Handling Hair Loss from Cancer Treatments

Though not everyone experiences hair loss as a side effect of cancer treatment, many do. Learn more about what to expect and ways to cope with cancer-induced hair loss. 

Hair loss often comes to mind when someone mentions the words “cancer” or “chemotherapy.” It’s not news that cancer can take quite a toll on the body and one’s overall well-being—but so can some treatments for the disease. 

Many cancer treatments work by destroying fast-growing cells, including cells in hair follicles, which is why some patients undergoing cancer treatment experience hair loss—a side effect that typically begins between one and three weeks after your first treatment with certain chemotherapy medications.

Tips to Try

The good news is hair grows back, and there are things you can do to make your hair loss a bit easier in the meantime, including:

  • Avoid using hair styling tools, such as curling or straightening irons, which are hard on hair.
  • Cut your hair short to make hair loss feel less drastic.
  • Go bareheaded and accent your features with makeup, earrings, and other accessories.
  • Pat hair dry after a shower instead of pulling or rubbing.
  • Use gentle shampoo and conditioner when washing your hair.
  • Wash your hair less—two times or less each week.
  • Wear a hat, scarf, or wig to cover up or keep warm.
  • The Look Good Feel Better® program offers tips specifically for men.  

Your hair should start to grow back within a few months following your last treatment. However, new hair growth will be fragile, so it’s wise to continue being gentle with it for a while.

If hair loss is hard to cope with and you think you need additional support, join a local support group to talk with others who have experienced hair loss and discover tips and coping strategies that have worked for others.

For more information about cancer support services at Austin Cancer Center, call (512) 508-8511.