Cancer and Hair Loss: Frequently Asked Questions
Just click on the question to view each answer.
How Can I Prepare for My Impending Hair Loss?
Many patients will cut their hair shorter to gradually ease into their hair loss. Many find that by shaving their head either before their hair loss happens, or when it starts to come out, they regain a sense of control over the situation. This also eliminates the trauma of hair falling out over a period of days. Most patients find that they gain peace of mind by being prepared and proactively shopping for headwear and wigs before their hair loss happens.
Will I Lose My Eyebrows and Eyelashes Too?
Every person reacts differently to treatments. It is common to not only lose scalp hair but also the hair on the rest of your body. This includes eyebrows and eyelashes. We offer several options for replacing your eyebrows and eyelashes. Please see our Eyebrow Guide and our Eyelash Guide for more information.
How Long After Chemotherapy Will It Take for My Hair To Fall Out?
Drugs used during chemotherapy treat cancer by attacking the cancer causing cells in a patient's body. Unfortunately, these drugs can also attack hair growth cells as well. Whether or not you experience hair loss during chemotherapy depends on the type of treatment, medication, and dosage you receive. Most chemotherapy patients report losing their hair approximately 2-4 weeks after starting treatment. Hair may come out in clumps or in single strands, all at once or gradually. You may notice loose hair on your pillow, in your hair brush or shower drain. Chemotherapy treatments may also cause scalp tenderness.
How Can I Prepare for My Impending Hair Loss?
Many of our customers have told us how thankful they were that they made the necessary preparations for losing their hair. Each have their own way of coping and preparing. Many cancer patients will cut their hair and wear it in a shorter style a few weeks before they lose their hair. This helps to make the hair loss a bit less traumatic as and will also make the hair loss easier to manage when it begins to happen. Many find that by shaving their head just before their hair loss happens, or when it starts to come out, that they regain a sense of control over the situation. This also eliminates the trauma of hair falling out over a period of days. Most chemotherapy patients find that they gain peace of mind by being prepared and proactively shopping for headwear and wigs before their hair loss happens. Others decide to forgo hats and wigs altogether and go bald. No matter what you decide, having something warm for your head in the evenings is a must. Also, considering sun protection is essential. Again, the process is as unique as you are so go with what feels right for you.
Does everyone who undergoes chemotherapy treatments lose their hair?
No. Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely to cause hair loss. Others merely cause thinning of the hair. Others may not cause hair loss at all. Fortunately, in most cases, hair loss from chemotherapy is temporary. Consult with your doctor to determine the likelihood of hair loss in your particular situation.
What Will My Hair Look Like When It Comes Back In?
It is unique to every individual. Some find that it comes back in the same as it was before treatments. Others will find that it may grow back with a different texture, fullness or even a different color than it was before the treatments. These changes are usually temporary and most individuals find that their hair will return to its original color and texture after several months.
How Do I Take Care of My Bald Scalp?
It is very important to protect your skin during treatments. Your scalp will be especially sensitive to burning without the protection your hair provides. Apply a high quality full spectrum sunscreen, such as our Elta Block, before exposing your scalp to the sun.
Your skin can become dry during treatments. Wash your scalp using a gentle shampoo, such as Alra Shampoo. As your hair begins to come back in, it may be brittle or dry. You will want to continue using the gentle shampoo in order to keep the hair nourished and encourage continued growth as your hair comes back in.
Why is my Hair Falling Out?
There are many different types of hair loss. People generally lose hair due to medical conditions that are either hereditary or caused by certain drug therapies. Some individuals also experience hair loss or thinning hair as a part of the normal aging process. Hair loss is not limited to the hair on an individual's head. It can occur anywhere that hair grows, including eyebrows, eyelashes, and other facial or body hair.
What are the Different Types of Hair Loss?
Alopecia: Simply stated, alopecia means hair loss. This loss can occur for various reasons , at various times on different places on the body. Types of Alopecia include the following:
Involutional Alopecia: This is a natural condition which occurs as a person ages. Hair gradually becomes thinner and can become brittle.
Androgenic Alopecia: Generally known as male or female pattern baldness, this type of hair loss is a genetic condition. Hair loss due to Androgenic Alopecia in men can begin in the teens or early 20s, and is usually characterized by a receding hair line or a gradual loss of hair at the front of the scalp and crown. In women, this condition typically presents later in life as thinning of the hair or extensive loss of hair near the crown of the head.
Alopecia Areata: This is sudden loss of hair that leaves patchy or sparse areas on the scalp. In approximately 90% of cases of Alopecia Areata, the hair grows back within several years.
Alopecia Universalis: This condition includes hair loss on all areas of the body and leaves no hair present.
Trichotillomania: This term describes a psychological disorder which presents as an individual pulling out their own hair. Trichotillomania, or Trich for short, occurs most often in children.
Telogen Effluvium: This disorder occurs when an individual's hair thins or sheds due to changes in the hair growth cycle. Telogen Effluvium is typically a temporary condition.
Hypotrichosis: This is the term used to describe hair loss due to abnormal hair growth patterns, most commonly as a result of chemotherapy treatment. The loss is characterized by a dramatic reduction in the amount of hair present, and the new hair growth is typically fine, short and brittle.
How Do I Care for My Hair When it Comes Back In?
Hair may take several weeks after finishing treatment to begin regrowth. Hair after chemotherapy or radiation is often lacking protein and weak. Therefore it is recommended that you:
- Use gentle, vitamin induced shampoos free of dyes (See Alra Shampoo)
- Avoid harsh or stenuous brushing
- Use a soft massaging brush
- Avoid or use gentle settings when using hairdryers
How Will Hair Loss Affect my Daily Life?
Because the causes for hair loss vary greatly, almost anyone can be affected by it. While hair loss is not a specifically medically serious condition, it can have a significant psychological impact on an individual. Some people experience a wide range of emotions during and following hair loss. These emotions can include anger, depression, sadness and fear. They can also affect friends and family members. Often, wearing a head cover, hat or hairpiece can help to quell some of the negative emotions associated with hair loss by making the wearer less self-conscious of the physical affects of their condition. We offer a variety of headwear, cosmetics, gifts and hairpieces that can help give anyone affected by hair loss a way to feel more confident when interacting with others on a day-to-day basis.
Additionally, there may be multiple physical affects of hair loss to deal with on a daily basis. Common physical affects of hair loss include:
Cold Head: Most of a person's body heat is lost through the top of the head and scalp. This is especially true at night when the body is at rest. However, when hair is covering the head, the heat does not escape as easily. When experiencing hair loss, most people will find that their head gets cold rather quickly, especially at night. We recommend wearing a sleep cap or covering of some sort at night to prevent chills and promote rest. Cold weather can also cause discomfort to a bald or balding head. A soft, warm cap or beanie is great for blocking wind and snow.
Sunburned Scalp: A bare scalp receives more exposure to the elements than one with hair covering it. To prevent sunburns on the scalp, always apply a high SPF sunscreen before sun exposure. Several of our hats and headcovers already have SPF built into the hat. This can provide an extra layer of protection for the wearer, while also keeping the sun out of the eyes and off of the face.