How do I care for the hair & scalp during chemotherapy?

Written by patricia martin
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How do I care for the hair & scalp during chemotherapy?
(Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Caring for your hair during chemotherapy can make a stressful situation seem overwhelming. While you want chemotherapy drugs to attack your cancer cells, the damage to your hair is an unwelcome side effect. There is good news, however. According to the American Cancer Society, hair regrowth often begins before chemotherapy treatment is even completed. Taking good care of your hair and scalp now will prepare your hair follicles for healthy hair growth.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Treat your hair as if it were delicate lace. Aggressive combing and brushing will put stress on weak hair follicles.

  2. 2

    Use natural shampoos and conditioners to moisturise and strengthen your fragile scalp and tresses. Avoid products that contain drying chemicals, such as detergents and alcohols.

  3. 3

    Stop chemically processing your hair while undergoing chemotherapy. Colouring, perming and straightening will cause more damage.

  4. 4

    Let your hair dry naturally. Don’t use blow dryers, hot curlers, hair bands or clips while you hair is in its weakened state.

  5. 5

    Wear a satin cap or sleep on a satin pillow to help protect your mane and scalp from manipulation while you sleep.

  6. 6

    Cut your hair. A shorter hairstyle will look thicker and require less styling. As your hair falls out, seeing shorter hair might feel less traumatic.

  7. 7

    Shave your head if your hair loss is too frustrating. Doing so will also help relieve your tender, irritated scalp.

  8. 8

    Apply essential oils to nourish and soothe your hair follicles and scalp. Jojoba, lavender and rosemary oils will moisturise and stimulate hair growth.

  9. 9

    Protect your scalp from the sun. According to the National Cancer Institute, always use sunscreen or wear a hat. Stay away from extreme cold or hot temperatures that can irritate your skin.

Tips and warnings

  • Buy a wig or hairpiece. The American Cancer Society reports that a wig may be covered by health insurance if you have a prescription from your doctor.
  • Talk to a friend or health professional about any feelings of embarrassment or sadness about your hair. Expressing your feelings will help you feel better during this difficult time.

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