Chemotherapy and Hair Loss: Causes & Prevention Tips

chemotherapy hair loss

chemotherapy hair lossHair loss treatments are more effective than ever, but there are some types of hair loss that are much harder to treat. Hair loss and chemotherapy often go hand-in-hand, as hair loss is one of the most common symptoms of chemotherapy treatments for cancer. Often, it is also the most distressing symptom and one of the things that cancer patients fear the most. The bad news is that the hair loss is often inevitable. Fortunately, it is also usually temporary, and there are techniques that can be used in the meantime to minimize the damage.

What Causes Hair Loss during Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that works by destroying cancer cells. However, chemotherapy drugs do not target cancer cells specifically—they target all rapidly dividing cells in the body, some of which are our hair follicles. These hair follicle cells are destroyed, resulting in hair loss. Fortunately, these regular cells repair themselves once chemotherapy is over, making the hair loss temporary.

Chemotherapy hair loss can appear in many different ways. For some people, their hair will thin or fall out in clumps. For other people, they may experience sudden loss of all the hair on their head. As well, other parts of the body can be affected, including eyebrows, eyelashes, pubic hair, and other body hair.

How to Manage Hair Loss during Chemotherapy

There are many ways that people can cope with hair loss during chemotherapy. Usually, the side effect is just temporary, so when getting chemotherapy treatment, the focus should be on managing the hair loss in a way that makes you feel comfortable.

For some people, this can include using wigs or wearing hats and scarves to cover their scalp. Often, special prescription-based wigs are covered by insurance and can provide real-looking hair. Hair stylists will work to find a wig that works right with you, but as it takes time, this should be done before chemotherapy treatment begins. Scarves and caps are an easier solution.

For some people, simply shaving their head or cutting their hair short can reduce the appearance of patches or thinning spots. Keeping your hair trimmed short can minimize uneven hair loss.

There is no right way to manage hair loss from chemotherapy. It really comes down to what you feel comfortable with.

Hair Growth Tips After Chemotherapy

Luckily, once you have finished chemotherapy treatment, you should see hair regrowth within three to six months. For some people, this can be an incredibly long time to wait for hair regrowth, especially if they want to get back to a longer length of hair. In these cases, proper hair care will help promote faster hair growth and possibly speed up the process.

The most important thing is to avoid anything which can damage your hair or scalp. This means avoiding extreme heat from hair dryers, as well as using softer hair tools, like a soft-bristled hair brush that is gentle on your scalp. It’s also important to protect your scalp from sun damage, which means either wearing a loose-fitting hat or using sunscreen.

As well, hair products can often contain harsh chemicals that may damage our hair and cause it to grow slower. Hair dyes are often not recommended for people after chemotherapy treatments, as they can damage hair. As well, you should use shampoos that are either gentle or made for hair regrowth. There are number of hair loss treatment shampoos and conditioners that can help with hair regrowth.

Remember, your hair will regrow, so there’s no need to worry. Just practise good hair care and your hair will be back in no time.

The Canadian Institute of Hair and Scalp Specialists is an experienced hair transplant organization located in the heart of Mississauga. We have 20 years of experience in hair transplants, replacements, and hair loss treatment procedures. Feel free to contact us for more information about hair transplants or any other hair or scalp concern at 905-272-0190.

by Ken Robson

In business since August 1, 1986, I am the president and also a client at The Canadian Institute of Hair & Scalp Specialists. Having worked with a team of Doctors and Chemists over the years I have compiled a great deal of knowledge in this area, originally involved with a Pharmaceutical company manufacturing vitamins for the hair loss industry. Years ago I was fascinated by the new developments in this area as my own hair was beginning to thin. Studying Trichology at the Toronto clinic I then opened my own office and have enjoyed it ever since.