How to Care for your Hair During & After Treatment

Some people will experience hair thinning rather than hair loss. In fact, two patients taking the same medication may experience different hair-loss side effects. One patient may lose hair, while another doesn’t. If alopecia does occur, the extent of hair loss varies widely depending on the type, dosage, frequency and method of treatment, as well as other individual factors. Looking after your hair can help keep your hair for longer and make you feel more confidence if your hair is thinning. 

Each treatment can affect each person differently: 

Chemotherapy 

  • Can cause your hair to fall out, but not all chemotherapy drugs make your hair fall out
  • It will usually happen within 2–3 weeks of starting treatment
  • Some chemotherapy drugs can make other hair from your body fall out, such as facial hair and pubic hair
  • Hair usually grows back after treatment finishes

Radiotherapy

  • Can cause your hair to fall out, but only in the area being treated
  • If you are having radiotherapy to your head, you will probably lose hair from your scalp
  • Hair does not always grow back after radiotherapy. Your doctor will talk to you about this.

Other Treatments

  • Other cancer treatments, such as hormonal therapy or targeted (biological) therapy, can cause changes to your hair

 

Whatever treatment you're receiving, take care of your hair and treat it as gently as possible. Chemotherapy in particular may cause your hair to become dry and brittle even if you don't lose it. But if you do lose hair, it’s important to look after the skin on your head and in other places where you had hair, to avoid irritation.

Follow these tips below to keep your hair and scalp as healthy as you can.

Ask Your Doctor About Cold-Cap Treatment: Some patients are using this therapy, which freezes the scalp. Its cooling effect reduces blood flow to the scalp, which also decreases the amount of chemotherapy medication that reaches this area. It's usually worn for 15 minutes before each chemotherapy treatment.

Use Mild Products: Many shampoos have fragrances and harsh chemicals that  dry out already-irritated skin, hot water can also add to this. Conditioners, by contrast, can sometimes be overly oily or contain emollients, humectants you simply don't need. Stay away from chemical products with alcohol or menthol and stay with mild products. If your scalp is itchy or sensitive, rubbing baby oil or mineral oil on the skin can usually help. Don't forget to pat your hair dry, so you can stop pulling out anymore hair. 

Skip Colouring or Perming: Even if you don't experience a lot (or any) hair loss, chemotherapy can still damage the hair shaft and cause a dry, itchy, flaky scalp. This can lead to unpredictable results when colouring or perming and can sometimes even accelerate the thinning of your hair and, the harsh chemicals are almost guaranteed to cause you irritation you don't need. If colouring your hair is really important to you, opt for temporary/semi-permanent hair colouring that doesn't contain peroxide or paraphenylenediamine.

Styling your Hair: Avoid using hairdryers and straighteners if you can, as this will improve your hair greatly. Brush or comb your hair gently with a soft-bristle brush or comb. Start brushing your hair at the ends and gently work your way up to your scalp. Or you can comb through your hair with your fingers, but make sure you wet your fingers with water first. Thin hair can cause a lot of tangles. Sleeping on a satin or silk pillowcase can decrease this, as this is a smoother fabric than others. Another trick is to use ribbons to tie your hair up, rather than hairbands and do not plait your hair as this may damage it.