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 3 or 4 then you are in the right place. For those that are type 1 or 2 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

Wash your hair less frequently than normal – Chemo has a real drying effect on your hair and scalp skin and you will probably quickly begin to notice that your hair doesn’t require washing as often. It is important to keep washing your hair regularly though, especially if you are shedding heavily – keeping your hair and scalp clean and manageable is important. Washing has the added benefit of liberating hairs that are in the process of shedding, which can be terrifying. 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. 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. 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, or alternative mix some shampoo with a little water and pour over your hair to get right in to the scalp. At all costs avoid the circular rubbing motions you may be used to.

Use plenty of conditioner and natural oils – Chemo is going to really dry your hair out so use plenty of conditioning products to keep your hair as manageable and healthy as possible. Use lots of conditioner when you wash, spray in conditioner whenever you fancy, and natural oils such as vitamin E, grape seed or argan oil. Just avoid oils the day before your treatment as it will make it harder to wet your hair in preparation for the cap.

Really wet your hair before putting on your cold cap – You may need some help from a friend or assistant if you have really thick hair, but it’s important that you really get water through
to the scalp and ensure that you get as much volume out of your hair as possible to get a good fit with your cap. Make sure you get your hair as wet as needed to get it as flat as possible, then smooth conditioner over the surface. It is also important to wet your hair when your cap is sized,to get an accurate fit. If during your treatment you do shed quite a bit you may also want to consider going down a cap size to achieve a better fit as your hair volume may have reduced.

Brushing your hair is really important – This may seem counter intuitive, especially if you are experiencing heavy shedding, but it is SO important to liberate any shedding hairs to avoid knotting and matting. Use a wide tooth comb or curly hair detangling brush and brush through thoroughly but gently while it is still wet after you have washed it. Every 2 days, dampen your hair (with water or spray in conditioner/detangler) and brush thoroughly. On in between days make sure that you finger comb your hair. Brushing or finger combing gently but thoroughly 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 mat.

Avoid all heated styling – Using straighteners, flat irons, blow dryers 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. No matter how tempting it is, try to avoid.

Use a scarf, loose band or hat to keep your hair away from your face – They will keep your hair back without adding tension to your roots. A soft fabric head band or combs can also be great. Avoid clips, pins or tight ponytail bands as your hair is likely to tangle around them.

Don’t use dry shampoo but coloured root sprays are fine – Dry shampoo will clog your follicles. But coloured root sprays are fine and can be a really simple way to hide roots or cover patchy hair loss. Always test first in case it causes problems with scalp sensitivity, though try to avoid using so much that there is a build-up in your hair.

No braids or weaves while scalp cooling – The additional tension on the roots of hair can be detrimental to hair retention. Similarly, relaxing should be avoided too, firstly because the chemicals on a sensitive scalp should be completely avoided, but also because it will cause further drying to your hair. It is no problem to wear a wig if it makes your more comfortable, but again, avoid additional tension or friction on the roots of your hair.

You can download our Common Sense Guide to Cold Cap Haircare here