How to Care for your Hair During & After Treatment

Hair loss is one of the most dreaded side effects of cancer treatment, which works by targeting the fastest-growing cells in your body. Among the most rapid-growing cells are unfortunately your hair follicles, which divide every 23 to 72 hours. But remember everyone will experience different stages of hair loss.

Hair loss side effects  

Some people will undergo hair thinning rather than hair loss. In fact, two patients taking the same medication may experience different hair-loss side effects. One patient may lose hair, while another doesn’t.

If alopecia (hair loss) does occur, the extent of hair loss varies widely depending on the type, dosage, frequency and method of treatment, as well as other individual factors. Looking after your hair can help keep your hair for longer and give you the confidence you need. 


  • Can cause your hair to fall out, but not all chemotherapy drugs make your hair fall out
  • It will usually happen within 2–3 weeks of starting treatment
  • Some chemotherapy drugs can make other hair from your body fall out, such as facial hair and pubic hair
  • Hair usually grows back after treatment finishes


  • Can cause your hair to fall out, but only in the area being treated
  • If you are having radiotherapy to your head, you will probably lose hair from your scalp
  • Hair does not always grow back after radiotherapy. Your doctor will talk to you about this.

Other Treatments

  • Other cancer treatments, such as hormonal therapy or targeted (biological) therapy, can cause changes to your hair


Whatever treatment you're receiving, it is important to take care of your hair and treat it as gently as possible. Chemotherapy in particular may cause your hair to become dry and brittle. Chemo and other treatments can also affect your skin, so it is important to look after your skin and other places where you used to have hair to avoid irritation and infections. 

Follow these tips below to keep your hair and scalp as healthy as you can

Ask your doctor about cold-cap treatment 

Some patients are using this therapy, which freezes the scalp. By its cooling effect, it reduces blood flow to the scalp, which then decreases the amount of chemotherapy medication that reaches the area. This is usually worn for 15 minutes before each chemotherapy treatment.

Use Mild Products

Many shampoos have fragrances and harsh chemicals that dry out already-irritated skin and hot water can also add to this. In contrast, conditioners can sometimes be overly oily or contain emollients, humectants you simply don't need.

Stay away from chemical products with alcohol or menthol and stay with mild products. But if your scalp is itchy or sensitive, rubbing baby oil or mineral oil on the skin can usually help. Don't forget to pat your hair dry, so you can stop pulling out anymore hair. 

Skip Colouring or Perming

Even if you don't experience a lot (or any) hair loss, chemotherapy can still damage the hair shaft and cause a dry, itchy, flaky scalp. This can lead to unpredictable results when colouring or perming and can sometimes even accelerate the thinning of your hair and, the harsh chemicals are almost guaranteed to cause you irritation you don't need.

If colouring your hair is really important to you, opt for temporary/semi-permanent hair colouring that doesn't contain peroxide or paraphenylenediamine.

Styling your Hair

Avoid using hairdryers and straighteners if you can, as this will improve your hair greatly! 

Thin hair can cause a lot of tangles, so start by using a soft bristle brush or comb and brush your hair at the ends and gently work your way up to your scalp. Or you can comb through your hair with your fingers, but make sure you wet your fingers with water first. 

Sleeping on a satin or silk pillowcase can decrease tangles in the hair, as this is a smoother fabric than others. Another trick is to use ribbons to tie your hair up, rather than hairbands and do not plait your hair as this may damage it.

For more hair loss tips read - 'How to Care for your Scalp'