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 their roots, or hair follicles. Typically, the rest of your hair is in various stages of resting or falling out. Chemotherapy is a treatment plan where a drug, or combination of drugs, is administered either orally or through an IV. The reason chemotherapy causes hair loss is because hair follicles are one of the fastest growing cells in the human body, and when compromised by chemotherapy this prevents the hair follicles from growing.
Your scalp may be sensitive and you may lose hair wherever it grows on your body
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 from wherever it grows on your body.
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
After chemotherapy, your hair may be a
There are a few factors that can influence how your hair grows back after treatment, such as family history and hair type. For those with thinner and straighter hair, you may experience your hair growing back thicker and curlier than usual for the first few months. Additionally, if you have a family history of a certain hair color or type, don’t be alarmed if your hair comes back slightly different. It’s typically only temporary.
It’s important to take extra care with this new hair growth after chemo because when it grows in, your hair may be:
- more delicate
- textured differently
Are chemo curls permanent?
While it may be alarming to see your hair grow back differently than it did before, there’s usually no need to worry as it is often only temporary. Your hair will typically start growing back within 3-6 months, but the process can be slow. During the first year of hair regrowth it’s likely your hair will be a different texture, such as curly. However, after a year of regrowth it’s possible that your hair will start growing back as it did before treatment.
Try to be patient with your hair as it grows back after chemotherapy treatment. Here are some hair care tips to help the process:
- 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.
When it comes to your post-chemo locks, you may want to consider opting out of:
- straightening chemically
- getting a perm
- getting a haircut too early
In cases where the curls are getting unmanageable, it’s okay to schedule a visit with your hair stylist. However, it’s recommended that you grow your hair out at least 3 inches before cutting it. In cases where you want to buzz your hair, try to leave at least 1 inch of hair.
In cases of styling the curls, avoid using a curling iron as the heat can damage your already delicate hair. Instead, consider using hot rollers as they will be less aggressive on your hair.
After your treatment is finished, your hair that grows in will be delicate and more vulnerable to damage. Wait for your hair to fully grow in before you consider using powerful chemicals to style or color-treat it.
As your hair grows back, it’s important to take as much care of those curls as you can during the process. There are a few steps you can take to make sure your curls stay as healthy as possible — and ensuring that your hair is still growing. Here are some helpful tips:
- massage your scalp gently to stimulate follicles
- use a wet brush while brushing hair or trying to detangle knots
- avoid using hot water so you don’t irritate your scalp
- research certain types of conditioners and ingredients that can help manage delicate hair
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.
- Anti-microtubule chemotherapy causes hair loss in
80 percentof treatments.
- Topoisomerase inhibitors cause hair loss in more than
60 percentof cases.
- Alkylators cause hair loss in less than
60 percentof cases.
- Anti-metabolites cause hair loss in
10 to 50 percentof cases.
According to a
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
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
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 chemo 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 losing your hair following chemotherapy treatments. Many factors will affect how long it takes for your hair to return to its normal texture and color, including your:
- health history
- hair type
- other factors
For most people, hair will typically start to return to normal within 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.