by Amalia Ruggiero
Published in B-Magazine, April/07
To women, hair is the ultimate symbol of feminity. Hair portrays a woman’s personality and feelings. Hair is known as our crowning glory. Its style, colour and length can make social statements as well as portray an individual’s personality and feelings. For a woman who is undergoing cancer treatments, hair loss represents one of the most devastating side effects. In most cases, hair loss may occur within 10 – 15 days from the first treatment. It may range from thinning to complete baldness, depending on the series of the treatment.
What Does One Do?
It is best to purchase a hair prosthesis (wig) that resembles her own hair, in colour, texture, density and style, before she starts her treatments. This way, the hair replacement specialist that she will be working with can help her choose the correct wig for her. If however, the hair los has already started then it is helpful to have a recent photo for the consultation.
Should her hair just thin out during her treatments, it is best to refrain from colouring her hair. The texture of her hair may change and feel lifeless and brittle. At this point, she may wish to cut her hair shorter then she usually wears it. This will give her thinning hair a thicker look and the hair loss will be less noticeable.
For the woman who has complete hair loss, she may want to have a buzz cut to be about 1/8 inch long when her hair starts to fall out. This can help to reduce the stress that can be associated with the process of hair falling out and also helps the scalp feel less sensitive and irritated.
Taking care of one’s scalp during treatment is very important..
She should continue to shampoo her scalp as if hair is still there. This helps to exfoliate dry skin and reduces the irritation of the scalp. Using a shampoo that has a cooling agent such as Astera or Eucalyptus is very healing and soothing. The message technique brings vascular circulation to the hair follicles and this helps to keep the follicles healthy. Lotion applied to the scalp helps to keep the scalp hydrated. Also she should not forget to use sunscreen if she is planning a day outdoors.
Once treatments are over, when can hair colour be applied if desired?
Depending on the type and duration of her cancer treatment, new hair will eventually start to appear. She can expect new hair to grow at a rate of about a half an inch per month, and the hair might have a slightly different colour and texture. It is best to wait at least three months after her last treatment or until the hair is at least ½ to 1 inch long before applying colour. A professional hair solution stylist will have the knowledge to colour her new hair with hair colour that is low in peroxide and without ammonia. She may find that when she colours her hair for the first time, the colour may not be exactly the colour depth she was hoping for. It also may not colour all the grays. Be patient, it will take a second colour before it urns out right. She should not perm or relax her hair until all her medications is over and to wait at least one year. These application are very harsh to the new hair.
With these tips, a positive attitude and a good self image, one can get through a difficult period of cancer and cancer therapy – beautifully.