Image | Pexels
Battling cancer is no easy task. With hair loss being a common side effect of chemotherapy treatment, the impact this has on patients can bring great anguish as it's a very visual reminder of their illness.
Thankfully, hair loss due to chemotherapy is rarely permanent and most people regain their hair after treatment. In this blog post, we're taking you through an overview of the causes of hair loss during chemotherapy and how to grow your hair back after chemotherapy so keep reading to find out more.
Why Does Hair Loss Happen During Cancer Treatment?
Before getting into how to grow hair back after cancer, it's important to learn why hair loss occurs in the first place.
Chemotherapy is when medicines are used to weaken and destroy the cancer cells within the body.
The reason why chemotherapy affects hair growth at all is that it's a systemic form of therapy, meaning that it affects the whole body. Although designed to destroy the cancer cells, the drugs also destroy healthy cells which include the cells responsible for hair growth, leading to thinning or complete hair loss. Approximately 65% of chemotherapy patients will experience hair loss whilst undergoing treatment.
A common misconception is that all drugs used during chemotherapy cause total hair loss but some only cause slight thinning if any at all.
However, in cases where complete hair loss occurs due to the drugs used, it doesn't just affect the hair on the head but can also affect places like the eyebrows, eyelashes, legs and sometimes pubic hair.
Hair Growth Post-Chemo
How quickly hair grows back after chemotherapy depends on each individual. Some people might find that their hair grows back quickly while it might take longer for others.
According to Breastcancer.org, hair growth after chemotherapy treatment can typically fall within these timeframes:
- 2 - 3 Weeks: soft fuzz
- 1 Month: hair starts growing at its normal rate
- Two Months: an inch of hair
After the effects of the chemotherapy have worn off completely, the hair will usually go back to the way it was before but small changes aren't uncommon. For instance, the new hair might be curlier, thicker, straighter or even a different colour.
It's important to keep these potential changes in mind and whilst it may be surprising at first, embracing the new hair can be a great way to move on after chemotherapy treatment.
How To Promote Regrowth
When it comes to regrowing your hair, one key aspect to focus on should be your overall lifestyle. Things like eating balanced meals, getting plenty of rest and exercising where possible, can make a big difference. Overall health will mean your cells–including those responsible for hair growth–can function to the best of their ability.
Vitamins are another way to promote hair growth after chemo. One popular hair growth vitamin is Biotin which can be readily purchased from pharmacies and health stores. Other vitamins like those that boost your immune system can also help promote growth.
Image | Holland & Barrett
Once your hair has grown back enough for you to style it, it's best to minimise how much you manipulate it. This means keeping brushing and styling–especially heat styling–to a minimum. Your hair may be weaker than it was before chemotherapy so messing with it as little as possible can prevent breakage and encourage growth.
You can also use products to stimulate growth in certain areas.
Serums like RapidLash, RevitaLash and RapidBrow were designed to promote longer and thicker eyelashes and brows. They're better suited for people with shorter or thinner lashes making them a good way to regrow the hair.
Image | RevitaLash
If you're looking for a more 'natural' alternative, Jamaican Black Castor Oil is infamous for its ability to promote hair growth. It's best applied sparingly to lashes and/or brows at night and can also be used on hair. Results can take anywhere from two to sixteen weeks to be apparent.
The effects of these products will vary from person to person and it's important to consult your doctor before purchasing and using them. Depending on your condition, your doctor may also prescribe you with medical products to aid in lash and brow regrowth.
Besides using products to stimulate growth, it's also important to be gentle with your lashes and brows. Following small steps like being gentle when applying/removing makeup and not rubbing harshly at them can prevent excessive breakage leading to more growth retention.
What If I Experience Permanent Hair Loss?
In exceptionally rare cases, permanent hair loss can result after years of aggressive chemotherapy. This is due to hair follicles experiencing too much damage resulting in a permanent shut down that inhibits hair growth.
Whilst you can embrace your new look and show it off as a symbol of strength, not everyone will enjoy the bald look. Coming to terms with permanent hair loss can be a very difficult thing to do but there are options to disguise it.
One such way is through headscarves. With a variety of prints, fabrics and different ways to tie them available, they're a super creative way of disguising hair loss. If you're ever wondering how to tie them, YouTube is a great place for inspiration. We especially love this video by JaaackJack for people with short or no hair:
Video | JaaackJack
Wigs are another way to disguise hair loss. Like headscarves, they present a realm of endless possibilities when it comes to different options. Ready-made wigs are a great way to try out different styles and switch up your look when you feel like it.
If you want a wig especially tailored to you, you might find custom wigs to be the best option. Not only will a custom wig fit you perfectly but you could also have it styled to match your hair pre-chemo. With a well-made wig, few people will be able to tell it's not your real hair!
It's also important to attach your wig with a sustainable, gentle attachment method. Bands and glue are amongst common attachment methods but these can often be uncomfortable to wear. Instead of those, an option like The Wig Fix is gentle, lasts for years and will keep your wig in place even if you're completely bald. It can also be used to keep your scarves in place!
Eyebrows & Eyelashes
If you experienced complete baldness after chemo, this will likely have also affected other areas like your brows and lashes. Again, it's completely fine to embrace the lack of hair but if that's not to your tastes, there are options available:
Microblading is a form of semi-permanent makeup where a technician will work with you to map out your desired brow shape and then tattoo hair-like strokes to mimic the look of real brows.
Video | Microblading LA
As for eyelashes, false eyelashes are a great option for those who have lost their natural lashes after chemotherapy. Eylure's C-Lash range was specifically developed with cancer survivors in mind.
A collaboration with Codilia Gapare who was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, the lashes in the C-Lash range are made with a clear, self-adhesive band attached that sticks to the eyelids and not the eyelashes like traditional false lashes do. This allows them to be comfortably worn even by people who experienced complete lash loss after chemo. The range currently features three styles; Naturals, Lengthening and Volume.
Image | Beauty Bible
No matter how you choose to tackle your hair loss after chemotherapy, it's important to go for choices that are most suitable for you after consulting with your doctor to ensure the best results for your wellbeing.
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