Hair Loss From Chemotherapy: How to Cope

If you’re having cancer treatment, particularly chemotherapy, you’re probably worried about losing your hair. That’s normal. Many people feel that way.

Hair loss varies with the type of chemotherapy drugs you receive. Some don’t cause hair loss at all. Some cause hair loss all over your body. Others cause you to lose hair from the scalp only.

It may help you to prepare in advance. Taking certain steps now, like shopping for a wig before your treatment, may help you cope.

Your hair should grow back completely within about six months after chemotherapy ends.

What to expect

•Hair loss usually starts about two weeks after treatment begins.
•Hair may fall out in clumps when you brush or shampoo your hair.
•Hair may start to fall out slowly and get worse a month or two after treatment starts.
•Some hair will start to grow back before your treatment is over.
•Your hair may grow back in a different texture or color.
What to do before treatment

•If you want to wear a wig or toupee, shop for it while you still have hair. This will let you match your natural hair color.
•If you can’t afford a wig, or your insurance doesn’t cover it, ask your doctor or nurse about free “wig banks.”
•Consider a short hairstyle. Hair loss will be less noticeable if your hair is short.
•If your hair is long, check to see if you can have a wig made from your own hair.
•Shop for scarves or turbans to wear if or when you don’t want to wear a wig.
What to do during treatment

•Baby your own hair. Be gentle when brushing and shampooing.
•Avoid hair dryers, hot rollers and curling irons.
•Use sunscreen on your scalp. Wear a hat or scarf in cold weather.
•If you decide to shave your head, use an electric shaver, not a razor.
What to do after treatment

•Be gentle with your hair and scalp. Do not use hair color or harsh products.
•Try to be patient. Your hair will need time to recover.
Radiation treatment to the head can also cause hair loss. With high-dose radiation, it may not grow back quite as easily.

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