People experiencing hair loss can have a range of
different emotions ranging from anger to anxiety
and feeling low or depressed. These reactions are
common and quite natural. It can make you feel
self-conscious about your appearance and act as
a constant reminder that you ‘have cancer’. Some
people find that it is not as bad as they expected.
Being prepared and talking about how you feel can
help you adjust to this temporary change in your
appearance. It may be difficult to cope with people’s
reactions to your hair loss. If you are not comfortable
talking about it, give a simple response that creates
boundaries and people often follow your lead
eg. “I have had to have some treatment for my health
and this is the side effect.”
Some treatment centres offer Cold Caps which are said
to help reduce the amount of hair loss. Not all treatment
centres offer these as they can be expensive and
not always successful. If you are interested, ask your
treatment centre if they are available and the cost.
Taking back some control
It can help to plan ahead for how you might deal with
the possibility of hair loss.
- Consider cutting your hair before treatment starts to
give yourself time to adjust. Some people cut their
hair short before treatment starts, while others prefer
to cut their hair in stages.
- Prepare children for your hair loss to help reduce
their feelings of fear or anxiety. Cancer Council’s
Talking to Kids About Cancer includes tips on
how to talk to children about the changes cancer
treatment may cause.
Taking care of hair and scalp during and after treatment
If you have lost your hair:
- gentle massage and moisturising of the scalp can be invigorating and reduce flaky areas
- protect your scalp from the sun with sunscreen or a scarf or hat
- use a pillow case made from satin, polyester or cotton
- you may like to wear a soft cap or beanie to keep your head warm as having no hair or less hair can make you feel cold.
If your scalp is sensitive and your hair is thin:
- use a gentle shampoo and conditioner
- brush your hair gently with a soft bristle brush
- dry your hair naturally or use a cool setting on the hair dryer
- avoid heated rollers, curling wands or straightening irons
- avoid harsh chemicals such as hair colouring, gel, mousse and perming agents
- if you have lost hair under your arms avoid perfumed deodorants.
If you have any concerns, discuss them with your doctor or nurses and follow their specific advice on caring for your scalp during treatment.
Talking to someone else who has experienced hair
loss may be helpful, call Cancer Council 13 11 20
for information and support.
Acknowledgements: The information is based on the expertise of clinicians who work in the area and
consumer experience and was reviewed by: Karen Hall, Clinical Nurse, Cancer
Services Division, Flinders Medical Centre SA; Joy Hills, Support Officer Cancer
Council Tasmania; Frank Hughes - 13 11 20 consultant, Cancer Council Queensland;
Christine Long, Team Leader, Health Professional & Education, Cancer Council
Queensland; Sue Spencer, Clinical Manager Oncology, Breast Care Nurse, Western
Hospital SA; Cancer Council 13 11 20 nurses; Nina Mastrangelo, Consumer SA;
Clinical health professionals at Icon Cancer Care SA.