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Chemo Hair Loss and How to Regrow Your Hair

Chemo hair loss is a chemotherapy-induced side effect of cancer treatment. This treatment can put the body in stress and stress is another factor for hair loss. Hair loss from chemo may be an extra stress factor in the treatment process, too.

Hair loss due to chemo is only temporary and your hair should grow back over time.

Around 65% of patients going through chemotherapy will experience hair loss.

Chemotherapy is a life-saving treatment that comes with physical and emotional challenges. Understanding the causes and learning coping mechanisms for chemotherapy hair loss can help you go through the treatment process easier.

Scalp cooling (scalp hypothermia) is the most effective hair loss prevention, with a 50 to 80% success rate.

Here are some key points from the article that will allow you to learn more about chemotherapy and hair loss:

  • NOT ALL CHEMOTHERAPY TYPES RESULT IN HAIR LOSS
  • SOME PEOPLE WILL NOT EXPERIENCE LOSING HAIR DURING CHEMO
  • YOUR FIRST HAIR AFTER CHEMO MAY HAVE A DIFFERENT COLOUR AND TEXTURE
  • SOME NUTRIENTS MAY HELP IN HAIR GROWTH AFTER CHEMO HAIR LOSS
  • CHEMOTHERAPY AND RADIATION HAIR LOSS CAN BE CAUSED BY DIFFERENT MECHANISMS

Does Chemo Cause Hair Loss?

Depending on the type, and your sensitivity to chemotherapy treatment, it may or may not cause hair loss. The type of hair loss caused by chemotherapy is called anagen effluvium. 

Chemotherapy may cause hair loss as a side effect

The extent of hair falling out from chemo can vary and depends on several factors. They include the specific chemotherapy drugs used, the dosage, and genetics.

Some people may experience partial hair loss, while others may have complete hair loss.

Do You Lose Eyebrows With Chemo?

Yes, it is possible to lose eyebrows during chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs can lead to hair loss not only on the scalp but also on the eyebrows, eyelashes, and other parts of the body.

Why Does Chemo Cause Hair Loss?

Chemotherapy drugs are designed to target and wipe out rapidly dividing cells, which include cancer cells. Hair follicles are also made up of quickly dividing cells. That’s why during chemotherapy, hair follicles are also affected.

Chemotherapy can disrupt the hair growth cycle by pushing more hair follicles into the resting phase (telogen).

Chemo drugs can decrease blood flow to the scalp, which affects the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the hair follicles. It can also weaken the hair shaft, making it brittle and easier to break.

What Chemo Causes Hair Loss?

What type of chemo causes hair loss is a determinant factor and depends on chemo drugs that are used during your chemotherapy treatment.

It is a fact that using some chemotherapy drugs is more likely to result in hair loss than other chemo drugs. You should know that the severity of hair loss can range from mild thinning to complete baldness.

Which Chemo Drugs Cause Hair Loss?

Here are the active ingredients of the drugs used in chemotherapy that are most likely to cause hair loss:

  • CYCLOPHOSPHAMIDE
  • DOCETAXEL
  • DOXORUBICIN
  • EPIRUBICIN
  • ETOPOSIDE
  • FLUOROURACIL
  • IFOSFAMIDE
  • IRINOTECAN
  • PACLITAXEL
  • VINCRISTINE
  • VINORELBINE

How Soon After Chemo Does Hair Fall Out?

Hair loss generally starts from 2 to 4 weeks after the beginning of chemotherapy. Yet, some people may notice significant hair loss only after several months into their treatment.

Remember that the timing and extent of hair loss can vary and depend on several factors. They include the type of chemotherapy drugs and your sensitivity to them.

Taxol Hair Loss Timeline

Taxol (Paclitaxel) is a chemo drug used to treat cancer. Hair loss is only a temporary side effect of Taxol and most patients will see their hair grow back after completing the chemotherapy treatment.

2-3 WEEKS AFTER STARTING TREATMENT: HAIR LOSS BECOMES NOTICEABLE.

4-6 WEEKS AFTER THE BEGINNING OF CHEMO: YOU MAY EXPERIENCE COMPLETE HAIR LOSS FROM THE SCALP.

UP TO A YEAR AFTER TREATMENT: IT CAN TAKE SEVERAL MONTHS OR MORE, IN SOME CASES, FOR THE HAIR TO FULLY RECOVER AND GROW BACK.

Is There A Way to Minimize Hair Loss During Chemo?

Treat your hair gently to minimize hair breakage.

Some studies also show that Minoxidil (Rogaine) can help with hair regrowth. You can apply it to the scalp before, during, and after chemotherapy.

⚠️ Always discuss with a trichologist whether you can use any medications of this sort.

Scalp cooling devices, called cold caps, can help reduce blood flow to the scalp. This way they minimize the drugs that get to the hair follicles.

Scalp Care During Chemotherapy

Here are some tips for scalp care during chemotherapy:

  • USE A MILD, SULFATE-FREE SHAMPOO AND AVOID HOT WATER
  • AFTER WASHING, PAT YOUR HAIR DRY GENTLY WITH A SOFT TOWEL
  • STAY AWAY FROM HAIR DRYERS AND OTHER HOT HAIR-STYLING DEVICES
  • AVOID TIGHT HAIRSTYLES AND BE GENTLE WHEN COMBING OR BRUSHING
  • WEAR A SOFT, BREATHABLE HAT, SCARF, OR WIG TO PROTECT YOUR SCALP

What Are Cold Caps for Chemo?

Cold caps (also scalp cooling or cold therapy) work by cooling the scalp. They are the most effective chemo hair loss prevention during chemotherapy treatment.

A cold cap is tight-fitting and made of a soft, flexible material. It covers your whole scalp, including the forehead, ears, and neck. Some caps have adjustable straps or closures to ensure a fit. Inside the cap, there are tubes or channels through which a cold liquid circulates.

Cold caps narrow the blood vessels and reduce blood flow to the hair follicles. As a result, they reduce blood flow and can potentially decrease the amount of chemotherapy drugs that reach the hair follicles. This way cold caps may help minimize hair damage and hair loss.

Is Hair Loss From Chemo Permanent?

You should know that hair loss from chemotherapy is often temporary.

You may take supplements to prevent hair loss during and after chemo:

  • BIOTIN: CAN HELP MAINTAIN THE HEALTH OF EXISTING HAIR.
  • MULTIVITAMINS: CAN HELP GET ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS TO SUPPORT YOUR HEALTH, INCLUDING HAIR HEALTH.
  • PROTEIN: ESSENTIAL FOR CHEMO HAIR GROWTH.
  • OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: CAN HELP SUPPORT HAIR HEALTH AND REDUCE INFLAMMATION.
  • IRON: DEFICIENCY CAN CONTRIBUTE TO HAIR LOSS.
  • ZINC: CRUCIAL FOR HAIR HEALTH.
  • ANTIOXIDANTS: CAN HELP PROTECT HAIR FOLLICLES FROM OXIDATIVE STRESS CAUSED BY CHEMOTHERAPY.

How Long After Chemo Does Hair Grow?

In most cases, hair begins to grow back after the treatment.

Yet, the extent and speed of hair regrowth after chemo may differ from person to person. Sometimes, the hair can take many months to return to its previous state.

Chemo Hair Loss Timeline

Have a look at a general timeline of chemo hair loss:

  • BEGINNING OF HAIR LOSS: HAIR LOSS USUALLY BEGINS WITHIN A FEW WEEKS OF STARTING THE TREATMENT.
  • PEAK HAIR LOSS: BETWEEN THE FIRST AND SECOND MONTH OF CHEMO. 
  • CONTINUED HAIR LOSS: HAIR LOSS MAY GO ON THROUGHOUT THE TREATMENT.
  • END OF CHEMO: HAIR BEGINS TO REGROW A FEW WEEKS TO A FEW MONTHS AFTER THE CHEMO.
  • POST-CHEMO: IT CAN TAKE UP TO A YEAR FOR THE HAIR TO FULLY RETURN TO ITS PREVIOUS SHAPE.

Why Is My Hair Growing Unevenly?

After your chemo treatment, you may notice that some hair is thicker on one side and thinner on the other. Why does it happen? Here are some of the reasons:

  • DISRUPTION IN THE HAIR GROWTH CYCLE: SOME HAIR FOLLICLES MAY ENTER THE TELOGEN PHASE PREMATURELY.
  • DAMAGED HAIR FOLLICLES: CHEMO CAN DAMAGE OR TEMPORARILY AFFECT THE HAIR FOLLICLES, LEADING TO CHANGES IN GROWTH PATTERNS.
  • SENSITIVITY TO MEDICATIONS: YOU MAY BE MORE SENSITIVE TO CERTAIN CHEMO DRUGS, WHICH CAN RESULT IN MORE NOTICEABLE CHANGES IN YOUR POST-CHEMO HAIR GROWTH PATTERNS.
  • SCARRING: THE HAIR FOLLICLES CAN BE PERMANENTLY DAMAGED BY CHEMO, LEADING TO SCAR TISSUE FORMATION AND HAIR REGROWING BACK DIFFERENTLY IN CERTAIN AREAS.
  • AGE: ELDERLY PATIENTS CAN EXPERIENCE SLOWER OR THINNER HAIR REGROWTH.
  • HORMONAL FLUCTUATIONS: HORMONAL CHANGES MAY AFFECT THE QUALITY OF NEW HAIR.

When Can I Dye My Hair After Chemo?

You should postpone coloring hair after chemo for at least 6 months after finishing your treatment.

Chemotherapy makes hair more sensitive and more prone to breakage and damage. Since dying already damages hair, you should wait until it is healed from chemotherapy.

What Helps Hair Growth After Chemo?

Use a mild shampoo for chemo patients and a sulfate-free, they are also the best conditioner options for chemo hair. You can even try baby shampoos since they are very gentle on the skin.

You can also try natural remedies such as herbal oils. The best oil for hair growth after chemo is lavender, peppermint, rosemary, ylang-ylang, tea tree, or bergamot essential oil.

You can use topical treatments such as minoxidil.

⚠️ Consult with your oncologist or a dermatologist before using any over-the-counter or prescription medications.

Avoid cosmetic products with harsh chemicals, such as dyes, bleach, or relaxers. Also, stay away from the sun and protect your scalp by wearing head coverings. You may try scarf, hats or wigs.

Foods to Promote Hair Growth After Chemo

Here are some nutrients and foods that may be beneficial in your diet for hair growth after chemotherapy:

PROTEIN

lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and plant-based proteins like tofu

IRON

lean red meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, and fortified cereals in your diet

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

salmon, mackerel, sardines, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts

ZINC

nuts, whole grains, and legumes

ANTIOXIDANTS

berries, green tea, and colorful fruits and vegetables 

COLLAGEN

bone broth and chicken skin

BIOTIN (VITAMIN B7)

eggs, nuts, seeds, and sweet potatoes

B VITAMINS

whole grains, eggs, and dairy products

Chemo treatment can result in certain nutritional deficiencies that support hair health such as B vitamins. It is important to detect these deficiencies and add them to your diet. 

What Is First Hair Growth Like After Chemo?

The first hair growth after chemotherapy can vary, but here are some general experiences you may have:

  • SLOW GROWTH
  • SOFT AND FINE HAIR (“PEACH FUZZ”)
  • SPARSE GROWTH
  • DIFFERENT HAIR COLOUR AND TEXTURE
  • SENSITIVE SCALP

Does Cancer Cause Hair Loss Or Chemo?

Hair loss can be associated with cancer, but the cancer itself does not cause it. Instead, hair loss in cancer patients is often one of the side effects of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy.

Does Chemo Or Radiation Cause Hair Loss?

Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy can result in hair loss. It can happen through different mechanisms and to different degrees.

Chemotherapy drugs are strong medications. They target and exterminate rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells. Yet, they can also affect healthy cells in the body, including hair follicles. All this can lead to hair loss.

Radiation therapy, on the other hand, uses high-energy beams of radiation. The effect of radiation on hair depends on the location and dosage of the treatment. For example, if radiation is directed at your scalp, you may experience hair loss on your head.

Why Does Radiation Cause Hair Loss?

 Radiotherapy hair loss may depend on several factors:

    • RADIATION DOSE: HIGH DOSES ARE MORE LIKELY TO RESULT IN HAIR LOSS.
    • RADIATION SITE: HAIR LOSS OCCURS IN THE AREA TREATED WITH RADIATION.
    • SENSIVITY: SOME PATIENTS ARE MORE SENSITIVE TO RADIATION HAIR LOSS.
    • TYPE OF RADIATION: EXTERNAL BEAM RADIATION OR BRACHYTHERAPY CAN HAVE DIFFERENT EFFECTS ON HAIR LOSS.

Does Hair Grow Back After Radiation?

The hair will usually grow back a few months after treatment has finished. Hair loss is a common side effect of radiation therapy, but whether or not the hair grows back after radiation depends on several factors, such as the type of radiation, the dosage, and your individual sensitivity to the treatment.

With high-dose radiation therapy, hair loss can be permanent in the treated area. This is more common in areas where the hair follicles have been severely damaged.

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