You might not think about how important your hair is until you face losing it. And if you have cancer and are about to undergo chemotherapy, the chance of hair loss is very real. Both men and women report hair loss as one of the side effects they fear most after being diagnosed with cancer.
Whether or not you have hair loss from your chemotherapy depends mostly on the type and dose of medication you receive. But whether you can maintain a healthy body image after hair loss depends a lot on your attitude and the support of your friends and family.
MUST READ: The REAL Facts About Breast Reconstruction
Chemotherapy & Hair Loss: Why Does It Occur?
Chemotherapy drugs are powerful medications that attack rapidly growing cancer cells. Unfortunately, these drugs also attack other rapidly growing cells in your body — including those in your hair roots.
Chemotherapy may cause hair loss all over your body — not just on your scalp. Sometimes your eyelash, eyebrow, armpit, pubic and other body hair also falls out. Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely than others to cause hair loss, and different doses can cause anything from a mere thinning to complete baldness. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the medication you’ll be taking. Your doctor or nurse can tell you what to expect.
Fortunately, most of the time hair loss from chemotherapy is temporary. You can expect to regrow your hair three to 10 months after your treatment ends, though your hair may temporarily be a different shade or texture.
Chemotherapy & Hair Loss: What Should You Expect?
Hair usually begins falling out one to three weeks after you start treatment. It could fall out very quickly in clumps or gradually. You’ll likely notice accumulations of loose hair on your pillow, in your hairbrush or comb, or in your sink or shower drain. Your scalp may feel tender.
Your hair loss will continue throughout your treatment and up to a few weeks afterward. Whether your hair thins or you become completely bald will depend on your treatment.
It may take several weeks after treatment for your hair to recover and begin growing again. When your hair starts to grow back, it will probably be slightly different from the hair you lost. But the difference is usually temporary. Your new hair might have a different texture or color. It might be curlier than it was before, or it could be gray until the cells that control the pigment in your hair begin functioning again.
Chemotherapy & Hair Loss: Can Hair Loss Be Prevented?
No treatment exists that can guarantee your hair won’t fall out during or after chemotherapy. The best way for you to deal with impending hair loss is to plan ahead and focus on making yourself comfortable with your appearance before, during and after your cancer treatment.
Several treatments have been investigated as possible ways to prevent hair loss, but none has been absolutely effective, including:
• Scalp hypothermia (cryotherapy). During your chemotherapy, ice packs or similar devices are placed on your head to slow blood flow to your scalp. This way, chemotherapy drugs are less likely to have an effect on your scalp. Studies of scalp hypothermia have found it works somewhat in the majority of people who have tried it. However, the procedure also causes a small risk of cancer recurring in your scalp, as this area doesn’t receive the same dose of chemotherapy as the rest of your body. People undergoing scalp hypothermia report feeling uncomfortably cold and having headaches.
• Minoxidil (Rogaine). Applying minoxidil — a drug approved for pattern hair loss in men and women — to your scalp before and during chemotherapy isn’t likely to prevent your hair loss, although some research shows it may speed up your hair regrowth. More research is needed to understand whether minoxidil is effective in regrowing hair after cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy & Hair Loss: How To Make The Best Of It
Your hair loss generally can’t be prevented or controlled, but it can be managed. Take the following steps throughout your treatment to minimize the frustration and anxiety associated with hair loss.
MUST READ: Coping With Breast Cancer: 5 Essential Steps
Be gentle to your hair. Get in the habit of being kind to your hair. Don’t bleach, color or perm your hair — this can weaken it. Air-dry your hair as much as possible and avoid heating devices such as curling irons and hot rollers. Strengthening your hair now might make it more likely to stay in your head a little longer during treatment.
Consider cutting your hair. Short hair tends to look fuller than long hair. So as your hair falls out, it won’t be as noticeable if you have short hair. Also, if you have long hair, going short might help you make a better transition to total hair loss.
Plan for a head covering. Now is the time to start thinking about wigs, scarves or other head coverings. Whether you choose to wear a head covering to conceal your hair loss is up to you. But it’s easier to plan for it now rather than later. Ask your doctor to write a prescription for a wig, the cost of which may be covered by your health insurance.
Baby your remaining hair. Continue your gentle hair strategies throughout your chemotherapy treatment. Use a soft brush. Wash your hair only as often as necessary. Consider using a gentle shampoo.
Consider shaving your head. Some people report that their scalps feel itchy, sensitive and irritated during their treatment and while their hair is falling out. Shaving your head can reduce the irritation and save the embarrassment of shedding. Some men shave their heads because they feel it looks better than the patchy hair loss they might be experiencing.
Protect your scalp. If your head is going to be exposed to the sun or to cold air, protect it with sunscreen or a head covering. Your scalp may be sensitive as you go through treatment, so extreme cold or sunshine can easily irritate it. Having no hair or having less hair can make you feel cold, so a head covering may make you more comfortable.
Continue gentle hair care. Your new hair growth will be especially fragile and vulnerable to the damage caused by styling products and heating devices. Hold off on coloring or bleaching your new hair until it grows stronger. Processing could damage your new hair and irritate your sensitive scalp.
Be patient. It’s likely that your hair will come back slowly and that it might not look normal right away. But growth takes time, and it also takes time to repair the damage caused by your cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy & Hair Loss: Should You Cover Your Head?
Covering your head as your hair falls out is a purely personal decision. For many women hair is associated with femininity and health, so they choose to maintain that look by wearing a wig. Others choose hats and scarves. Still others choose not to cover their heads at all.
Ask your doctor or a hospital social worker about resources in your area to help you find the best head covering for you. Look Good … Feel Better is a free program that provides hair and beauty makeovers and tips to women with cancer. These classes are offered throughout the United States and in several other countries. Many classes are offered through local chapters of the American Cancer Society. Look Good…Feel Better also offers classes for teens with cancer, as well as a website especially for men.
Radiation Therapy Can Cause Hair Loss, Too
Radiation therapy also attacks quickly growing cells in your body, but unlike chemotherapy, it affects only the specific area where treatment is concentrated. If you have radiation to your head, you’ll likely lose the hair on your head.
Your hair usually begins growing back after your treatments end. But whether it grows back to its original thickness and fullness depends on your treatment. Different types of radiation and different doses will have different effects on your hair. Higher doses of radiation can cause permanent hair loss. Talk to your doctor about what dose you’ll be receiving so that you’ll know what to expect.
Radiation therapy also affects your skin. The treatment area is likely to be red and may look sunburned or tanned. If your radiation treatment is to your head, it’s a good idea to cover your head with a protective hat or scarf because your skin will be sensitive to cold and sunlight. Wigs and other hairpieces might irritate your scalp.
To learn more about breast cancer, visit www.mayoclinic.org.
Also On HelloBeautiful:
1. Blue. #May10 #NYC
2. Blue Ivy & Jay Z Sip Tea
Blue is surely the apple of Daddy's eye.
3. Blue Ivy & Beyonce Smell The Roses
Beyonce seems like the coolest mom.
4. Blue Ivy & Beyonce Soar The Big Skies
5. Blue Ivy & Mommy
6. Daddy & Me
Blue Ivy walks across mommy's at-home photoshoot, but it's the most adorable photobomb ever!
8. One Big Happy Family
The royal family, Bey, Jay & Blue are all out shopping and we're sure they spent our entire life's savings in 30 minutes or less.
9. Beyoncé, Jay Z & Blue in Beverly Hills — Nov. 11
Beyonce in these heels though?!
10. Beyoncé & Blue in NYC — Nov. 4
Look at Blue in her adorable little bow!
11. Beyoncé & Blue spotted in NYC — Nov. 4
Blue holding on to mommy for dear life.
12. Beyoncé & Blue spotted in NYC — Nov. 4
Momma Bey looking fierce with her mini me in tow.
13. Blue dressed as Michael Jackson.
14. Blue & Ivy
Just look at that face. Seriously, Jay could never deny this child! She knows how to make all his mean mugs!
15. Beyoncé, Jay Z & Blue in Beverly Hills — Nov. 11
Look at that cutie!
16. Beyoncé, Jay Z & Blue in Beverly Hills — Nov. 11
OMG Blue in a top knot? Yasss!
Blue has grown up to be an adorable toddler! We're swooning over this photo of her playing on the beach.
Looks like Blue is taking a walk in mom's shoes...literally.
19. Beyoncé & Blue
There's nothing like being cuddled up in mom's arms.
Blue is looking all kinds of adorable! Look at that left hand go! LOL.
21. Blue On The Big Screen
Bey & Jay look at Blue during a video played at an "On The Run" tour stop. How precious!
22. Pardon Blue's Back
She's growing up so fast! We're loving the top knot. Take that Blue Ivy hair critics!
23. Jump Around
Bey & Blue share an adorable moment on the trampoline. Hello summer!
24. Rocking Some Cute Ponytails
Blue Ivy was spotted with a new 'do! Bey & Jay's mini-me was holding on to her father during a little day stroll.
25. Strolling With Mom & Dad
Blue, Jay and Bey all spotted in East Hampton.
26. Blue Has A Manicure Day With Mama Bey
"Me and my Blue, and my Blue Blue, riding🐝"
27. Hanging Out With Mom
Baby Blue is walking to the door, and it looks like Bey is trying to keep up!
28. Trying On Some Heels
Will Blue be slaying a performance in the near future?
29. Holding On To Mom
Blue looks like she has something to say to Bey.
30. Playing A Game Of Tennis
Blue walks on the tennis court.
31. Cuddling With Mom
Blue & Beyonce have some much-needed cuddle time.
32. Blue Ivy
"The blueprint 🐝"
33. Bey & Blue Take A Stroll
Doesn't Blue look adorable with her colorful dress and cute hair ribbon?
34. The Carter Lounge Together
The family was seen out and about.
35. Jay Z Carries Blue While Bey Looks On
Jay carries Blue in his arms.
36. Leading The Way
Blue Ivy looks too cute with her bowler hat and Mama Bey watching from behind. She's really growing up!
37. Out On The Town
Blue Ivy & Momma Bey enjoy some much deserved time off in Spain.
38. Traveling With Mom and Dad
Blue is used to traveling with Mama Bey and Poppa Jay, but she also looked a little flustered at some moments. It's ok, baby Blue!
39. A Day At The Park
Poppa Jay Z lets Blue Ivy have her way with the bouncy horse.
40. It's A Family Affair
Beyonce, Jay and Blue jetsetting in Dublin.
Blue dressed up like a hipster and plays a quick game of peekaboo! How adorable!
42. OMG It's Blue's Beautiful Face!
FINALLY! We get to see how beautiful Blue is! Look at the adorable headband! "Blue 💙"
43. Blue Ivy
Life's a beach!
44. Brooklyn Stand Up!
"Beyonce & Blue"
45. Blue Ivy's Got Her Own iPhone
"Momma, what's your password?"
46. Beyonce's Lazy Day With Blue
"Momma, I asked you for your password!"
47. When Blue Ivy Takes Your Phone, Beyonce Be Like...
"Fine, I'll go ask Daddy!"
48. Blue Ivy On Tour
"Bey & Blue"
49. It's Playtime
Beyonce & Blue take some time out to play.
50. A Chilly Day In NYC
"Beyoncé, Jay Z and Blue Ivy in NYC - Jan. 19"
51. All Bundled Up
The royal family makes their way to their fancy car.
52. Kisses From Dad
Blue's all bundled up, getting love from Daddy.
53. Blue At The White House
Blue Ivy's taking after mommy and writing a letter.
54. Blue Loves Bo
The White House pup, Bo is showing Blue Ivy some love.
55. The Carters At The White House
Check out the royal family checking out the scene at the White House.
56. It's Christmas Time Again
Blue and Bey checking out the White House Christmas tree.
57. Blue Lovin' Bo
Blue Ivy, dressed like a Princess, showing Bo some love.
58. Like Father, Like Daughter
Blue playing dress up with Daddy's hat.
59. Fun Times With Mommy
Blue Ivy spends some QT with mommy.
60. Mommy & Me
Blue and Bey take a break for some snacks.
61. Silvery Blue
Beyonce carries Blue, while the adorable toddler rocks a metallic jacket that we want and need.
62. The Holy Grail
Blue, Bey & Jay
63. One Big Happy Family
"#miami #newyear #2014"
"Beyoncé & Blue 💙"
65. Blue & Daddy In A Blue Jacket
"Jay and Blue 💙 #NewYear #2014 #Miami"
66. Hold On To Me
"Happy New Year Mommy!"
67. Dora Dora Dora The Explorer
"Beyoncé, Blue and Dora the Explorer"
68. Daddy & Bey
"Look over there Blue, you own that too."
69. Blue's Big B-Day
"Mommy make sure they can only see the back of my head."
70. Painted Faces For Blue's Bday
"Let me get down Mommy, I wanna play!"
71. Kisses From Mommy
Beyonce and Blue prepping for Momma Tina's Masquerade Ball
72. Talk To The Hand!
Beyonce, Jay Z and Blue Ivy were spotted leaving Joey's restaurant in Miami, on January 8th, and Blue had a message for the paps! Talk to the hand!
73. Me & My Daddy
While Beyonce's arm rested, Jay carried Blue from Joey's restaurant, in Miami on January 8th.
74. Blue's First Words
"I'm ready to slay right along with you, Ma!"
75. Imagine The Sound Of This Lullaby
A newborn Blue Ivy gets serenaded by her superstar mother.
76. Don't Mess With Blue!
Every now and again, Blue Ivy reminds you...she is her father's child!
77. All Gold Everything
Blue Ivy takes after her dad's swag. The inseparable duo were spotted in South Beach, Miami illuminating the streets outside their hotel with their yellow luster!
78. All Of The Lights!
"Mommy! All the pretty colors are so blinding! I'm...just..so..overwhelmed! When's my shot coming?! When's my shot coming?!" Blue plays on set with Bey at her 'Blow' video shoot.
79. Hey Blue!
"I can be happy sometimes, see?"
80. Blue Ivy With Daddy
"Why are we clapping, again? I'm not in the shot."
81. Jay Z Tries To Get Blue To Listen To "Magna Carta Holy Grail"
"Daddy, I'm more of a Nas fan."
82. Stepping With Mom
"Wait, Ma. I want the camera to see all angles of this sick dress!"
83. Splashin' & Playin'
"Mom, this water is clean, right? Because I'm not trying to splash in water I can't trust."
84. Beyonce Discusses Important Matters
"Mommy, I completely get it. Yes, I promise to watch the throne."
85. Mommy's Hugs
"Ok, Ma. I love you to pieces, but I like oxygen too." Bey may be the Queen, but this scene from her video "Blue" makes it look as if she can't get enough of being Mom.
86. Blue Ivy Twirls
"Aaaahh, I'm having so much fun not thinking about anything...wiippeee...oh, wait...getting a little sick."
87. Just So You Know...
"I run things. Don't get it twisted."
88. Mommy & Me Loungin'
"Oh, Mommy, I'm so tired of seeing the wigs you snatched last night all on our floor. It's so exhausting. Like, when're they getting picked up? Not now? Oh. Ok."
89. A Kiss For Blue
"Mommy, let me sleep, dang!"
90. Slurpin' On That Milk...Slurpin' Slurpin' On That Milk
"Mommy, gimme that bottle!"
We could watch this adorable GIF of Blue Ivy nonstop forever!
92. Jay Sneaks In Kisses
"Dadddd! Get..Away!..I don't want...No, ugh..No kisses!"
93. Blue Stares Back...
"Hey! Who's that?!"
94. Blue Still Doesn't Get Why Anyone's Here
"No, really, who are you? You're getting to close."
95. Blue and Bey Out For Lunch
"I'm over this now. People just won't let us be. Mom, why can't we just be?!"
96. Blue Is One Tough Cookie
"Ma, please let me just kick them in the face. Like, please, I can't see through all these lights."
97. Blue Jetsets With Jay
"Dad, do we own this boat? I just figured we owned everything, so..."
98. Beyonce Keeps Blue Covered
"Mommy, I think you forgot my feet. I'm cold right now. Are we inside?"
99. Beyonce LOVES Her Blue
Look at that face, how could you not kiss it?!
100. Blue Swings With Mommy
"I like the swing, this is nice, Mom--Oh, I'll let you pose for that shot."