It’s a given….some chemotherapy drugs make you lose your hair and some don’t. Most of them do. So the chances of getting the chemo that hair can stand up to are slim. Get a grip, stay strong – your hair will fall out.
This was a particularly difficult side effect for me. I’m not a particularly vane person. I wasn’t traumatized at all with the loss of my left girl by mastectomy, but for some reason, the loss of my hair was traumatic. I liked my hair. It was good hair and didn’t deserve its demise. Oh dear, please hang on while I get a grip on myself.
I’ll get right to the point and describe to you how you and your hair will most likely part company. After, I’ll mention a few things about wigs, vs. scarves, vs. hats. Learning how to wrap scarves and tie knots will become a big part of your lives soon and deserves a post within this blog.
1) Hair loss will probably happen within your second week of chemotherapy. Yes, it happens that quickly. Some chemotherapy drugs will take a little longer and some a little less time, but this is the average and how I experienced it personally on Taxol.
2) Some people told me that hair loss starts from the bottom up and others have said it happens from the top down. I personally didn’t notice which direction it came from, just that it was happening. The hair on top of my head was thinning.
3) Hair will not fall out in clumps. It will start getting thinner to the point where running your fingers through your hair will produce a few strands, then increase to about 100 or 200. As time goes on, these numbers will increase and it will feel like clumps are coming out. At this point, it’s time to cut your hair short to stop the long hair shedding.
4) My hair was shoulder length and I’ve always kept it long. I just could not bring myself to cut it. Your hair will get to a point where you’re shedding more than a yellow lab. You and your family will find hair in their food, all over their clothes which I can only assume comes from the washer and dryer, on the floor, the furniture, just everywhere. Not to mention your bed. While you still can, get yourself a cute temporary haircut. Now would be the time to dye your hair if you normally do, especially if roots are coming in gray. If you’re worried about dyeing your hair while it’s falling out, try a semi permanent hair color that’s milder on your scalp. Your hair’s falling out; it’s not growing, so a temporary solution is ideal.
5) Invest in a few different caps or ski type hats in different textures. Wooly ones for colder climates and soft cotton ones for warmer climates. You’ll need both so might as well stock up. Remember to get different colors and don’t forget solid neutral colors like brown, camel, beige, navy, white or black. The printed ones are cute, but you’ll be stuck wearing solid color shirts and sweaters. Ha, didn’t think of that did you? Neither did I. There were times when I went out of the house looking like a circus clown. As if I needed more attention drawn to me in public. Ahhhhhhg.
6) Your hair will start getting thinner and thinner until bald spots start to appear and then become pretty obvious. Now is the time when you will probably no longer go out in public without some kind of a head cover. As your hair gets thinner, you should cut it shorter. In rare circumstances does all of your hair fall out. Most people have patches of hair left on their head. You can shave these off or keep them for traction purposes when wearing head scarves and turbans. This is also the time that my suggestion in #4 above will start to make sense. Weren’t you wondering why I was worried about hair color or roots showing while your hair is falling out? Well, I have kept my few patches of hair on my head for traction purposes. It’s not much, but it seems to work. Also, one of the areas that decided not to fall out completely was at my hairline and I can stick some hair out of my scarf or hat which improves the look. If this happens to you, you’ll be glad that you have your hair colored and not gray. This is if you dyed your hair in the first place. If you didn’t, now is not the time to start. The intention is to stay as normal as you can for as long as you can.
7) You will eventually find that you need to wear a head cover almost 24 hours a day. In the daytime, you’re either out in public or in the kitchen or somewhere where your shedding won’t be appreciated. At night, you wear a head cover to stop the night time shedding that leaves you with a mess to clean up. We have more important things to do.
8) I mentioned this earlier in this post, but invest in a good selection of different colored hats and scarves and also of varying textures and materials. You’ll need warm and cool ones no matter where you live. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have boring neutral colors. Believe me, when you’re dying to wear that beautiful new printed sweater that you just had to have, you will not want to be wearing a flowered or paisley head cover with it. They’re not that easy to find, at least in my area, but make the effort. Now wigs, on the other hand, can really make you look and feel healthy and normal. They have their place. For me, they’re hot and my head gets very itchy when I wear one for longer than a few hours, so I reserve my wigs for going out to dinner or someplace a little more special than the daily trip to the grocery store. I have both a synthetic wig and a human hair wig. The human hair wig looks and feels more natural and is easier to wear. These can be very expensive in the stores. I got mine from the
in my area for free along with a gorgeous scarf. These places are invaluable
and offer a wide range of services. Ask your Oncologist if there is a Center in
your area. If there is, take full advantage of their services. If there isn’t a
Center in your area, check with your local beauty supply stores and salons.
Most of them give discounts for chemotherapy patients. Synthetic wigs are
great. They look and feel a lot like human hair and the difference in price will
blow you away. My husband actually prefers my synthetic wig to the human hair
wig. They feel the same while you’re wearing them. They’re both hot and itchy after
a few hours. At least mine are. There are caps and wicking strips that you can
buy that claim to resist and stop perspiring under a wig. Neither of those
things worked well for me. Cancer
9) Okay, now let’s get off the head and focus on other hairy body parts. Good news….you won’t have to shave your legs for a while. Your leg hair will fall out and not grow back. That goes also for underarm hair and arm hair. You will be smooth and silky. Facial hair disappears also, so no more tweezing for a while. Unfortunately, along with that comes the possible falling out of your eyelashes and/or eyebrows. I wasn’t expecting this one myself. No one told me about other parts of your body, especially your face. This happened to me. My eyelashes did not completely fall out – just most of them. Enough to really change the way I look completely. My eyebrows behaved in the same way. They didn’t fall out completely – just thinned. That’s okay, but the eyelashes!!!!! You have no idea how much this changes your face. Picture the Mona Lisa who, by the way, is not the most beautiful woman in the world. Hey…..my opinion.
10) Hey now, let’s see….we covered head hair, facial hair, leg and arm hair…..what are we missing? Of yes, pubic hair and yes you do lose this. That completely shocked me. It seemed to happen overnight for me. Well, if you were into Brazilian waxes, this should be good news.
That about does it for hair loss surprises. After a while when I looked in the mirror, I saw a 10 year old alien staring back at me, but this too shall pass. Laugh at yourself and know that this is your uniform for battle. You’re beautiful and strong and you will recover. All of these cosmetic issues that go along with the battle we’re in are meaningless to the big picture. Laugh in the face of it. Fix what you can fix if it’s important to you or wear your baldness proudly as so many chose to do. Remember, this is your life, your battle, your body, and your choice.
For those of you who choose to show off your baldness, I salute you and admire you. I’m reminded of a funny T shirt I saw someone wearing. She was bald. Not sure if she was bald as a fashion statement or if she lost her hair during chemotherapy. I really couldn’t tell. She looked so healthy. But her T shirt said: Bald is the new Blonde. Awesome!!!