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What Happens To Hair After Chemo: How To Deal With Hair Loss After Chemotherapy


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We never understand the value of hair until we start losing it. Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Most individuals report hair loss while undergoing chemo. It is a difficult phase for anyone to go through. In addition, not everyone is comfortable sharing their cancer experience. Hence, they fear losing hair, which is a telltale symptom of cancer treatment. However, there is good news. Hair loss from chemotherapy is temporary.

What Causes Hair Loss After Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a treatment process that affects not only cancer cells but also healthy cells. It involves the hair follicles that promote hair growth. Hair loss usually begins around 1-3 weeks of chemo. It gets severe around 1-2 months. Damage to healthy tissues or cells causes the hair on your head, eyebrows, and body to fall off. Besides, certain drugs cause more severe hair fall than others. At your last treatment, the drugs will leave your body. They then stop damaging your healthy cells. However, it will take time for your hair to grow back.

What Happens During Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy drugs target cancer cells. But it also affects other body parts like skin, hair, and blood. You experience hair loss along with other symptoms. Damage to healthy cells can cause many side effects. Some of them include nausea, mouth sores, and more. Some chemo drugs cause damage to the lungs, kidneys, and heart. However, your doctor will prescribe some medicines to protect healthy cells.

Chemotherapy Hair Loss Timeline: What to Expect?

Patients undergoing chemotherapy will experience varying levels of hair loss.

  • Most patients lose their hair within the first two weeks of chemo.
  • Hair loss starts from the sides to the crown of the head.
  • Hair loss after chemotherapy depends on the treatment.
  • Hair loss is visible within 1-3 months of starting chemo.
  • You may become completely bald around 2-3 months of chemo.
  • Change in texture and color of hair is noticeable. However, they are not permanent. 

Dealing With Hair Loss the Smarter Way

  • Be Aware: Not every drug affects your hair. While some cause hair thinning, others cause balding. Ask your doctor for more information. Prepare yourself in the best way possible.
  • Go Easy: Try being gentle with your hair. Avoid using tons of products. Do not use shampoos that have strong chemicals. In addition, avoid straightening or bleaching your hair. Using such harmful items may worsen hair loss. Do not use blow dryers on your hair. Let it dry naturally.
  • Choose A Shorter Haircut: Now is the time to experiment with your looks. Shorter hair does not stick to the scalp. Instead, it gives your hair a fuller look. Wigs are simpler to manage with short hair. Shaving your head is another smart way to manage hair loss. You may do it in a barber shop or salon. 
  • Pamper Your Scalp: When you start losing hair, your scalp may feel itchy. Some people may experience a tingling feeling on the scalp. Use moisturizing shampoos to soothe your scalp. You can also purchase chemical-free lotions.
  • Cover Your Scalp: Buy scarves or caps to protect your scalp. As you undergo treatment, your scalp will become sensitive. Hence, it is best to cover it up. If you decide to leave it open, apply sunscreen to protect your scalp from sunburns.
  • Scalp Cooling: Talk to your doctor about scalp cooling. It is a cap with cold gel that sits tightly on your head. This gel prevents the medicines from reaching the scalp, thereby reducing hair fall.
  • Be Calm: The good news is that hair loss from chemotherapy is temporary. Most patients see their hair growing back after treatment.

How To Prevent Hair Loss During Chemotherapy?

When you hear the word ‘cancer', the first thing that comes to your mind is hair loss. Not everyone experiences hair fall. But the fear and anxiety of losing hair can be challenging. Thus, many people look for ways to prevent hair loss. Here, we will discuss some natural ways to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy.

  • Scalp Cooling: This is a method of placing a cool ice cap on the scalp. The temperature reduces the medicines from affecting your scalp. You are required to wear it for 30 minutes before undergoing chemo.
  • Scalp Compression: Scalp compression is similar to scalp cooling, but without the cold element. The caps are made of certain fabrics. It sits tightly on the scalp during treatment. The cap reduces blood flow, thus preventing hair loss. It is an ideal solution for those who cannot afford expensive treatments.
  • Medicines: There are no medicines to prevent hair loss during chemo. However, some may help with hair re-growth. You can talk to your doctor to find the best option for you. 

When Will Hair Grow Back?

Hair loss from chemotherapy can be challenging. Hence, let us talk about hair regrowth after chemo.

  • After undergoing chemotherapy, your hair will be under rest for some time.  During this period, it will not grow. Here is a timeline that will help you understand hair growth after chemo.
  • In the first 3-4 weeks, you will notice light hair growth on your scalp.
  • In 4-6 weeks, you will notice thick hair growth.
  • Within 2-3 months, you will experience an inch of hair growth.
  • At 3-6 months, your previously bald scalp will have around 2-3 inches of hair. You could style your hair accordingly.
  • At 12 months, your hair is long enough to brush it.

However, this timeline can vary from person to person. For people with long hair, it may take several years for the hair to grow.

Takeaway

Losing hair is never easy. However, it is never a permanent situation. Find a suitable wig that may help cover your scalp. Do not stress further. It will only complicate the situation. Hair regrowth after chemo is a positive sign of improving health. Seek support or help if you find this phase difficult. Avoid negative feelings. Focus on the positive side of the treatment.

FAQs

Q1 - Do Chemo Patients Lose All Their Hair?

Patients undergoing chemo may experience hair fall on the body and scalp. The hair on your eyebrows, armpits and pubic hair fall come off. However, some drugs cause more hair fall than others.

Q2 - How Do You Prevent Hair Loss From Chemo?

You can try methods like scalp compression and cooling to prevent hair loss. You must wear them before, during, and after the chemo sessions.

Q3 - Does Chemo Make You Permanently Bald?

Most of the time, hair loss from chemotherapy is not permanent. Your hair will regrow in about six months. The texture of the new hair may be different.

Q4 - What Helps Hair Growth After Chemo?

    Try Minoxidil, which may help with hair regrowth. Similarly, there are many other methods to encourage new hair growth. Some of them include ketoconazole shampoo and cold caps. 

    References

    https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/cancer-information/cancer-treatment/chemotherapy/side-effects/hair-loss/

    https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/hair-skin-nails/hair-loss/coping-with-hair-loss.html

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