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We understand that it is a big decision to cut hair prior to hair loss. It is your personal choice whether or not to cut your hair short.

One of the most important things is to be clear on your time scale of hair loss and if scalp cooling (that can sometimes lessen hair loss) is available to you.

Make a cuppa and maybe sit with a friend to read through our guide below:



Quick links - Click on the question or topic of interest:

Shall I cut my hair short?

Will cutting my hair off in advance affect the new hair growth?

Cutting hair short – your options explained

A guide to clipper cuts a great option for taking control


Shall I cut my hair short?

If you are having the cold cap (scalp cooling) then you should talk to your nurse about what length you may or may not need to cut your hair. You will not normally need to cut your hair as short as you may need to for hair loss, as the whole point of the cold cap is to try and prevent this. Take a look at the section SCALP COOLING for a more detailed understanding.

It is entirely up to you when you cut your hair short but for most people cutting hair short is about taking control. Hair loss mostly takes some time and this can means that you have to wait as various patches of hair still remain on your head. For many people this waiting time can be anxious and distressing.

It is a brave action to take but many people say that they are glad that they took the step to have their hair cut short and that it helped them to manage the situation.

The only thing that we do not recommend is “complete shaving” of hair. This means that there will be a very short layer of hair left after cutting. With a clipper no shorter than guard 2 or a scissor cut we recommend that you leave a few millimetres. You should always have a guard on clippers and never use a cut throat blade or razor to completely shave the scalp. This is to avoid cuts and infections.

Will cutting my hair off in advance affect the new hair growth?

In our vast experience with hundreds of people we can honestly say that our opinion is that it will not affect your re-growth if you decide to cut or shave hair short. We do recommended that you never completely shave to bare with a razor or clipper without a guard on. This is to avoid possible cuts that could lead to infection and is not to do with hair not growing back properly.

What goes on inside the body to cause hair loss?
It is usually a temporary disruption to your normal system of hair growth as the hair nearly always grows back after chemotherapy treatment. Let’s try and explain the science bit:

Chemotherapy works by attacking cancer cells to get rid of them from the body and eradicate the cancer. Because this treatment enters the blood stream it means that other normal cells in the body can also be affected. Chemotherapy treatment attacks the quick growing cancer cells in the body. Unfortunately it also attacks other normal quick forming cells in the body. Hair is one of these quick forming cells and thus is affected.

When the sensitive hair bulb, which holds the hair root, is attacked, it affects the hair in different ways. This can include hair being brittle and dry, thinning and falling out which results in hair loss.

However as with most subjects there are some differences of opinion and some hair loss professionals don’t agree with cutting hair short or have their own advice to offer on this subject. At Cancer Hair Care we see hundreds of women who shaved their hair before or during treatment. We get to see the hair grow back and so can say that cutting or shaving hair prior to or during hair loss will not affect how it grows back. Whilst we respect the right of other organisations to have a diffrent opinion we will always support the idea of cutting hair short if you wish. 

Many people cut their hair short in preparation for hair loss it is a very popular option.

By cutting hair short you will be taking a big step towards taking control of hair loss and dealing with a change to your appearance. The good thing is that you can decide how and when you cut your hair, rather than waiting for it to fall out which is messy and can be distressing. This is because hair fall tends to be in patches and not necessarily all at once. It can take some time until the hair completely falls out, sometimes over a period of days or weeks. Sometimes hair is not completely lost - meaning that some patches may still be left.

The length that you cut your hair to is entirely up to you, but please note that it really is not recommended that you completely shave your hair off using a razor directly onto the scalp because it is very easy to cut yourself and without experience really is quite tricky to do. Any cuts could cause problems with possible infection, which may lead to complications during treatments.

Will my hair grow back?
Yes - it normally always does so.

Unfortunately hair loss and hair thinning can be a very common side effect of certain types of chemotherapy (but not all). But as treatment to get rid of cancer is essential it is a necessary measure.

The good news is that it nearly always grows back. In other words, the hair is only temporarily affected and it is very rare for the hair not to grow back at all. This is so very rare that most advice sheets will not mention it – occasionally and very rarely hair doesn’t grow back. This can be as a result of long term medication or could be another hair problem where the person may have been affected by hair loss regardless of the cancer treatment - BUT most of the time is does grow back.

Cutting hair short – your options explained

Who will cut it - hairdresser or self cut?
If your nurse has advised that you get your hair cut, there shouldn’t be any reason other than your personal preference why you can’t either visit a hairdresser, cut your hair yourself, or get a friend to help.

Most people prefer to go to a professional hairdresser for a wider choice of styles and personal advice and naturally there is less mess to deal with. Sometimes it is nice to hand the practical side of this over to someone who knows what they are doing.

Wig suppliers may offer hair cutting services
Your local wig supplier may offer hair cutting services, so it is well worth asking.

Cutting your hair yourself at home or getting a friend to help
Many people decide to cut their hair themselves or with the help of a partner or friend. If you do take this option, then the easiest way is to use a set of clippers with a cutting guard/attachment on them.

The other option is for you or a friend to cut your hair using hairdressing scissors and a hair cutting book – but this really is quite tricky and not really recommended.

A guide to clipper cuts… a great option for taking control

The great thing about a clipper cut is that it is quick, easy (when you have a few tips) and you can do it yourself or get a friend to help. Here are a few tips to help your cutting to be as smooth as possible.

Practical things - You will need;
• To have clean, dry, tangle free hair
• Clean clippers with attachments (guards)
• Extension lead
• Mirror
• Sharp household scissors (for removing long hair first)
• Vacuum cleaner, dust pan and brush
• Towel or gown (some kits come with a gown)

Chose a clipper attachment – which determines the length of your hair
It is vital that you choose the right clipper attachment as that determines what length your hair will be cut to. Most clippers come with a guide book and with a range of around 5–8 different attachments, normally numbered from 0 upwards. 0 being the shortest, as close to the skin as you can get, almost like shaving - going up in numbers to 4, 5 and 6 which are normally a centimetre upwards. Each clipper will have its own guide to clipper attachment lengths. If in doubt start with the largest size and work downwards.

Always use clippers on clean dry hair
It is best to ensure that your hair is clean and dry without any tangles or styling products in it. You will want the clippers to glide through the hair as cleanly as possible. Do not use clippers on wet hair.
Consider removing length with scissors first

Beginning to clipper
Most clipper sets come with a booklet which offers tips on cutting, below is our guide:
If you are going to have a go at using clippers on your hair yourself, you will find it easier on a practical level to be in front of a mirror (if your clippers don’t reach try using an extension lead). If someone else is going to do this for you, then it may not be necessary and indeed some people say that they would rather not sit in front of a mirror while the hair is being cut.

Clipper tips:
• If you don’t want to be interrupted let others in the household know that you need some privacy

• Having selected your clipper attachment (the length) ensure that the attachment is securely in place

• Then move round to the sides, angling the clippers up towards the top of the head

• Now you should see that most of the hair is removed – If the length is as you wish now run the clippers over the head in all different directions to neaten up any stray hairs

• Once you have achieved the length you wish you may like to rinse your scalp to remove any loose hairs

Well done you have made a great step towards taking control of your hair loss.

For great ways to look good take a look in our section covering up.




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Please kindly note that Cancer Hair Care and The Caring Hair Boutique are not designed to provide medical advice. You should always consult with your doctor if you have any medical concerns or queries.