Solutions for Cancer Related Hair Loss

This article is from Cancer Information.

DID YOU KNOW?  “A woman’s fear over losing her hair can top the fear of losing her life to Cancer?” – Jan Ping

Emmy-award–winning TV hairstylist and cosmetologist and Cancer-survivor herself, Jan Ping, found this out first-hand when she began working with Cancer patients in the American Cancer Society’s “Look Good Feel Better” program.  “It’s so personal how people feel about their hair,” says Ping. It might help to understand how your scalp is changing and how to choose a wig for your total hair loss condition.

What can I expect?

According to hair loss experts, your scalp undergoes changes as hair is falling out and becomes very sensitive. You may notice hair loss in clumps and you may notice the texture of what hair you have left changing, becoming thin and fuzzy. Stylists and hair loss professionals are there to help ease your feels and deal with hair loss issues as they arise.

1.     Ask for privacy: When you go to see your stylist for help with your hair loss, ask the receptionist for a private area when you make the appointment over the phone, especially if you are very self-conscious. Most stylists will do everything they can to accommodate your feelings…and if they won’t, switch salons!

2.    Tell all:  Tell your stylist or hair loss professional all about your hair loss issues, why it is happening, what diagnosis the doctor gave you, what medications you are on and anything else that could be important. This way you can work together to make an appropriate plan to deal with your hair loss as seamlessly as possible.

3.    Get lots of trims:  You’ll need to come every few weeks to keep hair trimmed up until you decide to shave it all off or it all falls out.  Salon owner Ouidad, a Cancer survivor and hairstylist, says that trimming shorter also allows you to clearly see the shape of your head and scalp so it is not so shocking once hair is totally gone.

4.    Shave it all off:  At some point, you may just want to ask your stylist to shave it all off. But don’t shave it too short, cautions Carol Galland, founder of Headcovers.com and Cancer-survivor herself, “If you shave it too short, it feels like needles sticking your head when you rest it on a pillow!”  Also, watch out for shavers and scissors – don’t be afraid to double-check with your stylist that they have been properly sterilized, because infection is an issue when your immune system may be comprised by chemotherapy, caution doctors and stylists alike.

5.    Have a fit:  A Cancer wig fitting that is.  And do it before hair falls out and your original style is lost, advises Diahna Husbands, owner of Diahna Lynn Hair Studio in Maryland. Also if you do this early enough in the game, you’ll come in with hair and leave with new hair that looks the same so there is no awkward transition, advises Husbands.

Options for Oncology-related Hair Loss

For oncology-related hair loss, you can choose any of the usual wig types or you can investigate an actual medical prosthesis for medically related hair loss that breathes like your own skin and is capable of giving you a more natural, healthier appearance. These devices can replace all of your hair and allow you to sleep, shower and perform your normal daily activities, which can go a long way toward helping you feel a lot better.

Ideally, you should find a high-end professional before you lose your hair.  Once you know you are going to endure chemotherapy treatments, a hair loss professional that specializes in hair systems can design a hair system for you that exactly matches your existing hair and style, color and density.  This eliminates the need for wigs and scarves after the procedure.  According to Andrew Pollard, co-founder of White Cliffs Hair Studio in London, “it is a fact that a patient who achieves and maintains a healthy image while recovering from the trauma of chemotherapy will benefit tremendously from it.  It actually helps the healing process.”

Look for people who make you feel good, who want to help you look and feel better … avoid negativity.  Actually, says Husbands, ”It may seem terrible at first, but I’ve seen women turn it into a fun thing and order a few different wigs for different looks – they see it as a way to express personality and I agree!”

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