One of the questions we get asked most frequently is ‘what products can I use on my hair when I am scalp cooling?’ It’s a completely understandable question, as a large majority of us rely on products to do the hard work with your hair on a normal day, and the thought of not being able to use them can be pretty unnerving. The good news is that it is not a complete no go when it comes to products, but there are some very clear bits of guidance that we can provide.
First and foremost, we are not able to recommend specific products for use when scalp cooling. It’s not because we don’t want to endorse other company’s products, but simply because there isn’t any clinical data out there to say that the products are safe or effective when used in conjunction with scalp cooling. That doesn’t mean that certain products are unsafe, or not suitable, we just don’t have any proof to show that they are.
What we can do is give you some information that will hopefully help you to make some informed choices as to what is going to work for you.
There is a Paxman shampoo that was developed to be used when scalp cooling, and has been used in trials, so we do know that it is safe. But if you would like an alternative, any shampoo product that is sulphate and paraben free, and if possible color and fragrance free, is completely suitable for use while scalp cooling. What is key to know, is how to wash your hair safely while scalp cooling – you definitely want to be avoiding circular motions and piling your hair on your head. Find out more on washing techniques below.
As with shampoo, we do have a Paxman conditioner available, but you are looking for a sulphate and paraben free product, that would ideally be color and fragrance free. Hydrating products are great, as they will help to manage the condition of your hair as the chemo process begins to dry it out.
If you have curly or coily hair, a thick textured conditioner is great. All hair types can also consider a leave-in conditioner that you can add as and when you need it (a spray in one makes this an easy process), but make sure you are only leaving conditioner in if it is specifically designed for this, otherwise it can make your hair more difficult to wash and manage.
Pure and natural oils can be a great addition to your hair care, but do make sure that you are patch testing before you use anything all over your scalp. Oils can help with a dry scalp and ends of hair, and can be an invaluable part of curly and coily hair as a way to manage frizz and flyaways. You can find out more about using oils below.
Dry shampoo can be a useful tool when you are transitioning towards washing your hair less frequently, but should be used with caution. If you have curly or coily hair it should be avoided as it can block your follicles and cause more trouble than it is worth. If your hair is straight or wavy, a spritz here or there is fine, but make sure you aren’t creating a build-up of product that is hard to wash out. Again, make sure you patch test first, as your scalp can be really sensitive as a result of chemo.
There has been some information in the press recently about dry shampoos being recalled due to them containing benzene, a known carcinogen. Please do check your products for benzene and avoid accordingly. There is more information on benzene in dry shampoos here
Thickening sprays, mousses, styling pastes, hair sprays and gels
We would advise avoiding these products if at all possible when you are scalp cooling. They are likely to make your hair a little or a lot sticky, which will make it more difficult for any shed hairs to be liberated. Often these products may need heat and a blow dry action to be activated, which is also problematic. Fundamentally, these products are probably going to contribute to making your hair more difficult to manage and to wash.
Hair growth products
We would always recommend that you wait until you have finished your treatment until you use any products that ‘promote hair growth’. They generally work by increasing the blood flow to the scalp, which is of course the opposite of what you want to be doing while scalp cooling. The vast majority of these products are designed to be used in other hair loss situations, and there is no product or active ingredient under the sun that is going to prevent or slow down chemotherapy induced hair loss – only scalp cooling can do that. In all honesty, you may as well save yourself the money.
There are some active ingredients that can make a difference to hair regrowth once your chemotherapy is completed – look out for minoxidil and procapil, but they will need several months of consistent use (due to the nature of the hair growth cycle) until they make a difference.
There is no doubt that while you are scalp cooling there is going to be some (potentially big) changes to your hair care routines. It’s a lot to cope with on top of everything else, but if you can embrace high moisture and conditioning approaches, and avoid those heated styling approaches your hair is going to be as easy to manage as possible during your treatment and your retained hair will be in the best possible condition once you are finished.