How to Prepare for Hair Loss
Although chemotherapy drugs are designed to kill cells that grow in a specific manner, they cannot always target cancer cells exclusively. Hair follicles can be damaged at the cellular level due to the cytotoxic properties of chemotherapy drugs. Progress has been made in this regard – many of the newer chemotherapy drugs, especially those for lung cancer, have a decreased risk of hair loss. The challenges of coping with a life-threatening illness compounded with hair loss can take an emotional and physical toll on cancer patients. If you are undergoing chemotherapy, as well as some types of radiation, it helps to prepare yourself ahead of time for side effects, including hair loss. If you have young children, you should sit down and explain that losing your hair is temporary and a necessary side effect of treatment that will optimally help you get better.
Ways to Ease Hair Loss
Preparing for hair loss translates to different things for different people, but the key is to find a solution that works for you. This could mean buying a high quality wig which many people suggest doing before you start chemotherapy treatment. The reasons for this are twofold – you will have more energy and the wig stylist will be able to see your natural hair color and style. If you decide to purchase a wig online, it is helpful to save a swatch of your own hair and take a few photos that will enable selecting a color that closely matches your own hair, as well as a flattering style. Chemotherapy can also cause eyelash and eyebrow hair to fall out, however, natural-looking false eyebrows and eyelashes provide an optimal remedy.
Many people with hair loss discover that wearing beautiful scarves and stylish headwear is a unique way to express individuality and is empowering. Others find it very comforting to wear a sleep cap at night, sometimes before the first sign of hair loss. These warm and cozy caps offer full head coverage and will keep sensitive scalps protected equally well at night and during chemotherapy sessions.
Pamper Your Hair and Skin
Before undergoing chemotherapy and during treatment, stop getting salon treatments like hair coloring, chemical straightening, and permanents. When you are receiving chemotherapy, the heat and chemicals associated with these services will cause hair to fall out more quickly. Likewise – rollers, curling irons, or straightening irons can damage your hair and cause more rapid hair loss. Let your hair air-dry rather than using a hairdryer and skip hairstyles that tug on your hair, such as braids and ponytails. Your scalp and skin may be more sensitive, so avoid shampoos and lotions that contain strong fragrances, alcohol, or salicylic acid. Use a soft-bristle hairbrush, gentle shampoo, and moisturizing skin lotion. While it might be tempting to wear an ice cap during chemotherapy or use Rogaine, there is no medical evidence that these methods prevents hair loss.
Go Short or Bald
Changing your look ahead of time can feel empowering because you are controlling your appearance rather than allowing chemotherapy to dictate this. Many chemotherapy patients cut their hair short or shave their heads after the first sign of noticeable hair loss, while others do so before hair starts thinning. This can make hair loss less traumatic and a shorter hairstyle accomplishes two things – it makes remaining hair look thicker and fuller and it is easier to fit a wig over shorter hair. A short-haired wig is relatively easy to wear and care for and if your hair is already cut short, the transition to a wig when you lose hair will be less dramatic.
If you decide to rock your baldness with boldness and shave your head, it is suggested you use an electric shaver rather than a razor. Experts warn that you should never completely shave your head bare without using a guard, to prevent possible cuts that could lead to infection.
In general, hair may start to thin or fall out 2-3 weeks after starting chemotherapy. It is normal to lament when hair begins to fall out in clumps and you gather it up from pillows, clothing, and the bathtub drain. The good news is that you can expect your hair to start growing back 3-6 months after treatment ends. Keep in mind that it may come in with a different shade or texture, at least temporarily. Saying goodbye to hair can be like saying goodbye to an old friend, but being prepared and knowing that it will return provides many cancer patients with much-needed solace.