Your Hair and Chemotherapy

When someone is told they have cancer there are two questions that are asked first are, “Am I going to die” and “will I lose my hair”.  That is how important our hair is to us all. It helps define the persona we aim to create, identifies us, expresses our personality. There are many stories of blondes having more fun and redheads being firey. We can change our hair to suit our moods and activities. A posh “updo” for a special occasion or throwing it into a ponytail while working out. Hair has the power to change your outlook on your day. Wake up in the morning and your hair is behaving itself it feels like the sun is shining and all is right with the world, wake up in the morning to a bad hair day and it feels like its raining cats and dogs and you have no umbrella. So what about a no hair day? Hair loss can be a devastating side effect of chemotherapy. But the good news is that it’s usually temporary and when treatment finishes the hair grows back. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells anywhere in the body. Cancer cells divide continuously at a fast pace, as do the cells that create hair. Chemo can’t distinguish between these cells so kills the hair cells too. The extent of hair loss can vary and will depend on the type of drugs used. You may experience a little thinning or lose all your hair.  When the hair fall begins, usually, after a few treatments, it can be very distressing. It may help to cut your hair shorter at the beginning. This will get you used to seeing yourself with shorter hair so when treatment has finished and the hair grows back you will see your old self back in the mirror sooner than waiting for your hair to grow long. Wearing a silk cap or turban in bed at night will contain any hair that falls while you sleep. You may choose to shave your hair off and wear a wig. This is a big step and you should find a trusted friend or hairdresser to carry out this option. Some people can lose the hair on other parts of the body, look at this as a plus point, no more waxing! How quickly the hair grows back will depend on the individual but as hair grows on average 1.25cm per month you could see hair growth within a 4 – 6 week period following the end of treatment. This new hair will be virgin hair. This means it hasn’t been chemically treated, dyed, or environmentally damaged, heat from styling. Some people report changes in texture on its return. If it was straight before it comes back curly. This may be caused by the traumatic effect the chemo had on the hair follicle during treatment. It may appear greyer. This may just be perceived as most of us dye our hair and wouldn’t have seen the natural look for many years. It may also be because the body isn’t producing melanin, the thing that gives hair its colour, efficiently enough yet. As your hair grows use a gentle shampoo and conditioner. Have it cut into shape so it grows in style. It is not advisable to dye your hair in the first six months after treatment as the hair may be fragile and your skin sensitive. A tempory colour could be used and would just wash out or look for a water-based hair dye to add tone and depth. You won’t achieve any permanent colour change or lightening of the hair this way, that should wait for about a year. If you are facing chemo or have finished treatment and want advice on your hair please call and we can discuss your individual needs. 0203 026 4720

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