Steps to Follow to Handle Hair Loss During Chemotherapy
- Visit a wig specialist before hair loss begins.
- Choose a wig establishment that provides quality and advice.
- Consider a wig with tape tabs.
- Consider getting two wigs.
- Find out if insurance will cover the cost of a wig.
- Consider other hair loss accessories.
- Be aware that hair may re-grow slowly and differently after chemotherapy.
- Consider joining a support group.
- Additional Resources and References
Some women experience hair loss (alopecia) while undergoing chemotherapy. With recent advances in hair replacement technology, women have a variety of choices to help make themselves look and feel better during treatment. Some wigs are now made to allow a woman’s scalp to show through to give the impression that hair is growing from the scalp. This article offers tips to women who are considering wearing a wig during chemotherapy.
Most women do not experience hair loss until after their second chemotherapy treatment. But some women will start to lose their hair as soon as seven days after treatment has begun. Hair loss occurs because hair follicles are weakened by chemotherapy, causing hair to fall out at a much faster rate than normal. Some women also lose their eyelashes and eyebrows during chemotherapy.
Women should consider visiting a wig salon before they begin losing their hair so that the specialist may become familiar with her present hairstyle and color. Some wig salons specialize in hair loss from chemotherapy and are able to offer women specific advice. A wig specialist may also wish to measure the woman’s head size to make sure an average wig will fit. Custom-made wigs sometimes take several weeks to have made.
Most reputable wig establishments will provide women with advice about how to take care of their wigs. This advice includes what type of shampoos, conditioners, and brushes to use on the wig. Most wigs, regardless of whether they are synthetic or made from natural human hair, require shampoo and conditioning every one to two weeks. Quality wig establishments will clean and re-style wigs when needed. Wigs made from natural hair can be styled, curled, or treated with hairspray or mousse.
Note: Many hospitals and cancer support groups can provide women with a list of quality wig establishments in the area.
Many wigs have tape tab materials (also called "stickies") inside the cap of the wig. These tape tabs allow women to use double-sided tape that holds the wig cap to the scalp, keeping it in place for an extended period of time. Tape tabs allow women to comb and style the wig without worrying about it sliding. Most wig specialists recommend that after a woman loses 50% to 60% of her hair due to chemotherapy, she should cut off their remaining hair at the points where the tape tab materials within the wig cap touch their scalps so that she may begin using the tape tabs. Many women prefer to shave off their remaining hair after large portions begin to fall out.
After chemotherapy ends, it usually takes about a month for a woman’s hair to begin growing again. Hair typically grows one-fourth inch to one-half inch per month. Even after finishing chemotherapy, a woman will need to wear her wig for several months. Most wig specialists recommend getting two wigs for alternate use during and after chemotherapy. Since wigs need to be cleaned and re-styled from time to time, having two wigs will prevent a woman from having to go without a wig for any period of time.