Hair loss is a possible side effect of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the scalp that is usually temporary. Chemotherapy results in atrophy (shrinking) of the hair follicle; the hair produced is weak and brittle and either breaks off at the surface of the scalp or is spontaneously released from the follicle. Loss of scalp hair varies from slight thinning to complete baldness.
- Have hair cut in an easy-to-manage style before treatment begins.
- Use a mild protein-based shampoo and hair conditioner every 3-5 days, rinse well and pat dry.
- Use a satin pillow to decrease hair tangles.
- Select a wig in advance. A wig as close as possible to the color and style of the hair can be more easily selected before the hair loss occurs.
- Begin to wear the wig before treatment begins. Adjusting to wearing a wig is easier if it becomes part of the lifestyle before hair loss occurs.
- Check with your doctor-many wigs and hair pieces may be tax-deductible for persons with cancer and some health insurance policies will reimburse the patient whose doctor has written a prescription for a wig. Check with the American Cancer Society in your area if you need a wig but cannot afford one. Many provide wigs free of charge.
- Use a hairnet to minimize shedding of hair in bed or on clothes.
- Keep head covered in summer to prevent severe sunburn and in winter to prevent hair or heat loss.
- Wear a hat/scarf/turban to conceal hair loss. Such accessories are attractive as well as stylish.
- Contact your local American Cancer Society for a “Look Good, Feel Better” program or visit their website at lookgoodfeelbetter.org.
- Beauty and Cancer, by Diane Noyes and Peggy Mellody provides helpful hints.
- Avoid using an electric hair dryer or use it only at a low setting.
- Avoid electric curlers and curling irons, hair clips, rubber bands, barrettes and bobby pins.
- Avoid hair sprays, hair dye and permanent solutions as they may increase the fragility of the hair.
- Avoid excess brushing and combing of the hair. Use a wide-toothed comb for combing.
- Avoid excess shampooing.
- Avoid having a permanent on your new hair until you have had three haircuts. This will ensure that healthy, vital hair is being permed and should help you avoid the “frizzies” or brittleness.