Does All Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss? 10 Ways To Cope With Hair Loss

Does All Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss? 10 Ways To Cope With Hair Loss

In my article, I will discuss some ways to handle chemotherapy-related hair loss. It is normal to feel anxious, depressed, or self-conscious about losing one’s hair. But does all chemotherapy cause hair loss? A Chemotherapy Patient With Hair Loss

The treatment can cause unpleasant side effects like fatigue, nausea and vomiting, decreases in blood cells and the most distressing of all, hair loss. Chemotherapy-induced alopecia (CIA) or hair loss caused by chemotherapy is one of the most visible side-effects of the treatment.

The hair loss depends on several factors – the chemotherapy dose, the type of drug, the type of cancer, the duration of the treatment and personal factors.

Why does chemotherapy cause hair loss?

Chemotherapy is designed to target abnormal cancer cells that grow and spread rapidly and destroy, slow down or block their rapid growth. Unfortunately chemotherapy can also harm normal healthy cells of the body that divide rapidly like the cells in the hair follicles which are sensitive to the effects of some cancer treatments.

Hair loss may happen within 2 to 3 weeks of starting treatment. The amount of hair loss depends on the type of cancer or chemotherapy. Some drugs cause hair loss, while others cause little or no hair loss whatsoever. Some chemo treatments do not make people lose hair but it does become thinner or duller. Your doctor is the best person to advise you about how much hair loss you can expect.

The speed and extent of hair loss varies from individual to individual. Some people lose their hair gradually, while others immediately find their hair falling out in clumps. However, unlike radiation therapy hair loss is not confined only to the treated area, but spreads throughout the body. It is difficult to predict which patients will lose their hair and which ones won’t. For some patients hair loss may be limited to the hair on the scalp while in others it may spread to their eyelashes, eyebrows, facial and chest hair (for men), underarm hair, hair on the arm, legs and the pubic area. The remaining hair may become thinner or drier.

Hair shedding is not usually accompanied by any other symptoms, although some people may experience scalp discomfort like a tingling or tickly sensation and scalp pain or tenderness a couple of days before and during hair fall.

How can you prepare for alopecia?

Though hair loss especially in women can be emotionally distressing, they can take steps to minimize its devastating impact.

However upsetting hair loss can be, it is very good to know that the hair of cancer patients will start to grow back. The rate of growth varies from patient to patient. Some people will notice their hair growing back during their treatment while for others it may take a month or two. The color, texture and type of the patients’ hair may be different. People may have darker and thicker hair that is difficult to manage while those who have straight hair find that they have curly hair or vice versa. The hair that grows back will be more fragile and is prone to breakage.

Here Are The 10 Ways To Cope With Hair Loss

1. Prepare your family and inform them about the side-effects of chemotherapy.

Children may be upset, embarrassed or scared by your hair loss. It is necessary to tell them what to expect and why your treatment is important. Be positive and your children will respond better. You can connect with support groups formed by cancer survivors who are in a very good position to offer help and advice on ways of dealing with this catastrophic illness. Your hair care team can advise you on hair care and ways to help you manage and cope with hair loss.

2. Cancer patients are recommended to keep a short hair style.

It can make their hair look thicker and fuller. Go to a hairdresser to get this done. Cutting or shaving your hair will make it easier to make the transition from a head of lustrous hair to a bald one. When your hair starts to fall out it would not be in clumps but just short hair. Use an electric trimmer or clipper and avoid using a plastic razor which might injure your scalp. Or they may prefer to go bald to make their hair loss less dramatic.

3. Be gentle with your hair.

Don’t wash it too frequently and use a mild protein shampoo without strong fragrances, alcohol, or salicylic acid.

4. Don’t color, perm, or chemically straighten your hair.

Chemicals can irritate your hair and damage your scalp. Use a soft hair brush and hair dryer set on low heat. Avoid hard brushes, rollers, curling and straightening irons. For your pillow case use a material like silk or satin that is softer and smoother and will reduce friction.

5. Get a suitable headwear like wigs and hairpieces.

Lace front wigs  are popular these days. Do this before the treatment starts. Get a snatch of your hair to match it with the color and style of the wig if you decide to get one. It is a myth that chemo headwear prevents your hair from regrowing. There are specially made chemo headwear at Amazon below.

6. Use make-up and false eyelashes

Eyelashes are a central to a woman’s self-image and sense of self-esteem. Eyebrows and eyelashes also do the job of protecting our  delicate eyes from dust. One of the unpleasant effects of chemotherapy is the thinning or loss or these features after chemotherapy is completed.  So sunglasses will have to take the place of our eyebrows and eyelashes.

Make-up and false eyelashes are an option that ladies may consider but check with your doctor before using the latter.

7. Put on a soft cap or turban to collect the strands of falling hair.

Gently brush and wash way hair that is falling out from your head, armpits and pubic areas.

8. At night put on a nightcap made from breathable fabric without elastic or rough stitches that may cause irritation.

Post chemotherapy, wigs and other headwear are not merely used to conceal your hair loss but also to keep your head warm. A bald head cools off faster and requires protection, so a comfortable nightcap helps if you feel cold during the autumn and winter months.

9. Ask your doctor about “scalp cooling” or scalp hypothermia during chemotherapy as it may help prevent or reduce the amount of hair loss.

The tight cap filled with cold gel narrows blood vessels underneath the scalp and limits the amount of medicine that reaches the hair follicle. More research has to be done about its benefits and side-effects.

10. Protect your scalp from the heat, cold and the sun.

To shield it from the cold put on a hat or scarf. A sunscreen will shield it from sunburn.

Hair Loss In Children A Child With Chemo-related Hair Loss

And finally a word on hair loss in children. Children seem to be better able to cope with chemotherapy than adults, suffer less from its severe side effects and recover faster.

Both adults and children are affected by alopecia. Younger children may not be as upset as school-going children and teens. You should try to find ways to make them cope better with this problem.

Like adults, children also suffer from thinning of the hair or hair loss that may start on the scalp and spread to other parts of the body. Here again the speed and extent of hair loss depends on the type of chemotherapy and cancer and other factors.

You should take the same precautions mentioned above for your child’s hair loss. Make sure that your child’s head is not exposed to the sun and cold. A sunscreen is a good protection against sunburn. Get your child to put on headwear such as a hat or scarf. If he or she experiences itchiness, use a moisturizing shampoo, cream lotion and conditioner.

You may give your child a short hairstyle, or even shave his or her head bald or get a wig to match your child’s hair color and style. Discuss the importance of the treatment with your child . Hopefully, your child will develop a positive attitude towards the disease.

Finally, don’t wash your child’s hair too frequently.

I hope you will find my article on hair loss or alopecia in adults and children caused by chemotherapy helpful. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below and I will do my best to address them.

19 thoughts on “Does All Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss? 10 Ways To Cope With Hair Loss”

  1. This post is full of great information! It’s practical, easy to follow, and seems trustworthy. You approach the subject with care and empathy, which is greatly appreciated by those who have struggled with this issue. You provide practical solutions and ways to deal with hair loss. Can you provide more options on where/how to get wigs and hair pieces? Are there good websites or places you recommend or what to look for in finding a physical location that sells hair pieces and how to find a good one? Thank you!

    • Thanks for your comments Elita. I have a cousin who is terminally ill with cancer and for me this illness is very personal and my heart goes out to those patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.I will pm to you a list of   some reputable wig makers and physical stores if you will let me have your email address .

      I appreciate the trouble you have taken to review my site and I am encouraged by your positive feedback

  2. l truly appreciate this article, l have an aunt who is battling breast cancer right now. The hair loss part of this process has truly been trying for her as she doesn’t want to go out to public places because of this. Not only will I tell her about this article, I’m going to have her read it. This is actually l lovely article, especially for those battling cancer. Job well done. 

    • Thanks for your comments Nicole. Like you I too have a close relative who is terminally ill with cancer. I am happy that you have found my article on chemotherapy and its side-effects useful.Please share it as widely as possible

  3. Thanks for sharing this information. I do wonder how to cope with hair loss and this is a major concern for anyone who loss his / her. Thus article is a must read for everyone both women and men who are suffering from hair loss. I will share this post , so others can benefit.

    • Thanks Lok for your comments.Hair loss is very emotionally distressing for cancer patients and they will have to cope with it. Hopefully my tips will be useful for them and thanks for offering to share my article with others who may benefit from reading it

  4. Losing your hair must be very distressing, and your article is extremely encouraging to anyone who is going through this at the moment. 

    You have some great tips on how to cope with this, and I amassing that the hair will grow back in its own time, I hope that is correct?

    I am lucky enough not to have had to deal with hair loss so far in my life, but I send every good wish to anyone who is, and I also wish them a complete recovery.

    Many thanks for a very helpful article.

    Chrissie πŸ™‚

    • Hi Chrissie,

      Thank you for your comments on my post. Usually the hair of cancer patients will grow back after chemotherapy is completed. It is very good to know this as hair loss can be devastating especially to a woman. I join you in wishing all cancer patients a speedy recovery and hope they will find the strength to fight and win their battle against this catastrophic illness which has afflicted thousands of people in the world.

  5. Thanks for writing this information article, I love the way you explained the side effects attached to this drug and how to approach the hair loss situation as many might find it so sudden, but I want to ask , what amount of treatment using chemotherapy could lead to a great hair loss? 

    • Hi Seun

      Thanks for your positive comments on my post. As I stated in my post, the speed and extent of hair loss depends on several factors –  some of these are the chemotherapy dose and the type of drug or cancer,and the duration of the treatment and personal factors.Not all chemotherapy causes widespread hair loss or alopecia. Some patients only experience hair thinning. The hair loss for patients undergoing radio therapy is limited to the scalp.

  6. This is a very touching article, one that not many people talk about but I feel it should be something we should not be afraid of speak out loud. I have been lucky to have lived this reality and I thank God every day for that, but I am also aware that many women do and to have a plce dedicated to the subject is a very beautiful thing. I will make sure to pass it on and I know many women will find it useful and appreciate it.

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thank you for your positive comments on my post. For someone who has a cousin who is terminally ill with cancer, this is personal for me and my heart really goes out to patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. As I said in my post hair loss is emotionally distressing .

  7. Hi Absama,

    Motivational speakers say often: “Cancer, is the most feared word in 7 different languages”.Why they use the number 7, i don’t know.

    I like that u have written a article about something that affects women because i had a neighbour who had it and i didn’t know about this at the time. If i knew then, then i could’ve got a wig for her.

    I know it now, so if someone around has it i know what to do, so thank u for that.

    I wonder: Is there a special hairdresser or barbershop for people with cancer ?And is there something people can do to speed up the hair growth ?

    I would be happy to hear from u.

    Thank u.


    • Hi Dahay,

      Thanks for your positive comments on my post. I am happy that you found my article useful . My site is to help people.Indeed a wig is a good alternative to a surgical cap. It helps to disguise  hair loss and makes the patient feel good about themselves. Wigs especially laced  front wigs have been gaining in popularity and is worn by many celebrities.You can get more information on this in another  post on my site : Best Wigs For Hair Loss – 5 Great Tips On Choosing The Right Wig .Please share it widely.

      There should be hairdressers who can advise cancer patients on a suitable hairstyle. Patients may also turn to the hair care team at the hospital for advice.

  8. Such great and insightful content. Many women suffer from this issue all alone and its great to see resources available to help them get through it. Thank you for your great tips. What did you mean about makeup? And how do sunglasses protect your eyelashes? (Also a little confused on 7).

    • Hi neuromind

      Thank you for your comments on my post. Eyebrows and eyelashes do the job of protecting our  delicate eyes from dust. One of the unpleasant effects of chemotherapy is the thinning or loss or these features. So sunglasses will have to take the place of our eyebrows and eyelashes. Hope this helps to clear your confusion and thanks for bringing up this point.

      I will add these points to my post.

  9. Thank you for sharing this great information about loss hair do to the exposure of chemotherapy.

    You have a great list here on how deal with the loss of hair, my wife aunt  is a cancer survivor I remember one thing she used when she started to loss her hair was the chemo headwear scarfs other then that she never worry about her look and thank God she is a very healthy person now. 

    • Hi  GVporras

      Thanks for your comments on my post. Glad to know that your wife’s aunt has recovered. Indeed the chemo headwear is a boon to patients who have lost their precious hair which will grow back after their treatment is over.

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