Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy. During chemotherapy, drugs are used to target rapidly dividing cells in the body, including those in the hair follicles. This results in hair loss, which can be distressing for those undergoing treatment. Hair loss due to chemotherapy is usually temporary, and the hair typically grows back after the treatment ends. Though the hair’s texture, thickness, or colour may differ. Here’s how you can take care of your hair during and after chemotherapy.
Cold Cap: The use of a cold cap during chemotherapy has gained popularity as a means to prevent hair loss. The cap is typically worn for 15 minutes prior to each chemotherapy treatment. It cools the scalp, thus reducing blood flow there. Reduced blood flow limits the amount of chemotherapy medication that reaches the area.
Tourniquets: In combination with scalp cooling, the use of tourniquets or tight caps to exert pressure on the scalp has also been shown to help prevent hair loss in studies. Tourniquets on their own do not reduce hair loss.
Diet: Some people tend to include foods or vitamins that are believed boost hair growth in their diet. Those who can not actively integrate these in their meals sometimes take supplements. So far, there has been no proof that this prevents chemotherapy-related or other forms of hair loss.
Chemotherapy-induced hair loss is typically temporary, with hair growth resuming 2 to 3 months after treatment. The new hair growth can be finer in texture and may differ in curl pattern, straightness, or colour compared to pre-treatment hair. However, these differences often return to normal with time.
Treat your hair gently: Use gentle hair care products and techniques to avoid damaging the hair and scalp. This may include using a hairbrush with soft bristles or a wide-tooth comb, avoiding harsh styling tools such as hair dryers or irons, and limiting the use of hair products such as gels or clips. It is also advised to wash hair with a mild shampoo, using a soft towel to pat it dry.
Medication: Although there is no known medication that can prevent or reverse chemotherapy-induced hair loss, doctors do prescribe hair growth-promoting medication. Minoxidil is one such medication. It works by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles and has been effective in promoting hair growth in some people who have undergone chemotherapy.
Make-up and wigs: Chemotherapy can also lead to loss of eyebrows and eyelashes in some individuals. In these cases, cosmetic options such as make-up, eyebrow pencils, eyeliner, or false eyelashes can provide support. Wigs can be a viable solution for individuals whose hair follicles are not recoverable.
Accessories: If you find wigs itchy, you can use silk scarves and other accessories to cover your head while your hair regrows.
People also take other routes, such as shifting to a short hairstyle before undergoing treatment, so the change isn’t too prominent, or going for a hair transplant. Others prefer using cosmetic scalp treatments. Whichever path you go, it is important to consult a professional about the ramifications first.
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