Hair Loss from Cancer Treatment: Your Questions Answered

More About Hair Loss

Facing the world

As you are reading this, you are probably looking for help to maintain your appearance as you go through treatment; you may be concerned about all knowing your medical history as soon as they see you and perhaps you are worried about losing your hair. 

You are not the only one. 

I have spoken to so many women who think that they, alone, are the only one thinking about their appearance. Like the others, you probably think you should be concerned about ‘far more important’ matters.  

Let me reassure you.

You are not the only one. 

The medical team have your back regarding the other ‘important’ matters.

That is the part of your treatment over which you have little control.

Let’s have a look at the other stuff.



Hair

Hair loss is often rated as one of the most common, feared, and traumatic aspects of chemotherapy1

Often the first question asked of oncologists upon diagnosis is ‘Will I lose my hair?’ Fiona Macrae, was diagnosed when her son was but a few months old. Her first thought? ‘oh my God, I’m going to lose my hair’, concerns about her son came seconds later.

‘I just sort of sat there absolutely stunned, to think that I had to have chemo and initially and I will be honest with you, my first thought was, ‘oh my god I’m going to lose my hair’ I didn’t think about anything else, I didn’t think about being sick, I didn’t think about anything else, ‘my god I’m going to lose my hair’1

The Good News

  • You will be told if you are likely to lose your hair
  • Your hospital might be able to help you keep your hair, or at least some of it (ask them about cooling caps)
  • There are many ways in which you can prepare for hair loss
  • You can disguise your hair loss far more effectively than you think you can
  • Not all chemotherapy results in hair loss 
  • Your hair will grow back

Scalp

‘The low point of cancer treatment is often the moment when a patient no longer recognises themselves when they look in the mirror.” 

This is the finding of research carried out in 2007. I mentioned this in conversation with a very beautiful lady whilst she was going through treatment.

Oh no’ she said, ‘no-one looks in the mirror anymore, the low point is when you catch your reflection in a shop window and wonder who it is’

This reluctance to look in mirrors is sensitively handled at some hospitals. They cover mirrors with blinds, or place them behind shutters, as they understand how damaging an unexpected reflection can be. Others advise their patients to cover mirrors at home, leaving just one ‘available’ in order to avoid surprises.

I don’t want to be the person who advises that you avoid mirrors and cover them. My aim is for you all to avoid this low point – I am confident that I can help you to recognise yourself and to lessen the discomfort arising from some of the side-effects of treatment for cancer.

If you are going to lose, or have lost your hair, we can help by answering your questions.



You know you are going to lose your hair – what should you do?

There is no right answer to this question. Jo Taylor has lost her hair to chemo twice. 

‘It was traumatic when I lost my hair first time. It came out in clumps in the shower. I sobbed for days.  This time losing my hair hasn't been any easier but I have taken it more into my own hands. Firstly having it cut short. Everyone told me it suited me short when it grew back last time. 

It was easier for us all when I had it cut short before chemo. The change wasn’t as drastic as last time and I was in control. I went from my hair, to long hair to shaved hair on my own terms.’

What are the most common scalp conditions associated with treatment for cancer?

Dry, sore, sensitive, flaking, itchy scalps which are prone to breakouts are the conditions that people ask us for help with most often. Breakouts are also very common. 

My scalp hurts, what can I do?

I suggest you treat your scalp as you would your face and give it a facial. A cleanse, tone and moisturise solves many a problem. Specialist Scalp Cleanser, Toner and Moisturiser can be found in our Defiant Scalp Care Collection.  

The skin on my scalp is flaking – help

Most facial routines include an exfoliation.  It has been a challenge for me to find an exfoliator that I was happy with. Those affected by cancer can have very sensitive skin and exfoliators are, by nature, aggressive and abrasive – not properties that we want to inflict upon our often vulnerable clients. In addition, exfoliators give ‘bugs’ many a place to hide and require higher levels of preservatives than most other types of skincare product. Preservatives are something that our clients have asked us to avoid.

A flaking scalp will benefit from exfoliation, in fact, it is just what it needs. The Defiant Beauty Exfoliating Sponge is perfect. It gently exfoliates when it is used to remove Defiant Beauty Dry Scalp Treatment (a cleansing balm).  

I kept my hair, but my scalp is dry and sore

Congratulations on keeping your hair – it is important for those who have been diagnosed recently to know that not everyone loses their hair as a result of treatment.

We can help with a sore scalp even when it has hair. I suggest that a small amount of Defiant Beauty Itchy Skin Oil is applied to the scalp and gently massaged until absorbed. 

I caution against dong this before going out – the hair will look oily. I recommend applying the oil before bed, using a towel to protect the bedding and washing out in the morning. 

I have breakouts on my scalp, can you help?

I can help. Breakouts are common on the scalp, more people ask me about breakouts on the scalp than on other parts of the body. The Defiant Beauty Scalp Care Collection is naturally anti-bacterial for this reason. The Defiant Beauty Dry Scalp Treatment, Scalp Cleansing Spritz and Scalp Care Oil all include ingredients known for their anti-bacterial properties.  A cleanse, tone and moisturise solves many a problem. Specialist Scalp Cleanser, Toner and Moisturiser can be found in our Defiant Scalp Care Collection.  

I have wet, weeping sores on my scalp

I can’t recommend any of our products for use on open wounds. 

If these sore patches are beneath hair, I suggest that a small amount of Defiant Beauty Itchy Skin Oil is applied to the scalp and gently massaged until absorbed. 

I caution against dong this before going out – the hair will look oily. I recommend applying the oil before bed, using a towel to protect the bedding and washing out in the morning. 

If the sore patches are on a scalp which has lost hair, I recommend using the Defiant Beauty Face Collection. These products are very similar to the Defiant Scalp Care Collection, but they do not contain any essential oils. Essential Oils can be challenging to very sensitive skin. 

My treatment finished years ago but my scalp still itches

I suggest that a small amount of Defiant Beauty Itchy Skin Oil is applied to the scalp and gently massaged until absorbed. 

I caution against dong this before going out – the hair will look oily. I recommend applying the oil before bed, using a towel to protect the bedding and washing out in the morning.

My hair is growing back, how can I look after my scalp?

Be gentle with hair as it returns, you may want to avoid touching the very new hair. As soon as you are happy to look after your scalp, massage a small amount of Scalp Care Oil into the scalp. You will only need a drop or two, use it to massage the entire scalp. 

I get so hot under my wig/head covering – help

Defiant Beauty Cool & Refresh was created for this very purpose – there is a lot of heat associated with many treatments for cancer. I remember a lady telling me that this was her fave product, she carried it with her wherever she went and often nipped to the ladies (for privacy) lifted her lid (as my Grandad used to call The Trilby he wore everyday) and used the spray to cool before replacing and returning. 

All of the Mists and Sprays can be used in this way – when formulating, I wanted to give people as much value for money as possible – multi-functional products were important. If a client can buy only one, I want that one product to solve as many problems as possible – the spritzes and mists can all be used on face, body and scalp. The Scalp Cleansing Spritz is best suited to the scalp as it has anti-bacterial properties. 

Will hair grow back after treatment?

Yes

How do I cope with hair loss?

We have two videos from ladies who have lost their hair as a result of treatment for cancer – please have a look – they know what you are going through, have been through it and share their very positive suggestions.

What cancer treatments cause hair loss?

Chemotherapy and some radiation treatments can result in hair loss but every treatment is different and every patient is different – your medical team are the best people to ask. 

Will hair grow back after radiation treatment?

I have met a lot of people as they go through treatment for cancer and I have never met anyone with permanent hair loss. 

Will I lose hair from radiation treatment?

Possibly. It depends on various factors. Your medical team are the best people to ask.

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