My mom and I in Paris in 2008. (I have my long, brown hair back!)
When I went through chemotherapy at age 16, my doctor assured me my hair was going to fall out. I was devastated! Right then and there was when my obsession with my hair started.
Hair loss typically begins 2–3 weeks after chemotherapy starts. My long, brown hair-which I took for granted (and loved)-started to rapidly thin. I got it cut short (for the first time ever!), because the doctor told me it would be easier for the hair to come out in short strands than in longer locks. I still remember feeling like I was losing a part of myself.
My hair thinned a lot, but it never did completely fall out. I was kind of in the middle-not bald, nor with a full head of hair. I had fuzzy, thin hair with bald spots. Naturally, I had to get wigs. I thought to myself, “This isn’t bad. I can shop for wigs and maybe become a blond for a month or so! How great would it be to show up at Spanish class with a red wig?” But I played it safe and bought a brown wig, which I treated like my own precious hair.
Soon after my chemotherapy treatments stopped, my hair started to grow back again, slowly, but surely. To my surprise (and my mom’s), it came in curly! I mean, my hair was so straight before, it almost required perms. The texture changed too, to something quite fine and fragile. As the years have gone by, I’ve had to learn how to manage hair that once used to be as strong as a rope. I have accepted my fine hair and have learned to take care of it and nurture it.
Now, at age 33, my hair is still my obsession. Below are some tips on how to deal with hair loss, and how to cope with changes that come with treatment.
1. You may also lose eyebrows, eyelashes, facial hair and body hair. Great eyebrow kits make it really simple. I love Anastasia’s 5-Element Brow Kit, which comes with different size stencils. Everything a beginner needs! Also, check out her blog for more tips on brows.
2. The amount of hair you lose is related to the type of chemotherapy you receive. However, expect it to thin quite a bit, like mine did. If you’re a woman, get a short do to avoid messy hair clumps. I cut my hair short 2 weeks before treatment. My dad let his hair thin to the point where he shaved it off. We liked his sleek look!
3. Shop for a wig before your hair is gone. It can take some time to find the right color match and style. Take some friends with you. I remember we had some laughs as we all tried on wigs. (Check with your insurance company-if they cover the cost of your wig, you can save some money.) Click here to read all our posts on wigs.
4. Be very gentle with your hair. If it’s long, avoid elastics and wear a braid at night to limit breakage. Invest in a satin pillowcase. (Your skin will thank you, too!) There’s less friction and pull while you sleep.
5. Besides wigs, try hats and fun scarves! I sure did-I had a nice hat collection. Hats will also protect your very sensitive scalp from the sun. We love the scarves from Head Covers.
6. If you’re not wearing a hat, remember to use chemical-free sunscreen (with an SPF of at least 30) on your scalp. Your skin as well as your scalp will become photosensitive. Protection is very critical during treatment. Try a natural formula like Burt’s Bees SPF 30 which is free of toxins. (Click here to read about sun-sensitivity during cancer and for other chemical-free sun block suggestions.)
7. Use gentle, natural shampoos that don’t contain the skin irritant sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. Choose organic formulas like Avalon shampoos and conditioners. My dad used the volumizing and thickening formulas during treatment. I use it now to add volume to my fine hair. I swear by this shampoo! For dehydrated scalps and hair, work in massage oils like Intelligent Nutrients oil. I love this formula for its amazing natural oils like jojoba and black cumin, which are extremely nourishing and restoring for your sensitive scalp and hair. I also like Organic Dry Scalp Sheabutter-it’s free of petroleum and minerals oils that can clog your scalp pores and not allow them to breathe. Not good!
Remember, losing your hair does not change who you are as a person. It may be hard, but you are still you! I am still me.
Please let us know if any of my tips have helped you-or if you have any tips on hair loss.