Some people having cancer treatment find that it doesn’t affect their hair at all. However, some chemotherapy drugs or other medicines can affect the condition and growth of your hair. Some people find that their hair becomes thinner and in some, it falls out completely. People who have surgery or radiotherapy may find they have areas where their hair doesn’t grow back. The scalp is the most common site of hair loss for people who are receiving chemotherapy that causes hair loss but hair all over the body will be affected such as eye lashes and eyebrows. Hair loss elsewhere tends to be less severe.
Even if your hair does not fall out, treatment can make it dry, brittle and more difficult to manage.
Preparing for hair loss
You could think about having your hair cut short before your treatment starts. If your hair is shorter it will feel like you are losing less hair when it does fall out. If you’re used to long hair you might find it easier to have it cut in stages to give you time to adjust to a new length.
Some people prefer to shave their heads completely before they start losing their hair. This can give a sense of control over what is going to happen and you may prefer to do this, rather than wait for your hair to fall out.
Some people may not want to cut their hair for cultural or religious reasons, and may find alternative headwear helpful.
Looking after your hair
If your hair is dry or brittle during or after cancer treatment:
- Use only gentle hair products and non-medicated shampoo.
- Brush or comb your hair gently using a brush with wide prongs or a wide-toothed comb.
- At night, wear a soft cap or turban around your head to stop your hair becoming tangled and to collect any loose hair – women may find it easier to wear a hairnet.
- Eat a well balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates to help keep your hair in good condition as a poor diet can make the condition of your hair worse.
- Avoid using excessive heat from hairdryers or heated rollers, as this can over-dry the hair and make it break.
- Avoid wearing your hair in a tight band, as this can damage and break your hair. If you plait your hair, plait it gently.
- Avoid perming your hair as this can make it even more dry and brittle.