We all have approximately 100,000 hairs in our scalp. Most people normally lose 50 to100 hairs a day. On the days when hair is washed, people can lose up to 250 strands.
Many women undergoing chemotherapy, losing your hair is a common side effect of treatment. The process discussed below is a typical breast, cervical and other female cancer protocol; not high dose treatment:
Day 1-14 after treatment, no hair loss. You will however have “bad hair days”. Your hair will feel drier, damaged and lifeless. Your scalp might tingle or for some it might feel sore. This is an indication that your treatment has now begun to affect the hair follicles.
Day 14-16 after treatment, your hair will begin to shed. This means that if you run your fingers through your hair, you will see loose strands. These will increase over the next 2-3 days. NOTE: You shouldn’t ever wake up to all your hair on the pillow!!!!!
Day 15-17 should be a good time to think about getting your hair buzzed off. We suggest going to get this service done professionally. At Compassionate Beauty we call it a Loving Head Shave. It is one of the key reasons we decided to open.
Your hair loss will continue throughout your treatment and up to a few weeks afterward.
This is by far one of our most popular questions. Your hair will begin to grow back approximately 3 weeks after your last treatment. You must remember just because you had your last chemo doesn’t mean you are done. You still have to get through the side effects, like your first treatment. Some women may not lose their hair, or may lose very little hair, and it may begin re-growing sooner. When your hair starts to grow back, it will probably be slightly different from the hair you lost, but the difference is usually temporary. Your new hair might have a different texture or colour. It might be curlier than it was before, or it could be gray until the cells that control the pigment in your hair begin functioning again. Eventually, your hair usually goes back to the way it used to be after the effect of chemotherapy on the hair follicle wears off which may surprise you if you have been dying and perming or straightening your hair for years. You may not recognize your own hair in its natural state.
If your doctor advised you that your treatment will result in hair loss, it is realistic to assume ALL hair. Yes, your bikini area as well.
Unlike chemotherapy, radiation only affects the specific area where treatment is concentrated. E.g. Radiation to your head will cause hair loss on your head. Your hair will typically begin to grow back after your treatments end. However, whether it grows back to its original thickness and fullness depends on your treatment and higher doses of radiation can cause permanent hair loss. Speak to your doctor about your individual treatment and what you can expect.
Tamoxifen may cause some thinning of your hair, but not baldness.
There are drugs on the market that have been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to treat hair loss in women. However the cause of the hair loss, the extent of the hair loss (treatment is usually less effective for extensive hair loss) and how each individual responds will determine how effective the medication is.
Keeping yourself and your hair healthy is the best form of prevention. Here are a few tips:
Eat a healthy, nutritious diet.
Try not to over process your hair.
Keep blow drying and the flat ironing to a minimum.
Avoid tight ponytails, cornrows, braids, and buns.
Don’t twist or pull on your hair.
Synthetic Wigs are less expensive and easier to maintain during your treatment as they require less daily styling. They can also be warmer if they are longer in length. Human Hair Wigs offer you the freedom to style and restyle them as often as you wish. They may have a cooler, more natural feel.
Monofilament or Mono-top Wigs, available in both synthetic hair and real hair, are very natural looking. They feature an inset of transparent micro-mesh sewn in at the crown, with the individual strands of synthetic fiber or human hair hand-tied into the mesh, giving the appearance that the hair is growing out of a real scalp.
Provincial plans (including Alberta Aids to Daily Living) do not cover wigs; however many extended health care plans do. Check with your individual insurer regarding whether or not wigs are covered. A prescription will be required and you may obtain one from your oncologist or doctor. For prescription purposes a wig will be referred to as a “cranial prosthetic” or “hair prosthesis”. The prescription should be dated prior to the date of purchase of your wig. If you do not have an extended health care plan you may claim your wig as a “health expense” on your income tax and receive a refund for a portion of the cost of your wig. Women who are receiving government assistance may qualify for programs that will pay for their wigs. Check with your individual provincial and/or municipal governments.
In order for your wig to look its best, it should be washed weekly. The fibres need to be clean and not weighed down in order to look as realistic as possible. It is best to wash your wig at the end of the day and allow it to dry overnight. It is essential that you are use professional wig care products – shampoo, conditioner, and hair sprays – specifically designed for human hair wigs or synthetic wigs. Human hair wigs will also require daily styling as would your own natural hair.
Cautions for synthetic wigs: Never use hot water when washing your synthetic wig. Do not squeeze or twist your wig. Do not use a hair dryer. Don’t put your wig on a solid head stand or block as this will stretch the cap. It is important that you do not expose your synthetic wig to any source of extreme heat or steam as it will cause irreparable damage including steam from a hot dishwasher or heat from a stove, oven, barbeque, or fireplace.
Cautions for human hair wigs: Steam rollers or wet setting are the safest way to curl human hair. Blow dryers, curling irons and other thermal tools may be used on low settings. The hair may scorch if the setting is too high. Any cutting, perming or colouring of human hair wigs should be done by a professional stylist.
When we first opened Compassionate Beauty, it seemed that everyone was storing their wigs on those white Styrofoam heads. I couldn’t imagine a more disturbing site than a dead head with no eyes in my bathroom. We did some research and found that it actually isn’t good to store your wig on the heads. The wigs would shrink and mould to the shape and size of the Styrofoam head. So, every time you put it on, it would have to relearn your head shape; not a comfortable process. And, after wearing your wig all day, it would have picked up the odours of the day – perfume, environmental smells, etc. – and putting the wig on the solid form wouldn’t allow it to air out. We suggest that you store your wig on a bottle of champagne or your favourite bottle of wine.