Coping with Chemo: Chemotherapy Hair Loss
Chemotherapy could lead to hair loss all over the body. There are some drugs which could cause more damage than others. Depending on the doses taken some result in hair thinning while others could make you completely bald. However, most of it is completely temporary and you can cultivate some good habits and grow it all back quickly.
Why Does Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss?
The process of chemotherapy involves the administering of powerful drugs that attack and destroy rapidly growing cancer cells. However, these drugs also attack other fast-growing cells in the body including the hair cells resulting in hair fall. The chemotherapy hair loss is not necessarily confined to the scalp but can happen with your eyelashes, eyebrows and armpits as well.
The chemotherapy hair loss begins 2-4 weeks after you start your treatment. You could lose your hair in clumps or it could be a slow process. The hair fall will continue throughout the duration of the treatment until a week after you stop your medication. The amount of hair that you lose and frequency with which it happens depends on the procedure of treatment. Hair fall treatment will be necessary if you continue to lose hair a month after you stop your treatment
How to Manage Hair Loss Due to Chemotherapy
Though it is difficult to ensure that your hair does not fall out during or after chemotherapy, you can adopt some measures to ensure that hair loss after chemotherapy is curtailed.
- No chemical treatments: It is advisable to be as gentle with your hair as possible during this stage. Do not bleach or perm your hair. Use the hair dryer as rarely as possible. This will help ensure that your hair stays on your head for just a little bit longer.
- Get your information right: Not all drugs will affect you in the same way, some will make you lose large tufts of hair while other will lead to slow loss. Ask your doctor in what way the medication will affect you so that you are better prepared to handle hair loss after chemo.
- Wear a gel cap: Caps filled with cold gel are effective in reducing hair fall in some people. The cold temperature constricts the blood vessels reducing the amount of chemicals that reach the hair follicles.
- Minoxidil: This is a drug normally recommended to treat hair loss. This could also possibly be used for hair regrowth after chemotherapy.
- Cut your hair short: Loss of shorter hair impacts the scalp in a lesser way as it is less visible. It is advisable to cut long hair to deal with chemotherapy hair loss.
- Protect your scalp: Use a sunscreen when you expose your hair to the sun when you are experiencing chemotherapy hair loss. Your scalp is more sensitive when you are undergoing treatment. So, no hair or less hair makes it feel colder.
- Wigs: Use a wig as it will protect your scalp apart from adding to your look.
- Caps and scarves: You can also try out caps and scarves as they are comfortable and could be used as a fashion statement.
When Does Hair Grow Back After Chemotherapy?
The process of growing back hair after chemotherapy hair loss does take some amount of time. This is because a number of healthy cells are also destroyed by the medication in its effort to contain the spread of the cancerous cells. The chemo hair loss starts usually 1-3 weeks after treatment and approaches its peak after 1-2 months.
Even after the chemotherapy is stopped the chemicals do not disappear from the body completely and still keep on attacking healthy cells. The hair normally grows back 3-6 months after the treatment ends, this is usually thin, fuzzy hair. It takes 6 months to 1 year to grow back hair completely. Your new hair might be different in type and texture from your previous hair. However, it does grow back to its original state in course of time. For people who once had longer hair,it might take additional time to regain the original state of the hair. Following are the hair growth stages after chemotherapy.
- 3-4 weeks: light and fuzzy hair forms
- 4-6 weeks: thicker hair starts to grow
- 2-3 months: an inch of hair may have grown
- 3-6 months: 2-3 inches of hair may have formed to cover all the bald patches
- 12 months: 4-6 inches of hair forms which can be brushed.
Dealing with the Emotional Impact of Hair Loss
Long and thick tresses are frequently associated with beauty and good health. The loss of hair or thinning hair could cause depression, anxiety and a number of other emotional issues. It could lead to a loss of self-esteem and the consequences could be extremely unhealthy in the long run. You could also experience aggravated chemotherapy hair loss due to stress as the immunity of the body is weakened. One has to make a significant effort to bring an element of positivity into the thought process. This could include:
- Meeting your doctor: The first thing to do is to book an appointment with your doctor who will run a series of tests on you to make sure that all your health parameters are fine. The doctor will ascertain if your hair fall is a result of male pattern baldness or because of any serious deficiencies.
- Convincing oneself that it is not a hopeless state: There has to be a sustained effort at reminding oneself that one’s look does not solely depend on the presence of hair. Your personality depends on several attributes coming together.
- Select a hairstyle that suits you: Try and look for a more suitable hairstyle in consultation with a hair stylist. Preferably go for a shorter hairstyle and one that complements your style. This will make you feel good about yourself and contribute to your better mental state.
- Change your perspective: Focus on other ways to keep involved. Develop a skill or cultivate a passion that will keep you busy and also enhance your self-esteem.
- Don’t surrender to depressive feelings: Don’t drop down into the abyss of emotional despair. Be practical about it and discuss the problems with your close ones.
Tips to Prevent Hair Loss from Chemotherapy
The hair needs to be treated gently as this will curtail hair loss and facilitate faster growth after chemotherapy. There are a couple of things that you could do to reduce chemotherapy hair loss. Learn how to stop hair fall immediately at home.
- Scalp cooling cap: It has been suggested that wearing a scalp cooling cap during infusions can help prevent chemotherapy hair loss. This is because these caps are believed to reduce the flow of blood thereby curtailing the quantity of drugs that reach your follicles.
- Do not physically exert yourself: Chemotherapy makes you feel tired or fatigued and that is why you should take sufficient rest so that you do not exhaust yourself. Exhaustion could weaken the body and lead to aggravation of your body issues leading to infections. At least 8 hours of sleep and small naps in between are advised to keep the body and metabolism working efficiently.
- Maintain a good diet: Due to the fragile state of the body, when it is undergoing chemotherapy, a nutritious diet is of prime importance. This will help compensate for the weight loss which affects the hair cells. Instead of big meals, one should have smaller meals which are easily digestible. Avoid raw or undercooked foods as they are not easy on the system and could lead to infections. Add those extra calories to your diet with the milk, seafood, poultry, cheese, yoghurt and eggs among other things. Protein, omega-3 fatty acids, biotin and zinc are some of the supplements to prevent hair loss during chemo.
- Keep the body hydrated: Dehydration is a common occurrence during chemotherapy and that is why you need to increase your fluid intake so that your body is sufficiently hydrated. You can also add fruits with rich water content like water-melons, pineapples and apples to your diet. This can stimulate hair growth after chemo.
This will help counter the effects of chemotherapy like diarrhoea which leads to the loss of body fluids and constipation which hardens the stool.
- Avoid acidic and spicy foods: Chemotherapy could cause changes in your mouth and throat. It could increase body sensitivity and cause mouth sores. It is advisable to stop having spicy and acidic foods which could irritate these parts and cause further body stress.
These are some of the natural ways to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy. Chemotherapy hair loss, apart from being physically demanding is also mentally disturbing. The trauma and frustration associated with the loss of hair forces quite a few to seek counselling. If chemotherapy is the reason for the hair loss, there is every possibility of the hair growing back once the medication is stopped. Take the help of our experts at Traya, who will provide advice on how to stop hair fall, and ensure that your hair regrowth is a comfortable and easy process.
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