Managing Hair Loss

 

Chemotherapy damages rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, but also healthy cells such as hair follicles. Chemotherapy-related damage to these cells leads to hair loss, also called alopecia.

 

Hair loss typically begins 2 or 3 weeks after the first chemotherapy treatment.

 

In addition to hair on your head, you may lose eyebrows, eyelashes, facial hair, pubic hair, underarm hair, and leg hair. The amount of hair you lose depends on the type of chemotherapy drug you take.

It grows back!

Hair typically begins to grow back about 2 to 3 weeks after you finish chemotherapy treatment.

Hair may grow back looking different than it did before treatment. For example, color or texture (curly or straight) may change.

 

Taking action to cope with hair loss

Remember, hair loss associated with chemotherapy is almost always temporary. The hair will grow back! In the meantime, here are a few tips to help you cope with the temporary loss:

  • Cut your hair when it starts to fall out. The experience of losing hair is sometimes worse than dealing with it once it’s gone. If you expect to lose all or a lot of your hair, cutting it first may be easier.
  • Plan ahead; shop for a wig before your hair is gone, especially if you want to match your natural color. Or, take this opportunity to try a different color.
  • Try hats or head scarves; these are good alternatives or a compliment to a wig.
  • Remember to cover your head or use sunscreen on your scalp. Skin that has been covered with hair may be particularly sensitive to the sun’s UV rays.
  • Some insurance companies cover the cost of a wig. Talk with your insurer.
  • Treat your new hair gently once it grows back. Avoid chemicals, bleach, peroxide, or colors.
  • The American Cancer Society’s program “Look Good…Feel Better” has materials available covering prosthesis (wig) information and pointers on head coverings. Get your free copy by calling 1-800-395-LOOK.

Other resources are: