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Cancer And Hair Loss - Dealing with Chemotherapy Hair Loss

Cancer And Hair Loss - Dealing with Chemotherapy Hair Loss

Chemotherapy is a commonly used treatment for cancer that involves the use of powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. While chemotherapy can be highly effective in fighting cancer, it often comes with side effects, and one of the most distressing side effects for many patients is hair loss. Losing hair can have a significant emotional impact, affecting a person's self-esteem and body image. However, there are ways to cope with chemotherapy-induced hair loss and regain confidence during the treatment process.

Understanding the Causes of Chemotherapy-Induced Hair Loss

Chemotherapy drugs are designed to target rapidly dividing cells, which includes both cancer cells and some healthy cells in the body, such as hair follicles. Hair loss occurs because these drugs disrupt the growth cycle of hair follicles, leading to hair thinning and eventually hair loss. It is important to note that not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss, and the extent of hair loss can vary from person to person.

Preparing for Hair Loss

Knowing that hair loss is a possible side effect of chemotherapy can help patients prepare both emotionally and practically. Many individuals find it helpful to cut their hair short or even shave it off before starting treatment. This proactive approach can give patients a sense of control over their appearance and reduce the emotional impact when hair loss does occur. Additionally, it may be beneficial to explore options for head coverings, such as wigs, scarves, or hats, to have them ready for use when needed.

Taking Care of the Scalp and Hair During Treatment

Even though hair loss is inevitable during chemotherapy, it is still important to take care of the scalp and any remaining hair. Using a gentle shampoo and conditioner can help maintain a healthy scalp. Avoiding heat styling tools and harsh hair treatments is recommended, as they can further damage fragile hair. A soft-bristle brush or wide-toothed comb should be used to minimize breakage. Additionally, protecting the scalp from the sun with hats or scarves can prevent sunburn.

Exploring Hair Alternatives and Styling Options

For many cancer patients, wearing a wig is a popular choice to restore a sense of normalcy and self-confidence. Wigs come in a variety of styles, colors, and materials, allowing individuals to find one that closely matches their natural hair or explore new looks. It is important to work with a reputable wig specialist who can provide guidance and support in finding the right wig. Scarves, hats, and head wraps can also be fashionable and practical alternatives to wigs, providing comfort and style during treatment.

Coping Emotionally with Hair Loss

Dealing with hair loss can be emotionally challenging, but it is important to remember that it is a temporary side effect of treatment. Sharing feelings and concerns with loved ones, joining support groups, or seeking counseling can provide much-needed emotional support. Many cancer centers and organizations offer resources specifically for individuals dealing with hair loss during chemotherapy. Embracing self-care practices, such as meditation, exercise, or engaging in activities that bring joy, can also contribute to a positive mindset.

What Is the Best Way to Deal with Chemo Hair Loss?

Dealing with chemotherapy-induced hair loss can be challenging, but there are several approaches that can help individuals cope with this side effect. Here are some strategies to consider:

Mental and Emotional Support

Seek emotional support from loved ones, friends, or support groups who can provide understanding, encouragement, and empathy. Talking openly about your feelings and concerns can help alleviate emotional distress.

Self-Care and Wellness

Engage in self-care practices that promote overall well-being, such as practicing relaxation techniques (e.g., meditation, deep breathing), engaging in gentle exercise, pursuing hobbies, or participating in activities that bring joy and help reduce stress.

Head Coverings

Explore various head covering options, such as wigs, scarves, hats, or head wraps, to find what feels most comfortable and aligns with your personal style. Many cancer centers have resources and specialists who can assist in finding the right head coverings.

Wig Styling

If you choose to wear a wig, consider consulting a professional wig stylist who can help you find a wig that matches your natural hair color, texture, and style. A well-fitted and styled wig can provide a sense of normalcy and boost confidence.

Scarves and Head Wraps

Experiment with different scarf tying techniques or try head wraps to create fashionable and versatile looks. There are numerous online tutorials and resources available to help you learn different styling options.

Skin and Scalp Care

Take care of your scalp and any remaining hair by using gentle shampoos and conditioners. Avoid heat styling tools, harsh hair treatments, and excessive brushing to minimize damage to fragile hair. Protect your scalp from the sun with hats or scarves to prevent sunburn.

Makeup and Eyebrows

If desired, explore makeup techniques to enhance your facial features and draw attention away from hair loss. Additionally, consider using eyebrow pencils or powders to define and shape eyebrows if they have been affected by chemotherapy.

Acceptance and Self-Expression

Remember that hair loss is a temporary side effect of treatment and does not define your identity or worth. Embrace the opportunity to experiment with different looks, styles, and accessories as a means of self-expression.

Practical Considerations

It's a good idea to plan for hair loss in advance. Consider getting a shorter haircut before starting chemotherapy to ease the transition. Also, inform your employer, coworkers, and friends about your treatment and potential changes in your appearance to minimize any unnecessary surprises or discomfort.

Remember that each individual copes with hair loss differently, and it's important to find what works best for you. The goal is to find strategies that help you feel comfortable, confident, and supported during this temporary phase.


Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy that can have a significant impact on a cancer patient's emotional well-being. By understanding the causes of hair loss and preparing for it, individuals can regain a sense of control and minimize the emotional impact. Taking care of the scalp and any remaining hair, exploring hair alternatives and styling options, and seeking emotional support can all contribute to coping with hair loss during chemotherapy. Remember, hair loss is temporary, and with time and proper care, hair will often grow back after treatment is completed.

Tatyana Dyachenko


University of East London

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