Hair Follicles And Chemotherapy
The reason why chemotherapy affects our hair is because of its cell-killing nature. When targeting rapidly dividing cells, chemicals and techniques used during chemotherapy also kill healthy cells. Hair follicles are some of the fastest growing cells in the human body, which is why they are one of the first to suffer during chemo.
Medications like paraplatin, cyclophosphamide, and doxorubicin are some of the most common drugs used during chemotherapy that can cause hair loss. Radiation and hormonal therapies are also known to cause these side effects.
When Your Hair Starts To Come Out
Focus on self-care. Wash your hair as little as possible, and use gentle products. Take care of your scalp. Wear a hat or scarf to protect it from heat and cold, and apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 every day. And if your scalp itches or feels sensitive, go easy with your brush or comb. Avoid rollers, hair dryers, and irons. You can also style your hair with your fingers instead.
If chemo-related hair loss triggers tough emotions, be gentle with yourself. Some people going through this feel depressed, anxious, frustrated, angry, or a combination of emotions. This may be something you want to discuss in a support group or with a counselor who works with people dealing with cancer. Give yourself room to feel and work through whatever comes up.
About Hair Loss From Treatment
Some cancer treatments may make your hair fall out completely. This may be from your head and other parts of your body. This is usually temporary. Other treatments can cause permanent hair loss in specific areas of your body. Sometimes you may not lose all your hair, but your hair can become thinner or more likely to break .
There are practical steps you can take to reduce hair loss during treatment, including scalp cooling.
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/ Should I Cut My Hair Short Or Shave It Before Chemotherapy
Cutting or shaving your hair is not essential but it is often recommended. Some people find it makes the transition from long hair to a bald head less abrupt if they cut their hair short just before chemotherapy. This also has a practical advantage: when your hair starts to fall out, you wont lose big, long chunks of hair but just short hair or stubble. Some people find this less confrontational. Others choose to cut their hair short because it makes them feel in control of the hair loss process themselves instead of being passively subjected to it. A tip: if you choose to shave off your hair, we recommend using an electric trimmer or clipper . Be careful to avoid cutting yourself. If you are not used to using these devices, go to the hairdresser or ask someone with experience.
Physical Return Of Hair
Some women may experience the beginnings of hair regrowth before treatment ends, but for many women growth appears one to three months after they stop chemo treatment.
At first, a fuzz similar to duck down can be seen and felt on a womans head. At this point in time it’s difficult to discern if their will be changes in the color or curl. About a month after that, real hair starts to grow at a rate normal for each woman, and at the two month mark, many woman will have roughly an inch of hair. The time it takes to grow back a full head of hair will vary from woman to woman, and will also depend on your hairstyle prior to chemotherapy.
Virgin hair may closely resemble what a womans hair was like before chemotherapy, or, in many cases, be an entirely new look. One thing is almost always the same it is soft hair, silky to the touch, like a babys hair. Often hair comes in a different color, thicker, wavy, and even curly.
In time, your hair color and texture may return to what it was prior to chemo, but this can take time. If you opt for shorter styles, you may notice this in 6 months to 12 months. If you grow your hair longer, you may still have “chemo curls” for several years. In fact, it’s not uncommon for women who dreaded curls to mourn the loss of the curls when it eventually happens. Fortunately, it’s easy to make changes to your hair color or style should you wish to do so in the future!
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Curly Hair After Chemo Hair Care Tips
While it is obvious to worry about why hair grows back curly after chemo, it is equally important to take care of the new curly hair. As new hair that begin to reappear after chemo, are delicate, brittle and yet to stabilize completely, it is necessary to be careful with them. New hair, apart from being curly, are often, brittle and tend to fall off easily. Also they appear very sparse in some, while for some, they may appear as natural perms.
The best way to deal with newly grown curly hair after chemo, is to be conscious, take good care and avoid the use of chemicals or fancy hair treatments. Avoid using harsh shampoos, rubbing hair or use of dryers and extreme temperatures. It is advisable to avoid using hair colors, till hair growth completely regularizes and best if completely avoided. Henna may be a gentle option if you are keen on coloring, but seeking medical advice is the best. Seek hair care expert, if needed and plan a hair style that suits you and your treatment. Get medical opinion about your diet, use of multivitamins to support effective hair growth.
How Soon Can I Colour My Hair After It Grows Back
Its best to wait until your hair is longer and your hair and scalp are in good condition before applying permanent hair colour. Although there is little evidence-based research in this area Cancer Hair Care recommends that as long as your hair and scalp are healthy and you have about 2cm of hair growth its fine to go ahead. This is due to scalp sensitivity and the fragility of the new hair growth.
For some people this may be six months to a year, for others it will be sooner. It might be a good idea to discuss with your hairdresser about when to begin colouring your hair. Before you have a permanent hair dye applied your hairdresser should check how your scalp and hair may react. They may recommend henna or vegetable-based dyes as these tend to be gentler on the hair and scalp.
Temporary or semi-permanent dyes are a good way to find out if a hair colour suits you or until you are ready to try a permanent colour.
Read Also: What To Do About Thinning Hair In The Front
/ How Do I Care For My Hair During My Chemotherapy
During chemo we recommend gentle care for your hair. Dont wash it too often and always use a gentle, mild shampoo. If you need to use a hair dryer, make sure you always use the lowest temperature setting. Try not to let your hair dry out due to sun exposure, colour treatments or perms. Hard brushes and curlers are definitely to be avoided as well.
Ways To Manage Hair Loss
Talk with your health care team about ways to manage before and after hair loss:
- Treat your hair gently. You may want to use a hairbrush with soft bristles or a wide-tooth comb. Do not use hair dryers, irons, or products such as gels or clips that may hurt your scalp. Wash your hair with a mild shampoo. Wash it less often and be very gentle. Pat it dry with a soft towel.
- You have choices. Some people choose to cut their hair short to make it easier to deal with when it starts to fall out. Others choose to shave their head. If you choose to shave your head, use an electric shaver so you wont cut yourself. If you plan to buy a wig, get one while you still have hair so you can match it to the color of your hair. If you find wigs to be itchy and hot, try wearing a comfortable scarf or turban.
- Protect and care for your scalp. Use sunscreen or wear a hat when you are outside. Choose a comfortable scarf or hat that you enjoy and that keeps your head warm. If your scalp itches or feels tender, using lotions and conditioners can help it feel better.
- Talk about your feelings. Many people feel angry, depressed, or embarrassed about hair loss. It can help to share these feelings with someone who understands. Some people find it helpful to talk with other people who have lost their hair during cancer treatment. Talking openly and honestly with your children and close family members can also help you all. Tell them that you expect to lose your hair during treatment.
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Tips To Help Speed Up Hair Growth After Chemotherapy :
1. Follow a diet rich in vitamins and minerals: Foods rich in vitamins important for hair can be eaten or taken in pill form.
2. Eat more protein than before: We find protein in meat, fish, eggs, legumes, and others.
3. Use of oils: You can apply some oils to the scalp to accelerate hair growth after chemotherapy, with the aim of increasing its strength and density.
Questions To Ask The Health Care Team
You may want to ask your cancer care team the following questions.
Is my specific cancer treatment plan likely to cause hair loss?
If so, when will my hair loss happen? Will I lose hair over time or all at once?
How should I care for my hair and scalp during hair loss?
When will my hair grow back? What can I expect when my hair does return?
Is there a counselor, oncology social worker, or other team member who can help me cope with hair loss?
Are there any programs that provide free or low-cost wigs or other head coverings?
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Caring For Virgin Hair And The Changes And Emotions You Might Expect
Virgin hair is a term sometimes applied to hair that grows in after chemotherapy. Many women are surprised to find that the color of their hair changes, the waviness goes from straight to curly or vice versa, or has a different texture than before. This holds true not only for hair on the head but for eyelashes, eyebrows, and pubic hair. In time, the color and texture of your hair will likely return to its pre-chemo state , but until then, special care is required. Let’s take a look at what you can expect not only with your hair, but your emotions during hair loss and regrowth.
At What Speed Does New Hair Grow
Its important to know that following chemotherapy the hair nearly always grows back but it can take a while and be slower then before hair loss. Very rarely, after high does of chemotherapy treatment the hair may not grow back at all or produce very fine hair. If you do experience any problems or concerns with new hair growth we are here to support you.
The growth rate of hair can vary a great deal but the average hair on the scalp grows at approximately half and inch a month, which gives an average growth of six inches a year. However following chemotherapy treatment it often takes a while for the follicle to recover and in turn produce a visible replacement hair. Most of the time this results in slow growing hair at first.
In our experience, after three months we would expect to see a short covering of hair over the scalp. However it may be very short to begin with. Whilst hair would normally, on average grow approximately half and inch per month, resulting in one and a half inches over a three-months. However, in the three months after chemotherapy treatment, it would not be unusual to see only half an inch or less of new hair growth.
For most people, once treatment has finished the first new hairs can start to peek through at around three to six weeks after chemotherapy has finished. Some people even find that their hair grows before treatment has ended, especially those on combination chemotherapy regimes.
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New Hair Growth Commonly Asked Questions & Answers
Lets start with the commonly asked questions and answers that will give you an essential overview of new growth following chemotherapy treatment and scalp cooling, plus what to expect and how to plan. If you have experienced external beam radiotherapy to the scalp please read our specific guidance in our Radiotherapy guide.
Your New Hair May Have A Curly Texture
Hair may be a curlier texture than the hair you had before. Sometimes hair will have a different color, too. But typically, it wont be too drastic. The color might be a shade darker or lighter than your natural hair color.
Its important to take extra care with this new hair growth after chemo because when it grows in, your hair may be:
Try to be patient with your hair as it grows back after chemotherapy treatment. Here are some hair care tips:
- Use a soft brush to care for your hair after chemotherapy.
- Only wash your hair when necessary.
- Use a gentle shampoo that contains sunscreen to protect your scalp from the sun.
- Cover your hair with a hat or headscarf before going out in the sun.
- Make sure to rinse chlorine from your hair after going in a pool.
We should note here that some medications used for chemotherapy always cause hair loss, while others do not always cause hair loss. Thats why some people go through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and never lose any hair at all.
- Anti-microtubule chemotherapy causes hair loss in
It takes a few weeks after chemotherapy is complete to see hair begin to grow back on your scalp.
A 2019 survey of women in Japan with breast cancer showed that scalp hair regrew for 98 percent of participants, and that hair regrowth started, on average, 3.3 months after chemotherapy was completed.
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Hair Changes After Chemotherapy
When hair grows back after chemo ends, it can often have a different texture and color. Scientists are still not sure why these changes happen, although changes in color can be explained by the chemo causing hair to grow more slowly, which exposes it to more pigment.