Not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss, but the ones that do are fairly predictable. If your doctor has told you to expect hair loss, this is what usually happens:
One and a half weeks after your first treatment, your scalp may become tender. Some people don't feel this at all, and for others their scalp becomes quite sore. This is normal and goes away after the hair loss is complete.
Hair loss begins about two weeks to the day after your first treatment and takes 3-7 days. I promise you, you will not lose your hair before two weeks, and you will not wake up one morning bald without warning.
You can generally wear your hair normally for the first few days, but by the third or fourth day (after the two week mark) you'll be ready to comb out what's left and cut it short, if you haven't already.
Whether or not to cut your hair before you begin treatment is a matter of personal preference. For some women, having their hair cut into a shorter style helps them get used to it, and it's less traumatic when the hair begins to fall.
For others, particularly if you love your hair, cutting it any sooner than you have to is more traumatic. Either way, you'll definitely want to have it cut short once hair loss begins.
100 hairs that are two inches long are much easier to deal with than 100 hairs that are 6 or 10 inches long. Also keep in mind that even before your hair begins to fall out, it will probably look dull and lose body.
In my 25 years as a hairdresser helping cancer patients through this process, here are my best recommendations:
When your scalp becomes tender is a great time to cut your hair short, down to about 2 inches. Don't shave it yet. I'll explain more later. Cutting your hair short at this point will greatly relive the tenderness.
Three to five days after the two week mark, your hair loss will really pick up speed and you'll be tired of dealing with it. At this point you want to encourage the hair to come out.
Gently comb out your hair. Then shampoo and rinse. A lot more will come out. Apply your regular conditioner and comb through your hair with the conditioner in. This puts just enough tension on your hair to gently coax it from the follicle. This will probably remove about 80% of your hair and it will not hurt.
Rinse out the conditioner, dry your hair and now you are ready to clip it down. It's very important that you do not clip it all the way to the scalp. Please use a #2 attachment.
If you clip it all the way to the scalp, those little whiskers will get caught in the follicle. They will detach from the papilla, the bulb that feeds the hair, but be stuck in the follicle. This will be like a splinter or ingrown hair and you will get tiny red bumps or sores. This is not good and can be totally avoided if you use an attachment and leave a little bit of hair.
Okay, so you've clipped your hair with a #2 attachment. Now take one of those masking tape lint rollers and roll it over your head. You will be amazed at how much more hair comes out. Use the lint roller several times a day to get the rest of it out. Your head will feel so much better. When the hair follicle is inflamed even the weight of a couple inches of hair can be uncomfortable.
Continue to wash your scalp with a mild shampoo (not bar soap) every day, even after you've lost your hair. Your oil glands will put out the same amount of oil whether you have hair or not, and this will keep your wig, hats and scarves cleaner.
I started my chemo just three weeks ago. I have always had short hair so that part did not bother me. I really thought I was going to make it to the second round of my treatments. My head never really hurt but it was very itchy. Anyway the weekend before my second round of chemo I went to spike my hair like every morning. Well it came out into my hand. I think I just stared at the hair in my hand for at least a minute or so. It was such a shock even though I new it was going to happen. All I could do was laugh at the hair in my hand and the bald spot right in the front where my bangs were suppose to be.
I am ok with losing my hair it just took me by surprise.
By the way I am a twin and when I looked into the mirror I said to my self “oh my gosh I look just like my twin “my twin happens to be my brother!
I am 45 years female, height 5 feet and weight is 50 kg. I am married and have 5 kids.
I live in Islamabad, Pakistan. My first chemo was on 23rd July 2021. After 2 weeks I observed that my hairs are falling when I comb or touch it. I had long curl hairs but before chemo, I cut my hairs above shoulders I mean pointed bob style. Now my 2nd chemo will be on 13th August and the last one will be on 3rd September. The doctor already told this. Grade B Lymphoma is the right side of my neck near the ear lob. The doctor is saying it is under control and curable. after 3rd chemo, radiation will be started. I want to shave my hair but somebody is saying do not do this. What should i do?
Thank you so much. I start my chemo next week and this was very helpful!
My hair did fall out in 2.5 weeks after first treatment went to second lot came home looked like Gollum from Lord of the rings bald patches everywhere got my daughter to go shorter now I have smooth spots and Velcro spots Can you please advise on what to do kind regard sheralee 🙂
I start chemo in 2 weeks. I had planned on having my hair shaved off but after reading your article I plan to follow your recommendations. They’re practical and make complete sense. I feel that I will now be prepared for the hairloss.
Chemotherapy can be an extremely exhausting process. Not only is cancer a disease that tugs at your energy levels, but the repeated exposure to radiation and chemotherapy can only make you more tired. One of the most common side effects of undergoing chemotherapy is hair loss and that can take a toll on your confidence level as well. While it is always advised to shave your head during the process to save you from hurt when hair starts falling, you can always fall back on human hair and synthetic wigs meant for chemotherapy hair loss to give you a confident and bold look, even during this time.
Is there some kind of oil I can use? I had a few spots at first after shaving my head now I have ALOT. Did shave down to about a eight of a inch. Wish I had seen this before
I had my treatment 3 was ago wish I saw this article sooner I got my hair cut short before treatment then after a week of treatment as I started getting headaches daily as my hair was falling out buzzed my hair to about 2 inches before my treatment yesterday as my head was so tender and still headachy when I got home from treatment I took my scafe off and my head was so badly patchy I got my daughter to buzz it right down no mote head aches I hope I haven’t cause a problem for myself
So glad I watched your video about not shaving too close! I already had short hair, so right after my first chemo treatment I had it cut with the #2 attachment. Now I actually look forward to wearing my pretty, new, bamboo head wear. Thank you for helping me feel like I am still myself, kinda fashionable and cute! xo
Leave a comment