When you’re battling with cancer treatments, and the challenges that come with a diagnosis, it may be tough to adjust to hair loss and other changes to your body and look. But there are methods to prepare for and deal with hair damage when it happens. Here are some ways to help cope with cancer-related hair loss:
1. Give yourself time. Falling your hair may be hard to believe. It may take time to adapt to how you look, then more time to feel good about yourself again. It’s okay to feel upset. At the same time, realize that falling your hair is normally temporary and hair will re-grow after you finish treatment.
2. Remember you’re still you. Falling your hair and undergoing other physical changes brought on by cancer and its treatment may come as a shock. It may be judicious to look in the mirror and not recognize yourself. Recollect that you’re still the same person on the inside. Try to celebrate who you are and concentrate on those qualities.
3. Prepare ahead for hair changes. Before you start cancer treatment, prepare in advance for changes to your hair. Talk to your cancer specialist about what to expect. Some people prefer to wear head coverings, and others don’t. Choose whatever feels most suitable for you. It also benefits to think about how you will respond to reactions from others.
4. Consider head coverings. If you choose to get a wig, hairpiece or other head covers (e.g., turbans, caps, scarves, hats, head wraps), do so before hair loss happens. If you get a wig, find a specialty store that matches your natural hair color and texture and get it styled ahead of time. Some protection plans or support programs may help to cover the expense.
5. Cut your hair short before treatment. Before cancer treatment starts, consider getting a short hairstyle, particularly if you have long hair. When hair starts to fall out, it may not be as shocking or distressing if your hair is already short. Shaving your hair may also support you to feel like you’re taking control. Some people shave their heads once hair starts to fall out to stop scalp irritation or itchiness.
6. Be gentle on your hair. Use a smooth point hairbrush or wide-tooth comb and a mild, gentle shampoo (but limit washing). Take proper care of the scalp, which may get dry . Gently pat hair dry with a soft towel. Limit the use of hair clips, barrettes, elastic bands, and pins that pull on your hair. As new hair develops, it may be brittle and delicate and will require proper care as well.
7. Avoid irritants. Heat and chemicals may cause hair to fall out. Avoid coloring, perms, and/or relaxing the hair. Also, avoid using electronic waves, a hairdryer, flat, curling iron. Stay away from chemical goods with liquor, menthol, etc., which can dry out your hair and irritate your scalp. Use a mild shampoo.
8. Protect your head. Apply a hair net at night, or sleep on a satin pillowcase, to keep hair from coming out in clumps. When out in the sun, use sunscreen to guard your scalp, as sunburn can make more itchiness, flakiness, and dry skin. In a cold climate, use a hat or scarf outside to shield your head.
9. Emphasize your assets. Experiment with ways to improve your appearance so you can feel good about yourself. Get new makeup and dresses to emphasize your other features. Take care of your skin and nails. If your eyebrows and eyelashes begin to fall out, prefer eyebrow pencils and eyeliners that are the same color as your natural color or a shade lighter. Follow up with routine hygiene activities.
10. Pamper yourself. Take time to do something pleasurable to take your mind off your analysis. See a movie, read, take a walk, listen to music, get a manicure, pedicure, facial, or massage. Try behavioral health plans, such as rest methods, deep breathing, and meditation.
11. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Following a healthful diet, staying hydrated, and exercising regularly are important for looking and feeling better about yourself. Talk with your doctor about making good lifestyle choices. A dietitian may help produce a nutritious meal plan, and a rehabilitation therapist may help develop a personalized exercise plan for you.
12. Build a support system. Share the experience of hair loss with friends and relatives. Also, a cancer support club is a great way to meet other people dealing with hair loss. In this setting, you can get thoughts and opinions about how others coped with changes in their appearance. You may also find it important to meet with a psychologist or counselor.