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How can I deal with hair loss caused by cancer treatments?

Posted by Be Well

How can I deal with hair loss caused by cancer treatments?
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Many people feel that their hair is an important part of their appearance. The loss of hair can be distressing, during what is already a difficult time. It can be difficult to know what to do, both practically and emotionally.

Before and during hair loss

There are some practical tips on how you can cope with hair loss:

  • Ask your doctor or nurse if your drugs are likely to cause hair loss.
  • If your drugs can cause hair loss, think about cutting your hair shorter before treatment starts. This could help to minimize hair loss as it reduces the amount of hair pulling on your scalp.
  • Ask your doctor about wigs before you start your treatment. This means that if you want to, you can match the color and texture of your hair as closely as possible.
  • Some hospitals have staff that can show you different types of headwear and give you ideas and tips. Some hospitals run hair and beauty programs. Ask your hospital or doctor for information.
  • Talk to your friends and family for ideas on which wigs or headpieces would suit you.

The first thing you may notice is your hair starts to come out when you wash, brush or comb it. You could wake up to find hair on your pillow.

Some tips on looking after your hair during this phase:

  • Use gentle hair products, such as baby shampoos.
  • Use a soft baby brush to brush your hair, and try not to comb or pull too hard.
  • Don't dye your hair as it may weaken your hair.
  • Perms involve pulling on the hair so it may be best to avoid them.
  • Try not to use hairdryers, straighteners or curlers on your hair. Try gently patting your hair dry instead. Talk to your hairdresser about other ways you can style your hair.
  • Wear a hair net at night so you won't wake up with hair all over your pillow as this can be upsetting.
  • Some people find that cutting off their hair or shaving their heads before treatment starts can help them keep a sense of control. You may prefer this to waiting for your hair to fall out. Think about what is best for you.

Making the most of your appearance after hair loss

The loss of hair caused by chemotherapy does not mean that you cannot look attractive or natural. Take your time to find out what will suit you and make the most of your appearance. Some people find that they enjoy experimenting with new looks and styles.

Some people feel that they are comfortable with being bald. Others may prefer to wear wigs, hats, scarves or other headwear. Always do what feels best for you. If you wish to disguise your hair loss, there are a variety of ways you can do this.


There are many different styles of wig to choose from, many of them look and feel natural. You can have an acrylic wig, or a wig made from real hair. Real hair wigs look more natural but are more expensive and harder to look after. All wigs come with care instructions. Follow these carefully to make the most of your wig.

The nurses on the ward can arrange for a wig fitter to come and help you. It might help to have a family member or friend with you at this time. Together you can choose what color and style will suit you. You may find it hard to make the decision as the thought of wearing a wig may seem strange. Take your time, talk to your loved ones and ask a trusted hairdresser for advice.

Your appearance

Losing your hair may make you feel as though you look very different. There are ways in which you can increase your confidence in the way you look, and feel comfortable with the situation.

Women can make the most of facial features by putting on make-up, wearing pretty jewelry, or wearing bright colors to divert attention away from wigs or headwear.

Men could also wear bright colors, or find a style of hat or cap that suits them. These could all help enhance your appearance and confidence.

If you lose hair on your eyebrows, you could visit a beauty salon or beauty counter for tips on how to draw eyebrows in with an eyebrow pencil. Eyebrow pencils are available from chemists or beauty shops. If you lose your eyelashes, you could use false ones if you so wish. These are available from most department stores. Ask staff to show you how to use them.

It may take a while to get used to how you look. Some people find that, at first, they don't feel as confident as they did before in social situations. However, try not to hide away. Continuing with your social life as much as possible will mean that you grow more confident as you spend time with others.

Coping emotionally

Losing your hair can be very difficult and can cause strong emotions such as fear, anger and depression. Also, hair loss means that your cancer is more visible, and is a constant reminder of your illness.

Remember that your reaction to hair loss is completely individual. Different people cope with it in different ways. Some people find it upsetting, some are not affected at all, while others find it is not as bad as they expected.

You may find other people's reaction to your hair loss difficult to deal with. They might seem uncomfortable and unsure of what to say. It may be helpful to raise the subject first. If you are comfortable talking about it, show it. This will help people to relax and they may be able to offer you help and advice.

Many people worry about a child's reaction to hair loss. Children are often very accepting. You could find a way to explain your hair loss to them in a way that suits you and the child.

There may be other people at your hospital that you can talk to. Other patients and staff may be able to offer advice and personal hints on how you can cope. You could attend a support group where you will meet others in a similar situation.

If you feel you need help, talk to your doctor. Talk to a family member or friend, someone who you trust and who will help you get through this time.

NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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