opt for a short pixie haircut before starting chemo as this will allow you to transition more easily when you start losing your hair.

  • Finding short hair on your pillow is easier to accept than finding long hair

  • If you choose to wear a cold cap during chemo, its effectiveness will be improved with shorter hair

  • Hair loss will be delayed by several days

  • No medical equipment requires you to shave your head, therefore, it is up to you to decide. If finding hair on your pillow when you wake up is too difficult for you, you can also opt to wear a hair net at night

During Chemo: Always Wash, Brush and Moisturise Carefully

  • Wash your hair the day before your appointment and do not wash it again for 3 to 8 days afterwards

  • Avoid brushing your hair the day of your chemo treatment

  • Use a small amount of mild, non-oily shampoo and rinse with warm water

  • Air-dry your hair or gently rub dry with a soft towel

  • Avoid any hairdryers, curling irons, heated hair curlers or hair straighteners

  • After losing your hair, it is important to continue washing your scalp with a mild shampoo

  • After shampooing, moisturise your scalp with cream or oil to avoid any itching

  • Avoid any hair dyes, blow-drying, highlights, straightening or perms before and during your chemotherapy, it can weaken your hair

Massage your Scalp to Calm any Itching

  • Massage your scalp every day for several minutes to stimulate blood circulation and prepare for regrowth

Additional Tips During Chemo

Surround Yourself with Comfort

  • Use a satin pillow cover as this will limit any scalp friction (an antistatic slip will also do the job)

  • Avoid any overheated or very cold places

  • At night, try wearing a flannel cap or a soft stretchy fabric on your head to keep it warm

To Wear or Not to Wear the Cold Cap?

The cold cap, offered during chemotherapy treatments, reduces the size of the blood vessels in the head through cold (vasoconstriction). Wearing it decreases the diffusion of active substances to the scalp and reduces hair loss. It should be placed on the head 10 minutes before beginning a chemo session and removed 30 minutes after finishing.

Ask your health team for more advice on the effectiveness of the cold cap, as its usage depends on your treatment and the sensitiveness of your scalp. Some people cannot handle the migraines or extreme cold caused by the cap.

If you can handle wearing the cap, do not forget to wear it every session and to keep your hair cut short.