Some of our most frequently asked questions from patients are around visiting their hairdresser, and when they can dye their hair once they have finished scalp cooling. Here is a rundown of some of the most common questions and things to be mindful of when it comes to haircuts and styling.
Is it safe for me to visit the hairdresser while I am scalp cooling?
Yes, as long as the hairdresser is aware of your circumstances and moderates their approaches. It’s completely fine to have a trim to get rid of dry ends or a cut if you feel like shorter hair would be more manageable. However, you may want to have a dry cut rather than a wet cut as it might be gentler on your hair.
A blow dry is not advisable, as this will put additional tension on your roots- however it’s fine to get your hairdresser to wash your hair as long as they are being really gentle. You can find some guidance on best practice for washing your hair here.
You really shouldn’t be dying your hair during chemotherapy treatment for a couple of reasons, see the next questions for details
Can I dye my hair during chemotherapy and scalp cooling?
We would really recommend not dying your hair during your treatment. Firstly, because your scalp will be much more reactive due to the chemo, and even if you have had no problems with reacting to hair dye previously, this might not be the case during your treatment. Secondly, your hair will be much drier as a result of chemotherapy, and dying your hair can exacerbate this. It really is best to wait.
What about other chemical treatments?
As with dyeing your hair, any chemical treatments such as straightening, keratin treatments, perms/permanents etc should be avoided during your treatment. This is for exactly the same reasons of potentially reacting to the chemical and also damaging already damaged hair.
Is there anything I should be doing to prepare my hair for scalp cooling?
There is no need to cut your hair short unless you want to. A lot of patients find that collar bone length hair gives enough to be able to tie your hair back and maintain a decent amount of length, but it isn’t so long that it becomes difficult to manage. Whether you are cutting your hair or not, a trim to get rid of dead ends is a good idea as it makes your hair more manageable.
In terms of colour, it is fine to dye your hair about a week before you start your treatment, but you may want to consider that you can’t dye your hair until your chemotherapy is completed. You may want to go closer to your natural hair colour so growth isn’t as obvious. It is also important to think about how the condition of your hair will be affected by chemo – it will dry your hair out, so bleaching or doing anything that might damage your hair, such as a keratin treatment, before you start chemo is not advisable.
When is it safe for me to dye my hair after chemo?
We would suggest that you wait until any shedding has returned to normal. This can take about 12 weeks – maybe longer or less for different people. This gives some time for your scalp and follicles to recover a little. There are then a couple of things to consider –
- Go to an experienced hairdresser who is familiar with your circumstances. They will be able to give you good advice around what your hair is ready for
- You may need wait a bit longer and work on improving the condition of your hair. Chemotherapy has drying effect on your hair and skin, and it is not unusual for your hair to be too compromised for it to be ready for the dying process, particularly if you are wanting to bleach your hair. Spending some time using conditioning products and treatments will result in healthier hair and a much better end result
- Make sure that when you do go ahead with dying your hair that your hairdresser patch tests in advance. It is super important, even if you haven’t had problems before as your scalp and skin may still be reactive or sensitive as a result of the chemotherapy
- Bleaching or highlighting your hair may not be possible if your hair is really dry and compromised after chemo. Bleaching can further damage the hair cuticle and could result in your hair snapping or breaking
What can I do to hide roots or different color regrowth?
There are a couple of options, but generally any root cover up spray or powder is fine to use. Just make sure that you aren’t creating lots of build up that may make your hair difficult to wash.
Is it safer to use vegetable, natural, or semi-permanent dyes?
The source of the chemicals isn’t really the problem – natural chemicals are still chemicals. The same with semi-permanent dyes. Semi-permanent can actually be worse, as if you need to dye more frequently, you are exposing yourself to the chemicals more often. It isn’t really about protecting your hair, its more about your scalp and the potential for you to react to the chemicals – therefore we would still suggest that you stay away from hair dye of any form until your shedding has returned to normal.
Once the shedding has stopped, can I dye my hair at home?
You can do, but we would recommend seeing an experienced hairdresser. This is mainly because you have done so much to look after your hair, and a professional perspective is always a good idea when you are dealing with anything precious. We have also heard that some patients have seen some weird reactions from home dye on their hair. As the chemotherapy drugs have affected your body, they have also affected your hair, and there have been occasions where the color has come out completely different than was intended. A hairdresser will be able to either predict or fix this, which would otherwise be challenging at home.
I’ve got lots of different lengths of hair after loss and regrowth, what’s the best thing to do?
The regrowth stage can be pretty challenging, particularly if you have seen patchy hair loss. It is very much down to personal choice, but patients generally choose one of two different approaches:
Option 1, cut your hair shorter to even out the hair length differences. This might be a pixie or a bob. This is a good choice if you aren’t too attached to having longer hair, or if you are fed up of having to put up with a lot of compromise.
Option 2 is to stick it out for a bit, and tolerate the shorter regrowth, but ask your hairdresser to reshape your hair a little to help blend in the regrowth. If you are really attached to long hair this is probably the better option. It is also amazing the difference a few months growth can make – it can go from bizarre to almost unnoticeable – so if you have the patience, hang on in there.
To shave my head or not to shave whilst scalp cooling?
For some people who are dealing with significant or patchy hair loss, shaving your hair off may be something to consider. Only you will know if it is the right choice for you. It’s a really tough one, but there are some definite pros and cons.
- Shedding is much easier to deal with
- Regrowth will be a consistent length
- Uncertainty around your potential hair loss/retention rates will be gone
- Shedding does slow down as you go through treatment
- Once regrowth starts, hair loss is much easier to hide
- A shorter cut might be a sensible option, but you could potential have a bob or a pixie, rather than losing all of the length entirely
Whether you choose to shave or not, it is important to know that it is completely safe to continue scalp cooling – you only need to stop if you want to.
It is also important not to rush this decision, and not to act when you are having a particularly rough day. Take your time, if it is the right decision, it will still be the right decision a few days later. There have been some patients who have regretted cutting off their hair, especially after seeing other patient’s ways of dealing with regrowth after lots of hair loss. You can have a look at other people’s experiences in our private Facebook Group.
My new hair is growing in gray with a different texture, will it stay that way?
It can take a little time for new hairs to settle in to their ‘normal’ state. For some people the hair growing back after chemo can be a different colour or texture. This is a result of the impact of chemotherapy drugs on the follicles. For some it will stay that way, while for others they will revert to normal after a period of time. The most important thing is that scalp cooling, by protecting your follicles, will help to ensure that the regrowth is fast and healthy.
You may find with different textures in your hairs that this settles more as your hair gets longer, particularly if the new hairs are coming in wavy or curly. As the hair grows and get longer and heavier, the curls may be less obvious.
When can I go back to my normal routine with heat styling and hair products?
Once any shedding has returned to a normal rate, it is fine to go back to your normal routine of washing your hair more frequently with your previous products and using heated styling tools and hair products. Do just be mindful that your hair might be drier and more compromised than it was before you started chemo. It might be wise to use products designed for dry or damaged hair, and to use hair masks or products that will help to improve your hair’s condition. You may also find that you don’t need to wash your hair as frequently as you did as it has adjusted.
Hopefully this has answered a lot of your questions. You can find more hair care guidance and information here, and there is lots more information on this blog.
Please do join our private Facebook Group if you would like to speak to a community of other people who are going through scalp cooling.
What brands of shampoos and conditioners should I use during the treatment ? This should include treatment for dry and itchy scalp .
Hi Doy, we cannot recommend any specific brands, due to not having the clinical data to back it up. We do recommend that shampoo and conditioner is sulphate and paraben free, ideally color and fragrance free too. Hope this helps.
How long after chemo should I wait for a haircut. I kept my hair, but it is shedding a bit now, 5 weeks after last treatment.
Hi Joann, you can get your hair cut, but we recommend a dry cut at this point. We recommend waiting until shedding has returned to a normal rate or at least 3 months post-final chemo before returning to your normal hair care routine. Hope this helps!