When Will My Hair Grow Back After Chemo?
Many cancer patients have questions and concerns about hair loss and hair regrowth after chemo. The degree of hair loss (if any) depends on factors including the type of chemotherapy, dosage, frequency of treatment, and the manner in which it is administered. The good news is chemotherapy-induced hair loss is nearly always reversible. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare for chemo’s many side effects, including hair loss. Ask your cancer team what type of chemotherapy drug they plan on administering, about the side effects, and for scientific data backing up its efficacy. Of course the most important thing is to select a drug that delivers the most optimal patient outcomes, whether it causes hair loss or not.
Post-Treatment Hair Growth Timeline
Hair loss differs based on whether you received chemo, tamoxifen, and or whole brain radiation, which is a common therapy for metastatic breast cancer that spread to the brain. The time it takes for hair to grow back on the scalp, body, eyelashes, and eyebrows varies from person to person.
Generally, the hair most prone to falling out is the hair that grows back the fastest. Hair on the top of the head grows back faster than eyebrows or eyelashes.
In general terms, it takes 2 to 3 weeks after the end of treatment to start noticing “peach fuzz” reminiscent of fine baby hair, or as one cancer survivor called it, "mouse fur."
After about one month, real hair starts to grow at its normal rate, and at the 2-month mark, you should have about an inch of hair.
If breast cancer spread to the brain, whole brain radiation therapy results in a far longer duration of hair loss. It may take 4 to 6 months before an inch of hair growth occurs.
New hair will probably be thinner than it was and some people have a small bald spot on the top of the head.
The gold standard treatment for estrogen positive breast cancer, this drug is generally not associated with severe hair loss, but it can cause thinning hair. This typically levels off after the first year of the 5-year treatment period, however, some people experience thinning during the entire course of treatment.
Will My Hair Look The Same?
New hair may grow in just like old hair, or it may be thicker, curlier, straighter, or a different color than it was before treatment. Some women who regularly color-treated their hair are surprised when new hair growth is completely gray. Hair texture usually reverts to the way it was after the effects of chemotherapy, radiation, or tamoxifen on the hair follicles wears off completely.
Women should be realistic when regrowing hair after chemo and should expect 2 to 3 months for enough hair growth to sport a short hairstyle.
However, all women have different comfort levels with their new hair length and should wear whichever style makes them the most comfortable. Headwraps, hats, wigs, headscarves, etc, are all used by women at different stages of hair loss and regrowth for different lengths of time. Generally, it takes most women about 5 to 8 months before hair growth is enough for visible texture.
What are "Chemo Curls?"
Some people with straight hair end up with the curls they always wanted, albeit usually a temporary fix. For instance, a person with straight blonde hair may regrow darker, curlier hair after chemo. Others with kinkier hair can experience loosening texture, both of which are a direct result of a phenomenon known as "chemo curls." It is already well established frequently dividing cells such as hair, skin, and nail cells are often caught in the crosshairs of chemotherapy, causing changes. Less is known about what causes hair to grow in differently after chemo is complete, but one theory is hair thickness and texture (a.k.a. chemo curls) are the possible result of a slight change in the DNA of repaired cells.
After chemo, some women find they need to change their hairstyle and use new haircare products that enhance thicker, thinner, curlier, or straighter locks than they had before. For others, the wigs, scarves, and hats they purchased during treatment can come in handy during transition periods. Many women feel empowered by surviving cancer, embracing changes in their physical appearance along with their precious, renewed lease on life.
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- Mom Review by Kathi
My daughter's hair is coming back and it's like her baby hair....so soft!! She's 65 and SO cute!! (Posted on 04/17/2017)