How to Care for your Hair and Scalp during Chemotherapy Treatment

cancer_hair_lossIf you’re like most women undergoing chemotherapy, chances are you are thinking a lot about covering up your thinning hair and bare scalp with a cancer wig or chemo scarf. But have you considered how important it is to properly care for the hair you still have, and the newly exposed scalp underneath?

Caring for your scalp and remaining hair is an important way to keep the skin on your scalp healthy during chemotherapy treatment. Below is an overview of some conditions that may occur during cancer treatments and how to prevent them.

  • While hair loss is one of the most common chemo side effects, not everyone loses all of their hair. In fact, some people don’t have hair loss at all. Depending on the chemo drug you are taking, the amount of hair loss you experience will vary, and you may be surprised to find that you still have enough hair to show some wispy bangs peeking out of a chemotherapy headscarf or hat.
  • Remember to start using a very mild shampoo that will be gentle on the scalp. Most doctors recommend baby shampoo for patients experiencing hair loss. The gentler you are with your hair during this time, the longer it may take to fall out, which means you may be able to get away without wearing a chemotherapy wig for a little while longer.
  • Also, you may want to start shampooing your hair every 3 to 5 days instead of washing it every day. Washing your hair too often during treatment may irritate your scalp and cause inflammation, which could cause your hair to fall out faster.
  • Stay away from heavy and sticky styling products during this time, even if your hair has not fallen out yet. Using these products requires more frequent and vigorous shampoos, so you should switch to a product labeled “light hold” and use less of it than usual.
  • If you normally get a perm or use hair coloring, it may not work out as well as usual. Chemotherapy drugs can impact the way the hair responds to perm solution and hair color, so your results may not be what you expect. It is best to avoid these treatments during chemotherapy.
  • Finally, when your hair starts to fall out in larger quantities and your scalp is exposed, be sure to cover your head with a cancer hat or headscarf whenever you go outside. Until you start wearing a cancer wig, covering your head with sunscreen or a hat will prevent the scalp from becoming irritated.

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