Hair loss during chemotherapy, often asked questions
How does hair loss actually go? When does it start and when will it return? So many questions come over you, we help with answers.
1. Why do you lose your hair due to chemo?
Chemotherapy has a cell-killing or cell growth-inhibiting effect. This not only affects cancer cells, but unfortunately also some healthy body cells such as the cells in the hair follicles that make your hair grow. These cells are so sensitive to certain chemotherapies that hair loss is the result.
2. Am I going to lose my hair too?
Whether you will be affected depends on the type of chemotherapy you receive. There are also chemotherapies that do not cause hair loss. Which chemotherapy you get depends on the type of cancer, the stage of the disease, your condition, etc. But the treatment of breast cancer almost always results in hair loss. The treating doctor or oncology nurse can tell you more about the chemotherapy that you will receive and whether hair loss plays a role.
3. What is hairache?
At first it seems to be not too bad, because after the first chemo it is all still firmly in place. And do you think for the moment that you may be an exception?
But usually your scalp starts to become sensitive, about 10-14 days after the first treatment, this is called hair pain. This can hurt especially at night when your head is on your pillow (extra friction). A smooth silk or (poly) satin pillowcase gives less friction, relieves pain and pulls less on your hair.
4. When will my hair fall out?
Three weeks after the first course, by the time of the second chemo, the hair suddenly starts to fall out. You get bald pieces on your head, your pillow is full of hair. A few thin hairs often remain.
In the first instance you may only think of your head hair, but hair loss can occur on other hairy parts of your body: your face, arms and legs and the pubic area. Usually hair and pubic hair first fall out, later on armpit hair, eyelashes, eyebrows and body hair can fall out. This depends on the type of chemo and also differs from patient to patient.
But the most important thing is of course your hair on your head. Hair is an important part of your identity. Losing your hair often feels like losing part of yourself.
5. How quickly will I lose all my hair?
When you notice the first hair loss it can go quickly, in a few days. When you have long hair, it has advantages and disadvantages; the first bald spots may be easier to hide, but the tufts that fall out may be more confrontational because it is such long hair.
Because the head hair falls out in plucking, there is a moment when you are not completely bald, but you can no longer hide the bald spots. The time to switch to other headwear.
6. Why is it sometimes advised to cut or millimethe your hair in advance?
Women with long hair also choose to cut their hair short (er) after the first treatment, as an intermediate step. Then the hair loss has not yet begun. It is a personal choice and is done when you feel it is less difficult to lose short strands of hair instead of long strands.
When the hair loss continues and it becomes difficult to camouflage, some women choose to millimethe remaining hair with a hair clipper. Make your own choice in this and do not underestimate it; although it is a practical "solution" (no more hair-picking on your pillow, in your clothes, in your hands), it is a confronting and sad moment.
If you choose this, do not do it alone but take someone with you who can assist you at such a difficult moment.
However if you want, you can have a hairband made with your own hair. If you decide to cut off your hair in the early stages we can get you in touch with a company that makes these special hairbands. So you keep your own hair even though you are bald. Ask us for information
7. Which headwear suits me best?
During the difficult period of your chemotherapy, we hope to be able to help you with hats, scarves, headscarves and caps with which you can continue to feel yourself as much as possible. Which type you like best is personal and a matter of trying. You can return for free at Mooihoofd (read the return conditions) and exchange so feel free to order some different things and take the time together with friends, sister, husband or children to fit it at your leisure. Also read our blog "How do you choose headwear that suits you?"
Of course we already have a few practical tips to take into account:
- If you don't have a lot of energy, often lie in bed or have limited arm movement, hats that you don't have to tie are an easy solution. You do not have to wrap or knot yourself and the knot does not get in the way when you lie down.
- Caps quickly add a little more volume to your head than a smooth cap, but caps are often softer on your head.
- Your scalp can become sensitive due to hair pain or 'chemo-skin', hats with as few seams as possible pressing on your head are a solution.
8. Are nightcaps really necessary?
You lose the most heat through your head when you have no hairs. That means you get cold quicker at night and an extra blanket won't help. Whether this will also bother you is likely but also depends on the season and the warmth of your bedroom.
Don't let the cold disturb your sleep, you need your sleep to get your body repaired during the cures. A soft hat with as few seams as possible will keep you nice and warm. If you combine this nightcap with a smooth pillowcase made of (poly) satin, the hat will also stay in place better during the night (less friction).
9. Do I have to use shampoo if I don't have hair?
You may think that shampoo is a superfluous luxury if you don't have hair for a while. But it certainly isn't! Chemo can make your scalp dry and flaky. Shampoo takes care of your scalp and purifies the hair follicles, but can also dehydrate your skin more. Daily head care after washing, possibly with an adapted oil or balm, ensures good hydration and reduces itching and irritation.
In addition, washing and rubbing (or gently massage!) Promotes blood circulation. This contributes to an optimal condition of the scalp and hair follicles and can even play a role in stimulating new hair growth.
10. When will my hair return?
After the end of treatment, but sometimes at the end of the chemo period, the hair starts to grow gradually again. Your hair grows as fast as before the cure, about 1 cm per month, although it seems to go very slowly!
Initially the hair is very thin and downy, later it becomes firmer again. Do you want to be careful with your new hair? Here too comes a smooth pillowcase that 'pulls' on your hair as little as possible while sleeping.
11. Does my hair grow back less quickly if I keep wearing hats or a wig when it starts to grow again?
No head covering or wig causes hair loss, so you can continue to wear it if your head feels too exposed. But pay attention to the right quality and continue to take good care of your scalp.
As soon as you get her again, it also gets warmer on your head. It is important that your head cover circulates well so that any perspiration is removed. Preferably natural materials (cotton) or other fabrics with a moisture and heat-regulating effect (like Thermo-Cool, PE and EA).
Also continue to wash your head and hair mildly so that the pores and hair follicles do not become and blood flow is stimulated.
12. Will I get a different type of hair back than before chemotherapy?
That is possible. So be prepared that the hair that grows back (also in the long term) may be of a different quality than you are used to. That is not always in a negative sense (the hair is usually firmer) but it is naturally seen by many women as an important change in their self-image.
Many women get a thick bunch of curls after the chemo. Sometimes the curls are of a lasting nature, sometimes it only takes a few months for the hair to return to its original structure.
It also happens that your hair returns gray or grayer. As long as your hair is still vulnerable and your scalp sensitive, it is smart to wait a moment with paints or color rinsing. As soon as you feel that your scalp appears to be as good as recovered, you can - after consultation with your nurse - go to the hairdresser, but opt for the most gentle treatment possible without peroxide or ammonia. Also ask your hairdresser for advice!
We are happy to help you with information and products with which you can defy hair loss with confidence.