During chemotherapy and radiation therapies, it is a common and well known side effect for women to lose their hair. This applies to not only the hair on your head, but can also include your eyebrows, body hair and eyelashes. Losing your hair can be one of the hardest parts of your breast cancer journey, as often, your hair is tied to your own personal identity.

Regardless of whether or not you feel prepared, it can be shocking when hair loss starts. Some women choose to cut their hair short before treatment begins, so that there is ‘less’ hair that falls out. A typical timeline of hair growth and loss following chemotherapy is:

  • Two to three weeks following chemotherapy a soft fuzz begins to show
  • One month after your last treatment, your hair follicles start to grow at their normal rates
  • Two months after, there may be a full inch of hair

When your hair does grow back, it is important to know that it may be different than your old hair type. It may come in a different color or texture than it was before, often coming in as curly. After your hair comes back, it is up to you and your hair stylist if you choose to color or treat the new hair. Some women choose to wait due to skin irritation or pain.

During treatment and before it grows back

While you undergo your treatment and before your hair grows back, some women choose to invest in wigs, hats, or scarves. Hats and scarves will keep your head warm and comfortable. If looking at wigs here are some tips to remember before going in:

  • Try to pick out your wig before chemotherapy begins. You will have more energy and you will have the opportunity to pick out a wig that most resembles your natural hair type.
  • Wigs come in two major forms; synthetic and real hair. Synthetic wigs need less attention and cost between $30 and $500. Real hair can be more difficult to manage and may cost between $800 and $3000.
  • Ask your hospital’s cancer center for advice about wig specialists or speak to friends, hair stylists, or beauty salons for advice.

For family and support members

Watching a loved one shop for a wig can be hard, especially if your loved one wants a wig made of real hair. Consider donating your hair to a company that creates wigs for breast cancer and cancer patients to support future cancer patients. Before donating, do research to find a company that donates the hair to a reputable wig manufacturer or cancer organization. Additionally, make sure you meet the length and hair requirements.

Sources: Susan G. Komen – Short Term Side Effects of Chemotherapy, American Cancer Society – Hair Loss

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