There are a lot of questions surrounding an itchy scalp and why it occurs during scalp cooling treatment. We’ve seen many questions from members of our Facebook Group who ask if this is “normal” or a sign that the cold cap is not working.
Let us clarify this by saying this is COMPLETELY NORMAL and a very common side effect that many people experience during chemo treatment.
An itchy scalp is a very commonly experienced side effect, which is asked about almost daily in our Facebook Group. It is very frustrating for anyone who experiences it, and many people think that it is a sign from their hair follicles that their hair is about to drop out.
It’s important to know that an itchy scalp is not caused by scalp cooling and does not mean that the cold cap is not working. A sore, itchy or aggravated scalp is effectively the same as your skin on the rest of your body suffering and getting dry – it is caused by the chemotherapy drugs in your system. It occurs for patients regardless of scalp cooling, so even those who have lost all of their hair are likely to have a similar sensation on their scalp.
It can be incredibly tempting to itch the scalp, and because your scalp skin is usually getting dry you may see what may appear to be dandruff, or some people describe it as looking like cradle cap. It’s important to know that washing your hair more frequently may not actually help, but exacerbate the dryness and therefore itchiness. But it’s important to know that no matter how frustrating it is, try to resist any additional tension at the roots of the hair that may come from scratching. No matter how tempting it is, leave your scalp alone.
The good news is, there are ways you can relieve an itchy scalp
First and foremost, it is important for us to say that it is ALWAYS worth speaking to your doctor. If your scalp is driving you mad, there may be medicated shampoos that can be prescribed (also don’t worry, these don’t interfere with scalp cooling).
If you want to try some ways to relieve your scalp at home you can try using pure natural oils such as argan, almond or olive oil in your haircare routine, many people say it helps to soothe and moisturise. Just make sure that you patch test in advance so that you know the oil won’t aggravate your grumpy scalp. For more on this watch our USING OILS IN YOUR HAIRCARE ROUTINE
It is important that you do try your best to keep your hair as manageable as possible during your scalp cooling treatment. It’s about striking a balance between maintaining the important natural oils in your hair, but also ensuring that your scalp is cleansed and your hair is easy enough to look after and brush or finger comb (depending on your hair type). This means you need to be looking at washing your hair less frequently than you did before treatment, certainly no more than twice a week. For more on this read our blog post on WASHING YOUR HAIR
Hopefully the above will help a little and will put any concerns you have on why this side effect is occurring to rest. That prickling, itching sensation isn’t your hair follicles giving up, we promise. Do know this is completely normal and try not to worry. You’ve got this and it will resolve soon.
After finishing scalp cooling ;how soon I return to my normal shampoo and conditioner?
how soon for a trim of the very long hair at the bottom which I am grateful for.
Hi Anita, we recommend waiting until shedding has returned to a normal rate post-final chemo before returning to your normal haircare routine. Please make sure you patch test any products you’re introducing, even those you were fine with before chemo. Chemo has a really drying effect on your skin and scalp and we don’t want to cause any reactions. Hope this helps!
I’ve finished chemo and capping about a week ago, but my scalp has buildup of natural oils I’m assuming that when I scratch it collects under my nails. How do I clear my scalp off without scratching or rubbing it when I wash?
Hi, it may be worth looking into a leave in conditioner, this should be sulphate and paraben free. This could help to remove any of the product build up. Please ensure you patch test before using all over your scalp – we don’t want to cause a reaction. Really hope this helps!
I know coloring is out of the question
Spray in color causes more itching & has a tendency to build up
Are there any natural coloring that can be use
For instance overtone has a temporary conditioning color , to incorporate my natural color & grey hair
I was previously dyeing my hair
Thanks so much this cooling system is really preserving my hair !!! Thank you so
Hi Pam, great to hear you’re having such great success with scalp cooling! We don’t recommend the use of any hair dye, naturally occurring or not. The issue isn’t just the condition of your hair, but also your skin and scalp sensitivity. While you may find ‘natural dyes’, they are still chemicals and something which you could react to, it’s just not worth the risk.
If you have type 1 or 2 hair (straight to wavy), you can use a spritz of root touch up spray, but we recommend using this sparingly and patch test before using. Really hope this helps!
Im in the process of cold capping. Prior to cold capping I had bad dandruff and now with chemo it has gotten worse and itching has increased. I have used products with salicylic acid in the past to relieve scalp itching and wondering if this is safe to use now.
Hi Lindsey, we wouldn’t recommend using salicylic acid on your scalp during chemo, your skin and scalp sensitivity may be much different to what it was before and we don’t want to cause a reaction. If a flaky scalp is something you’ve always taken care of yourself, it may be worth having a conversation with your doctor to see if they can prescribe a medicated shampoo to help. Hope this helps!
I did my first cold capping treatment yesterday. Is it ok to blow dry my hair as I usually do after washing?
Hi Michelle, we don’t recommend using heated styling on your hair, this includes blow drying. You can use the cold setting on your hairdryer, but please don’t use any heat. As chemo has such a drying effect on your hair, its best to stay away from any heat. Hope this helps.