Chemotherapy and Hair Loss
Chemotherapy hair loss can be one of the more traumatic aspects of cancer treatment. For one thing, you may not know what to expect; chemotherapy hair loss varies from person to person and depends on the drug and dosage you are given. The loss can happen all at once or gradually, involve parts of your hair or the entire head, and may even affect body hair such as eyelashes and eyebrows.
Chemotherapy and Hair Loss: Common Ways of Managing the Situation
Chemotherapy hair loss, although temporary, is an unpleasant side effect that is best dealt with by planning ahead for it. Common ways of managing the situation include cutting hair short, purchasing wigs, caps or scarves, and shaving the entire head. Cutting the hair short makes the initial hair loss less noticeable, and can provide a comforting transition between long hair and baldness.
Wigs are a popular choice for dealing with this type of hair loss, although some people find them uncomfortable and irritating to the scalp. Your doctor can give you a prescription for a wig that should be covered by insurance if chemotherapy is the cause, and you can go to a wigmaker that specializes in styles intended for chemotherapy hair loss that will fit better and be more comfortable. It is best to order the wig before you experience actual hair loss so the stylist can see your natural hair's appearance and match it better.
Other popular solutions to hair loss due to chemotherapy are caps, scarves, and turbans, which are relatively inexpensive and readily available. You can wear hats or scarves that you already have lying around, or there are websites that specialize in head coverings especially for chemotherapy hair loss that may be more comfortable for you. Cotton turbans are an especially comfortable choice and can be found for under $20 apiece.
In recent years, shaving the head and flaunting baldness has become a more popular way of dealing with chemotherapy hair loss. Going out bald in public is seen as a way of raising cancer awareness and showing acceptance towards oneself as is. This stance was popularized by Melissa Etheridge, who performed at the 2005 Grammys with her shaved head uncovered. Kylie Minogue also appeared bald in public after chemotherapy, and most recently, Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts modeled with her bare head during Isaac Mizrahi's runway show at New York Fashion Week. In addition, Felicity Huffman's character Lynette on the popular series Desperate Housewives appears bald in some scenes due to chemotherapy hair loss.
No matter how you choose to deal with the loss of hair due to chemotherapy, the American Cancer Society's program Look Good Feel Better is a valuable resource. The organization offers two-hour workshops at hospital and community centers in which they teach skin care, makeup and manicure techniques and discuss options for dealing with hair loss. These workshops are intended to help the cancer patient improve her self-esteem. The services are free and all products are donated by program sponsors. For more information, contact your local branch of the ACS.