Hair care during cold capping is a so important and a great way of helping to ensure the best possible outcomes, but it is probably different to your usual hair care routine.
If you are yet to identify your hair type, start with this post – What Is My Hair Type?
If you are type 1 or 2 then you are in the right place. For those that are type 3&4 check out our hair care guide for you.
There is some guidance you can follow, which will make sure you are doing the best you can for your hair during treatment. People do get very anxious that they are going to do something that will cause all their hair to fall out – this is incredibly unlikely! Hair care is there to support the hard work you are doing with the cold cap, and to ensure the hair you do retain by the end of treatment is in the best condition possible. There are no hard and fast rules, but below is some simple advice that will set you down the right path.
COLD CAP HAIR CARE – The Common Sense Guide
Don’t wash your hair more than twice a week or less than once every 10 days – for some people this may be very daunting, particularly if you are a daily washer. Keep in mind though that a common side effect of chemo is a drying effect on your hair and scalp skin, and washing very frequently will contribute to and exacerbate this. Even if you currently wash your hair every day, your scalp adapts quickly and you shouldn’t find your hair to be too greasy once your treatment is in full swing. It is however important to keep washing your hair regularly, even if it’s once a week and especially if you are shedding heavily – keeping your hair and scalp clean and manageable is crucial. Washing has the added benefit of liberating hairs that are in the process of shedding, which can be terrifying, particularly if you are shedding quite a lot and you find the shower drain full of hair. But it’s really important to remember that washing will not cause hairs to fall out that weren’t already in the process of shedding. In conclusion, you know your hair best – be open minded and follow your instincts, you’ll find out what works for you.
Use color, perfume and sulfate free shampoo and conditioner – it doesn’t matter which brand you use if it fits these criteria. They are all ingredients that can act as irritants, even if you were perfectly fine with them before you started treatment. Chemo will most likely cause your scalp to become very sensitive and sometimes itchy, and your hair to become dry, so these ingredients are best avoided. Also avoid baby shampoo as it is very alkaline, and not gentle enough for a sensitive scalp. It’s often suggested as an option, but we know that it has caused people problems in the past. Try to avoid parabens too, as they are believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking oestrogen.
Smooth shampoo and conditioner into your hair, don’t rub – piling hair on top of your head and massaging in shampoo is all very well and good in adverts, but it’s a one-way street to tangled, matted hair while cold capping. Smooth shampoo and conditioner in and run your fingers through your hair, but avoid at all costs the circular rubbing motions you may be used to.
Brush your hair EVERY DAY – this may seem counter intuitive, especially if you are experiencing heavy shedding, but it is SO important to liberate any shedding hairs. Brushing morning and night will not pull out any hairs that weren’t already shed, but will ensure that loose strands, and hairs that are in the process of dropping will be removed, making it significantly less likely to tangle and even matt. It will also help to brush before you wash your hair too.
Avoid heated styling – using straighteners, flat irons or a curling wand, can have a further drying effect on already dry hair, not to mention the tension that it can put on the roots of your hair. It is fine to use your hairdryer on a cool setting, but use your hands and fingers rather than a brush, again to avoid tension at the roots.
Feel free to use clips, headbands, hats, scarves etc – accessorize to your hearts content! You can be creative to hide patchy baldness, or thinning with whatever works for you, just avoid tension at the roots, so no tight ponytails etc. For those with long hair a braid or low bun can be a good solution, for those with shorter hair, pin back front sections of hair, or a soft head band can be great.
Dry shampoo and coloured root sprays are fine – always test first to be sure of no scalp sensitivity, but using dry shampoo if you are having a bad hair day, or coloured fibres or root spray to cover patchy hair loss is just fine. Though try to avoid using so much that there is a build-up in your hair.
But most importantly – BE KIND TO YOUR HAIR AND YOURSELF. Try not to worry too much. If you follow the above guidelines, and your own instincts you will be just fine. This is a tough road, but know that you are doing everything you can to retain your hair.
You can download our Common Sense Guide to Cold Cap Haircare here
I had my last chemo treatment on 11/1/22. I lost at least half my hair. When will my hair stop shedding? How do I know if new hair growth is coming in? When is it ok to get a highlight?
Hi Cheryl, most patients see shedding slow down around 8 – 12 weeks post-final chemo, for some it can be sooner and some later. Your new hair growth may feel like little fuzzy hairs, please remember shedding and regrowth can happen at the same time, but again this can start coming in around 8 – 12 weeks post-final chemo.
When it comes to highlights, it is best to wait at least 3 months post-final chemo. The worry isn’t just the condition of your hair, but the fact your skin and scalp sensitivity may be much different to what it was before chemo. Always seek the advice of an experienced hairdresser and patch test before, those products you used before chemo and were fine with may cause a reaction now. Hope this helps!
Do I have to use conditioner when using the Paxman cool cap? What will happen if I don’t? I have very oily hair even though my chemo treatments.
Hi Kimberly, yes you need to use conditioner. This is there to aid the removal of the cap, use a coin sized amount and smooth it over your dampened hair. Hope this helps.
I had my first chemo yesterday , they advised to wash out conditioner today , should I shampoo first or leave that to another day .?
Hi Catherine, completely your choice if you choose to wash your hair. All we recommend is that you wash your hair less frequently than normal, no more than twice a week. When you wash your hair is completely your choice. You can choose to either rinse the conditioner out of your hair, or use it as one of your hair wash days. Find a routine that works best for you. Hope this helps!
Is it important to use the shampoo & conditioner you provide in cold cap kit?
Hi Patty, completely your choice, however we do suggest you use a shampoo and conditioner that is free from sulphates and parabens, ideally colour and fragrance too. It’s important to keep your hair as manageable as possible during this process so keeping your natural oils in your hair is really important. Hope this helps!
Can you advise how best to care for my hair using a Paxman and swimming daily? I use a pre swim chlorine block on my hair Aqua Guard with aswim cap but after need to rinse it out. If I can’t shampoo daily can I condition daily?I don’t need to due to dryness, just thought it could help rinse my hair better. I’ve scoured the internet and can’t find ANY guidance AT ALL. Thanks!
Hi Holly, it would be best to avoid putting anything on your hair that isn’t sulphate or paraben free. However, rinsing your hair is a good idea to avoid knotting or tangling. We would also recommend looking into a leave in/spray in conditioner to help.