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If you’re going through chemotherapy, you might have questions about the treatment and its side effects.

You may be wondering if your hair is going to fall out after chemo, and if so, how long it will take for it to grow back. You also may be wondering, when your hair does grow back, whether its texture and color will be changed.

Your hair’s response to chemo is hard to predict and can vary according to your particular hair texture as well as other health factors.

This article will provide you with general information about how hair responds to chemotherapy and how your hair might change in the months after your treatment.

Your hair is made up of living cells at your roots, or hair follicles. Typically, the rest of your hair is in various stages of resting or falling out.

Your scalp may be sensitive and you may lose hair

When you’re in chemotherapy, chemicals are introduced to your body to disrupt cancer cells, so that they can’t multiply. This same disruption interferes with your hair follicles’ ability to produce new hair cells. The result is a sensitive scalp and, often, hair that falls out close to the root.

A 2019 survey indicated that participants saw hair loss, on average, 18 days after their chemo treatments.

If the medication used for your chemotherapy does make your hair fall out, your hair may grow back in a little differently than it did before.

Your new hair may have a curly texture

Hair may be a curlier texture than the hair you had before. Sometimes hair will have a different color, too. But typically, it won’t be too drastic. The color might be a shade darker or lighter than your natural hair color.

It’s important to take extra care with this new hair growth after chemo because when it grows in, your hair may be:

  • finer
  • more delicate
  • textured differently

Try to be patient with your hair as it grows back after chemotherapy treatment. Here are some hair care tips:

  • Use a soft brush to care for your hair after chemotherapy.
  • Only wash your hair when necessary.
  • Use a gentle shampoo that contains sunscreen to protect your scalp from the sun.
  • Cover your hair with a hat or headscarf before going out in the sun.
  • Make sure to rinse chlorine from your hair after going in a pool.

We should note here that some medications used for chemotherapy always cause hair loss, while others do not always cause hair loss. That’s why some people go through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and never lose any hair at all.

According to a 2017 research review, treatments that use multiple chemotherapy drugs or approaches are more likely to cause hair loss than treatments that just use one type of therapy.

It takes a few weeks after chemotherapy is complete to see hair begin to grow back on your scalp.

A 2019 survey of women in Japan with breast cancer showed that scalp hair regrew for 98 percent of participants, and that hair regrowth started, on average, 3.3 months after chemotherapy was completed.

Because of the multiple ways chemo impacts your cells, your body has some work to do to get back to normal. Regrowing your hair is just part of what your body is focused on. That’s part of why your hair that grows on your scalp after chemo may grow more slowly than your hair normally would.

Some people choose to use topical minoxidil to accelerate hair growth once treatment is complete. A 2017 research review showed that the exact mechanism of how this treatment regrows hair, post-cancer, is not fully understood, so keep that in mind if you are planning on trying it.

As far as returning to your “normal” texture and color, it’s hard to predict how long it’s going to take. A year after your treatment is complete, it’s likely you’ll have 4 to 6 inches of hair growth, according to Breastcancer.org.

Once that first post-treatment year goes by, you may notice that the new hairs that start to grow in are more similar to how you’re used to your hair looking. In almost every case, hair goes back to “normal” and completely grows back.

Do share side effects of your chemotherapy treatment with your doctor or oncologist during and after your chemotherapy treatment.

Your doctor can provide specific recommendations for how to take care of hair loss as well as hair regrowth following your treatment.

According to CancerCare, your doctor can also refer you to patient support groups where you can share experiences and speak with others who are going through the same experience.

You can also ask your doctor about other resources that may be available to you, such as free wig fittings and head scarves.

It’s hard to know what to expect after chemotherapy hair loss. Many factors will affect how long it takes for your hair to return to its normal texture and color, including your:

  • health history
  • genetics
  • hair type
  • other factors

For most people, hair will start to return to normal about 12 months after treatment is complete. And within 5 years, almost everyone who has chemotherapy-related hair loss sees complete hair regrowth.

Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about post-chemo hair loss or any other side effects of your treatment.