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HOME » SCALP COOLING » Chapter 3 Hair Care

Chapter 3 Hair Care


It is recommended to be very gentle with your hair for the duration of treatment and until around 3 -6 weeks after your last treatment or until your hair feels more stable.

We recommend that you read the ‘Paxman’ guide  -‘Caring for your hair when receiving scalp cooling during chemotherapy’. Additionally you may find the tips below helpful:

Washing hair soon after treatment

You can gently wash your hair as soon as you wish after treatment.  Washing hair gently does often help to ease any discomfort on the scalp and help to keep the hair tangle free. (Until recently the general advice was to not wash your hair until 24 hours after treatment so you may find that some websites and information differs). You can leave the conditioner in your hair if you wish and wash you hair when it feels right to do so.

If you do keep conditioner on your hair you may find it easier to wear a cotton night hat in bed to stop your pillowcase getting greasy. You may also find it beneficial to have a smooth pillowcase such as a silk or satin feeling fabric that won’t cause any additional pull on your hair.

However some people say that they feel leaving conditioner on makes their hair matt or start to dreadlock – especially those with longer hair types. It is a case of trial and error. If this hair matting occurs with your hair we suggest you very gently rinse the conditioner off with lukewarm water. Make sure that you use a soft towel to very gently absorb water by softly patting the hair.  Ensure that your hair is tangle free. Using a leave-in conditioner may be helpful.  If you need to comb your hair be very gentle. Allow your hair to dry naturally if you can.

Washing and conditioning your hair

It is best advised to try and limit the amount of times you wash your hair - ideally not more then 2 times a week but this can be more if necessary.

Below are some tips:

It is important to know that you CAN use any products you wish. There is not a specific product that you must use.

You may like to use a shampoo and conditioner with natural ingredients that are PH balanced (avoid harsh synthetic perfumes if you have a sensitive scalp)

Take time to wash your hair gently

Use tepid (luke warm water) if your scalp is sore

Do not pile your hair on-top of your head (like they do in shampoo adverts!) as this may matt the hair

Do gently massage your hair roots and gently pat the remainder of your shampoo through the lengths of your hair – this should be enough to clean the hair lengths

Do use conditioner to maintain moisture

If trying to ease out tangles - be extra careful. If you need to use a comb ensure it is a good quality wide tooth comb. Comb the conditioner through your hair  whilst supporting the roots by holding them whilst you comb the tips (ends)and length gently

Gently pat dry your hair using a soft towel

Note: Some hair thinning is quite normal and to be expected by most people during this time – see Chapter 4 on ‘trouble shooting’ if you become concerned

Drying and styling your hair

It may be that you need to change your hair styling regime for a while to avoid unnecessary aggression on the hair.

Below are some tips:

Do not be afraid to gently touch your hair

If you can manage your style by letting your hair dry naturally – that is ideal

If you need to use a hairdryer then use a low heat setting and gentle speed

A diffuser attachment may be helpful as this helps to gently distribute airflow from a hairdryer

You can gently comb and brush your hair but avoid using harsh styling brushes that pull at your hair – be gentle

Soft brushes are ideal

Use gentle styling products (natural ingredients can offer added benefits) such as leave-in-conditioners and protection sprays that encourage good condition

Avoid using products that put additional pull on the hair such as thick, hard hold gel, strong mousse, wax or clay

You can use a soft hair band to gently tie hair up or back (avoid any unnecessary pull) a fabric covered scrunchy is ideal

It is best to avoid platting, braiding, *hair extensions (clip or glue) and tight up-do’s. (*under expert guidance only specialist hair pieces designed for hair loss may be appropriate)

Avoid heated rollers, straightening irons

Avoid any aggressive actions on your hair

Hairdressing services

You can visit a regular hairdresser. At this time we advise that you have hairdressing services that benefit the condition of your hair. Below are some tips:

Many people find that their rate of hair growth becomes slower during treatment and so they don’t need to have their hair cut as often as normal.

If you wish to have a haircut it may be a good idea to advise your hairdresser about your circumstances in advance so that you do not have to discuss your personal treatment in a busy salon

You may like to consider explaining to your hairdresser that they will need to be extra careful when handling your hair. Perhaps have a dry cut or ask if they will dry your hair very gently or allow your hair to dry naturally.

Avoid permanent chemical services such as colour and perms

If you do need some help with hair colours try temporary or natural base semi-permanent colours (see page 29)

If you are attending a special occasion such as a wedding seek advice on how you can enhance your hair style without using aggressive technique on your hair

Your hairdresser is very welcome to contact the Caring Hair team at Cancer Hair Care. We talk to many hairdressers to help them support you at this time. You may find giving your hairdresser a copy of this guide helpful.

Restrictions on colour/perm/relax/chemical straightening

During chemotherapy treatment

You will be advised to not use any form of permanent hair colouring or chemical process on the hair.  This is due to the following:

Possible sensitivity to product

Possible irritation to skin caused by products

Weakening of hair

Possible negative reaction to harsh chemicals

However prior to starting chemotherapy it is fair to say that it is your personal choice.  The key thing is to ensure that your hair is in good condition. You may like to talk with your hairdresser to ask their opinion of the condition of your hair.

In the 3 weeks prior to treatment our guidance is:

Permanent /semi-permanent hair colours – These are ok

if done with care and minimal strain put onto the hair. Do have a skin sensitivity test prior to colour (ask hairdresser or for home colours see the pack information). Avoid henna as its thick consistency may put additional stress on the hair

Bleach products –Avoid due to the additional strain they put onto the hair shaft

Perms –Avoid due to the additional strain they put onto the hair shaft

Eyelash and brow permanent/ semi-permanent colouring – If done with care this should put minimal strain onto the hair so can be done. Do have a skin sensitivity test prior to colour (ask beautician or for home colours see pack information)

Permanent make up –tattoo’s – Sometimes it is possible prior to treatment but ask your nurse due to possible skin infection/sensitivity

Relaxing/chemical straightening - Avoid due to the additional strain it may put onto the hair shaft

During treatment and for the 3-6 weeks after we recommend:

Avoid all permanent chemical processes.

If you need to disguise regrowth try the following temporary or semi-permanent options:

Coloured mousse

Coloured mascara

Coloured hair spray

Vegetable based semi-permanent hair colour (a skin sensitivity test is recommended

If using colour products do avoid any unnecessary strain on your hair.

Once all chemotherapy treatment is complete

It is best recommended to continue with your regime for a further 3-6 weeks after your last treatment or until you feel your hair has stabilised.  This includes avoiding permanent chemical treatments such as colour and perms etc. Once this time is over you can return to your regular regime when you wish.

Areas of hair loss will generally start to grow back once treatment is complete. It may take a while for growth to appear but is normal that after around 3 months people start to notice improvements in growth and quality of their hair.

The next chapter will help you to deal with any hair care problems you may incur during treatment.

Chapter 4 Solutions to scalp cooling problems 





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