Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 3 May 2021
Table of contents
12 Ways to Handle Hair Loss From Chemotherapy
Hair loss is a side effect of chemotherapy. The good news is that it's almost always just a matter of time before your hair regrows. While you wait for your hair to regrow, here are 12 things you can do.
Not all chemotherapy has the same effect on your hair. Some only trigger hair thinning over time. Others can cause clumps of hair to fall out. Ask your doctor what will happen if you lose your hair to make it less frightening.
Prepare your family
Children can be frightened or humiliated by your hair loss, depending on their age. Make sure they understand what to expect and why the treatment is so important. The more optimistic you can be, the more positively they will respond.
Be gentle on your hair
Avoid shampoos that contain heavy fragrances, alcohol, or salicylic acid to help slow hair loss. For the time being, refrain from colouring, perming, or chemically straightening your hair. Rollers, curling irons, and straightening irons should not be used. Utilize a soft-bristled hairbrush and allow your hair to air-dry rather than using a blow-dryer.
Try a shorter style
Shorter hair doesn’t lie flat against your head, so it can make your hair look thicker and fuller. It’s also easier to manage under wigs. If you choose to shave your head, use an electric shaver or have it done at a barbershop. Plastic razors can cut your scalp.
Care for your skin
Your scalp can become tender or itchy as you lose hair. Some may also experience tingling. A moisturising shampoo and conditioner, as well as a soothing lotion applied to your scalp will help ease this sensitivity.
Wearing a soft cap or turban around your head at night will aid in the collecting of loose hair. Braiding or putting your hair up in a ponytail will cause it to tangle. When you sleep, a silk pillowcase can also minimise friction.
When going outside, wear a scarf or hat to protect yourself from the sun. If you don't want to wear one, make sure you apply sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 to your scalp to avoid sunburn and harmful UV rays.
Consider a wig
If you plan to wear a wig, go shopping before starting your treatment so you can fit your hair's natural colour, texture, and style. A hairpiece is a tax-deductible expense, and if your doctor writes you a prescription for a “hair prosthesis," many insurance insurers will pay some of the cost. You can also rent them at times. Consult the rehab facility.
Make the most out of your appearance
Purchase a new pair of earrings or a lovely, brightly coloured scarf. Women may want to enhance their other features with makeup such as an eyebrow pencil or false eyelashes.
Ask your doctor about “scalp cooling”
For some people, a tight cap filled with cold gel reduces hair loss. The heat causes blood vessels beneath the scalp to constrict, limiting the amount of chemo medication that reaches the hair follicles.
Losing your hair can make you feel anxious, depressed, or self-conscious. Women, in particular, have a tougher time with it than men. A support group can help you interact with people who are going through similar experiences. They will empathise with you and give guidance. You can also go through the same experience with them.
Within a few weeks to months after completing chemotherapy, most people find their hair growing back. It's typically a different colour or texture, but this is usually just temporary.
Referenced on 27/4/2021
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Chemotherapy and hair loss: What to expect during treatment.
- Napolitano E. (2014). What can I do to cope with hair loss due to cancer treatment?
- NCI Staff. (2017). FDA clears wider use of cooling cap to reduce hair loss during chemotherapy.
- Rugo HS, et al. (2017). Scalp cooling with adjuvant/neoadjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer and the risk of scalp metastases: systematic review and meta-analysis. DOI: 10.1007/s10549-017-4185-9
- Shin H, et al. (2014). Efficacy of interventions for prevention of chemotherapy‐induced alopecia: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. DOI:
- American Cancer Society: “Hair Loss From Chemotherapy,” “Helping Children: When a Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing With Treatment.”
- University of Iowa Healthcare: “Dealing with Cancer Therapy Hair Loss.”
- National Cancer Institute: “Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects: Hair Loss,” “What to Do About Hair Loss.”
- Van den Hurk, C. Expert Review of Dermatology, 2011.