HAIR LOSS AND CHEMO
Alopecia is often one of the most feared and feared side effects of many patients.
What causes this hair loss? What questions about the possible fall of eyelashes and eyebrows? Is it painful? When does it grow back?
Understanding the causes of Hair Loss (alopecia)
1. Why does chemotherapy lead to hair loss?
The primary goal of this treatment is to act on the development of cancer cells in order to stop it, and thus destroy these nasty cells. The peculiarity of the latter is that they divide and evolve very rapidly, which is why chemotherapy targets and fights priority the rapidly renewing cells.
It will therefore affect cancer cells and healthy cells indiscriminately, especially those that are very active, such as the cells responsible for the growth of our hair and hair, located in hair follicles.
They are, therefore, the unfortunate collateral victims of this therapy, which then causes hair loss.
2. How do you explain that not everyone loses their hair?
It is important to note that not all chemotherapy agents necessarily result in total hair loss. Some will be more aggressive and aloperating than others. Your hair mass may be less dense, and your hair may be more fragile. Don’t hesitate to ask your oncologist about this topic directly. He will be best able to answer you accurately.
The degree of alopecia will depend on several factors: it will vary first depending on the type of medication used (as explained above), as well as the number of chemotherapy sessions expected, and the dose administered at each treatment.
The importance of alopecia will also differ depending on your age and the quality of your hair. Some people (lucky girls!) will indeed have a more resistant nature of hair than others.
Anyway, remember that this fall is temporary and above all reversible!
3. What about radiotherapy? Will I still lose hair?
Hair loss is only found in the irradiated area.
With brain radiotherapy, the rays passing through the scalp, the part of the treated skull (or the entire skull if treated as a whole) will lose its hair. The loss will therefore be very localized. The extent of this loss, and therefore regrowth, depends on the dose of radiation administered, and fluctuates from person to person. A low dose will only result in a temporary loss.
On the other hand, in the case of a larger dose, the question of a potential regrowth will then be more problematic.
Be sure to discuss this with your radiation therapist-oncologist beforehand.
If there is hair regrowth, it will be later and slower than post-chemotherapy regrowth. Expect an average of 3 to 6 months. So we’ll have to be patient! And don’t be surprised when your hair looks: a change in colour and/or texture is quite normal, and even quite common at the beginning of regrowth.
4. Does chemotherapy cause hair loss on eyelashes and eyebrows?
As with hair, hair removal is also often a dreaded side effect associated with chemotherapy.
The extent of treatment will depend on the type of treatment administered, and will therefore change from case to case. The likelihood of general and total depoilation will be higher if the chemotherapy followed involves a significant risk of fall.
Arm, leg, armpit hair, and pubic hair are usually affected after the scalp, with growth associated with these areas of the body less active.
Eyelashes and eyebrows are often the last to be affected. Some of you will see your eyelashes become thinner, lose a few or more. This fall can occur immediately after that of the hair, at the end of chemotherapy sessions, as not at all.
Once again, each person, with his specificities and his protocol of care, is led to react differently!
5. How long does hair loss occur?
We repeat ourselves over and over again, but it all depends on the chemotherapy prescribed, as well as the doses given.
On average, hair loss occurs after 2 to 3 weeks of treatment, but it is not impossible to see a patient see it from the first session.
This fall can be done gradually, as brutal, with hair falling by more or less large patches.
Don’t be afraid! There are some solutions to curb this hair loss (we tell you more here about using the refrigerated helmet to avoid or limit hair loss!)
I adopt a suitable hair routine!
6. How do I take care of my hair during chemotherapy?
Style it delicately with a soft bristle brush. When showering, preferably use a mild shampoo with a balanced pH. Try (if possible) to wash your hair the day before a chemotherapy treatment, and wait a few days (or even a week) before repeating the operation. It is important not to over-solicit your hair, and therefore to space the shampoos as much as possible.
Once clean, let your hair dry in the open air, or dab it lightly with a towel.
Warning: heating appliances (hairdryer type, straightener, curling iron… etc.) should not be allowed, as they can aggravate the fall. It goes without saying that colouring, discoloration or permanent are strongly discouraged too.
Out of hairdressing ideas? You will quickly feel inconvenienced by a bun that is too tight or mats pulling on your scalp. Go to the basics, and leave your hair loose.
Wellness tip: think of the satin or silk pillowcase to sleep (also available in the beanie version)! Comfort assured for your pretty little heads 😊
Pain or not pain, that’s the question!
7. Is hair loss physically painful?
It is not uncommon for hair loss to be accompanied by scalp hypersensitivity (also known as the barbaric “trichodynia”).
Feelings of tingling, irritation or itching in the scalp before and during the fall… It is therefore necessary to pay particular attention to the latter by providing him with appropriate care.
Be gentle, massage gently to feed and protect hair from external aggression.
A little friend’s advice: think vegetable oils! Sweet almond oil, shea butter, coconut oil or castor oil… You can also opt for our mist for the scalp, immediately guaranteed soothing, it is made for this and its effectiveness is clinically tested on women under cancer treatments!
Dress up your pretty little head, the different options
Wig, fringe, scarf… You feel lost and don’t know what to choose: we understand you!
So take a look at our articles dedicated specifically to these topics.
Tip to boost self-confidence: for people with partial alopecia (or when regrowth of hair if it is particularly thin and sparse), we recommend the use of a densifying powder.
It is a powder, composed of fibers (usually keratin or cotton fibers), which will come to settle and cling to the existing hair in an electrostatic way. Prints dense hair assured in no time!
Not penetrating the scalp, and having no direct action on the hair, the use of this product does not seem to be contradicted for skins weakened by the treatments (if there is any doubt, do not hesitate to do a test with a sample to make sure that it suits you).
Practical and quick to use, designed for daily application, this product is formulated to withstand wind and rain, and leave with a simple shampoo.
Small recommendation: if you are planning a sports activity, or a pool/seaside outing, prefer the nice knot to avoid any unpleasant surprises!
As a bonus, this principle is also available for eyebrows.
8. When will my hair grow back?
This is certainly the question that people affected by the disease and hair loss ask themselves most frequently!
It usually takes several weeks (on average 4 to 6) after the last treatment to see the first regrowths point the tip of their nose. It is really the time that the body does its job and completely evacuates the drug toxins.
During this regrowth, some of you will not notice any difference, while others will notice a change in the color and/or thickness of their hair (as is also the case after brain radiation therapy). This is often only a phase before they return to their original appearance.
As with hair, hair, eyelashes and eyebrows grow back a few weeks after the end of the treatment.
“Patience” is the key word to follow!
However, if you want to give them a boost, we recommend you read this article full of little tips to boost the regrowth of your hair!
9. How long should I wait after regrowth to get my hair cut?
You can have your haircut done at your usual hairdresser, or opt for a socio-hairdresser. Whichever option is ultimately chosen, there is no specific indication as to how long to wait for you to get there. Listen to yourself and your needs!
Regrowth is usually disordered and uneven, so it may be considered to make an appointment when your length reaches 2-3 centimetres. This will allow the professional to restructure your cut and even the regrowth.
The first post-chemo cut is an important milestone to celebrate! Take this time to find yourself, and enjoy this moment of relaxation.
If you were hoping to strengthen your hair by cutting it, know that this is more of a myth than a reality. Indeed, if you want to see your hair regain its vigour of yesteryear, it will be more effective to give it a boost and accelerate their growth by acting directly on your roots. Fortifying serum, stimulating shampoo or dietary supplements… you have a choice!
10. Can I do coloring after the treatments have finished?
Good news! It is quite possible to consider coloring once the treatments are complete. However, it is recommended to wait about 6 months after the last treatment is administered, so that the hair has regained its vigor, and that it completely covers your scalp. It is also necessary for the latter to be healthy to avoid any allergic risk and further irritation.
Once these conditions are met, you just have to get started!
We advise you, to begin with, to turn to plant or temporary colors, softer and natural. After all, there is no question of damaging these long-awaited dear re-growths! 😊
Don’t hesitate to ask your hairdresser, they will be able to make you sharp and wise recommendations.