Chemotherapy Hair Loss Strategies

Published 12/11/12


Tips on how to make losing your hair due to chemotherapy less traumatic.


PJ: Hi, I'm PJ Hamel and I survived breast cancer. During chemotherapy I lost my hair. Today I'd like to share some tips that will make losing your hair less traumatic. Not all women who have chemotherapy lose their hair, but the vast majority do. Ask your doctor if you're going to lose your hair, and if so when you might expect it to happen? Two to three weeks after your first treatment is the norm. Your hair will start to fall out gradually. You'll notice it when you brush it. Then it picks up speed, at which point you may simply want to shave your head. you'll probably lose all your body hair; eyebrows, eyelashes, pubic hair, plus underarm and leg hair. So that's one plus, you can put away the razor for a while. A good way to prepare for hair loss is to immediately have your hair cut in a short, casual style. This will make it easier to deal with when it starts to fall out, and also prepares family and friends for what's coming next. Also decide what you want your look to be for the next few months. Will you wear a wig, scarves, maybe bandannas? Soft, pullover caps are good for winter and baseball or boating hats protect you from sunburn in the summer. You may choose to wear nothing at all on your head, at least indoors. But if it's cold out, be prepared with a shawl or scarf. Without hair you may find yourself feeling chilly around the neck and shoulders. Imagining yourself without hair and waiting for it to fall out is scary and uncomfortable. Most of us consider a certain hairstyle one of the physical marks of being a woman. Many of us have long hair and love it. How will your friends and work colleagues react? Will a particular loved one still find you attractive? Well, once you lose your hair, you'll find the reality isn't as bad as your imagination. Like anything else you get used to it quickly. In fact, it's interesting to see yourself without hair. You may find you look quite striking. Take some good photos, someday you may want to remember that beautiful bald head. If you choose a wig do some research first, a hospital or cancer center where you're having your treatment will be able to recommend a good source for wigs. You'll want to deal with a professional wig fitter, someone who's had experience with complete hair loss, and will treat you with the respect and care you need, in this difficult time. A professional will be able to suggest style, color, and cut and tell you how to care for your wig, which might mean taking it to the beauty shop to be washed and set, and remember wigs can be expensive. Find out beforehand what your health insurance will cover. Your hair will start to grow back once you've finished chemo and sometimes even before you're done, strangely enough. If you're like most women your new hair will come in as a soft, fuzzy down just like a baby's. After that your hair may come back curly if it was straight before or straight if it used to be curly. It will probably be a different color and texture too. Within six months or so, your hair will be long enough for you to ditch whatever head gear you've been wearing. Over the coming months and years it will probably gradually transition back to something closer to your original hair, although most women never go back to exactly what they had prior to chemo. And that's how I see it as a breast cancer survivor, but I'd also recommend you reach out to your doctor for more details. Or visit Google and type in chemo hairstyles for more information. Thanks for watching.

Show Full Transcript