There are a few chemotherapy drugs that do not cause hair loss, so ask your oncologist whether the ones planned for you will provoke it. Many girls with Breast Cancer who receive TCHP (Taxotere/Taxol/Docetaxel/Carboplatin/Herceptin/Perjeta) will lose their hair, but might indeed keep much of it, if they do Scalp Cooling (Cold Caps). However, if you do FEC (Fluourouracil/Epirubicin/Cyclophosphamide), it is really difficult to keep your hair even if you try the Cold Cap. As I explained in this post https://healthyanatomy.me/2019/04/26/should-i-try-scalp-cooling-to-save-my-hair-during-chemotherapy/, use this Decision Making Tool https://www.scalpcooling.org/decision-aid in order to see what are the chances of you keeping your hair.
My Advice is to always try it, if it is free or if money isn´t an issue for you. But if you have to pay, and you are going to receive FEC, then, I would personally not bother, as if you finally keep some hair, it is going to be in such a horrendous condition that you won´t probably want to show it anyway.
When I learnt I was about to receive seven cycles of the strongest chemo drugs out there (FEC+THP) I was of course not looking forward to losing my precious and gorgeous hair. Before being diagnosed I would complaint about my messy hair just like any other woman in the world, but I actually did like my hair, because, although messy, that was because I never spent much time on it; but I knew I had lots of good quality hair. However it was not until after diagnosis when, hell, my hair passed to be considered (by me) as the most gorgeous hair on earth. And now it had to go!
I knew I was going to try the Cold Cap, but I was prepared to say good bye to it as well (a good soldier always get ready for any event that might arise in their fight). So I spent a good part of my SD card to save photos of my hair. It was like farewell party. I had spent so much money in keratin treatments, colour and balayages just before finding out about my tumour, that I absolutely had to make a photographic ode to my hair.
My Farewell party:
I totally recommend it. It´s highly therapeutical.
Nothing prepares you for when it actually falls. In my case, before it happened, I considered all options:
– The typical one: shave it!
I did consider it vaguely, but this was never a real option for me. To give up my hair before anything happens? Are you mad? I also wanted to see how my hair would react to chemo. I was curious about the side effects.
– Cut it very short and make a wig with my own hair. Instead of paying 2.000 pounds, it would cost me about 1000 to make a wig with my own hair, in London. Still super expensive, but hey, I would keep somehow my own hair!
The thing is that I wanted to wait and see if the Cold Cap worked. I didn´t wanna give up on my hair just like that.
– Cut it and donate it to some good cause before the inevitable happens.
I did consider this, of course, but then I was like: “Wait… the good cause would be to donate it to my own self and do that wig I need, right?” I never wanted to pay 2.000 pounds for a wig.
It also annoyed me a little bit that, in some places I checked, in order to donate, you need to have super long hair (some places do not accept short or medium hair, as they already have a lot, they say…)
I did have long hair, but not that long as they were requesting, which shocked me a little bit. Some other places didn´t want bleached hair, so… I ended up quitting on the super generous idea of giving my hair away.
In the middle of considering my options, chemo day arrived very soon, and I did quickly buy some cotton caps, scarves, hats and a cheap wig, to be fully prepared in the event of losing my hair.
After trying the Cold Cap twice I understood that it was not going to work for me. Sometimes it is not about the hope you put into things, and how positive you are. I was being positive and cheerful and it was useless, I must say.
My theory is that perhaps my scalp wasn´t as cold as it should have been, because I had so much hair that this prevented the cap to properly touch my scalp. FEC chemo is also terrorific. Who knows.
Around day 15 after the first chemo, some itchy sensation started in some body areas where I still had hair, and it all fell in the following days. As this didn´t happen in my head, I was a bit relieved, and really thought that I was going to be lucky to save my head hair from falling.
As I explained in the Scalp Cooling post, from day 20 (after my first cycle of chemo), and until about day 34 I did lose big bunches of hair, twice per day, when I´d comb it.
At first (day 20) it was only like this:
I still had lots of hair, so I tried not to get put off by this, and so, I did Scalp Cooling again.
On day 21, I decided to cut it to make the loss less traumatic:
It was so uneven, but… who cared? It seemed as if I was going to lose it anyway…
On day 23 the whole situation became even more dramatic, as the amount of hair falling at the same time was unbelievable.
Check this out!
What a creepy feeling it was!
I saw my hair going morning and night, every time I gently passed my comb (with so much care!), and it would just fall, and fill bins and more bins (two rubbish bins per day!)
It seemed like it would never end. I did hoover my house twice per day for two whole weeks. I was desperate, as I would collect the hair with my hands, but also in the pillow, in the shower, in the sofa… They were absolutely everywhere!
Going to the street when your hair is falling due to chemo is so scary. Because there is always lots of hair hanging in your clothes. I was so self-conscious! My advice? Collect it in a pony tail or wear a hat.
Get Some Paracetamol
What they don´t tell you in the movies is how much it hurts when the hair falls. For me, it was absolutely painful. Before it falls, it is itchy, so you understand it is coming. Until it doesn´t feel itchy, just don´t worry. Before day 21 (when it started falling) if one of my hairs fell, I was like: “Oh no! Hear it comes!”, but I promise you: you will realise when the big loss is about to happen.
The feeling of every single hair that dies in your head is absolutely excruciating. It just hurts so much; the whole head is so sensitive! It is like if the hair scratched your scalp every time they say goodbye.
There was a point (around day 29, after having done Scalp Cooling twice) when I woke up and my hair started turning, twitching, rolling, getting full of knots, tangling… There was no way a brush could comb that hair.
At this point I was in so much pain that I could have benefitted from tons of Paracetamol, although it didn´t occur to me to take any. I couldn´t even sleep, as any contact in my head would make me shout in agony. The scalp was so sore!
I surfed all over the Internet to try to find the solution to that mystery (and misery): why was that happening? Would coconut oil or a special conditioner help me to detangle it? I only found a case of one girl who had the same situation, but she ended up cutting it. I did not want to give up on my hair, but after three days with such a nest on my head, I did understand that my hair was dead.
At this point it was funny (actually it wasn´t at all), but it was unfortunate that I could not shave my head, as the scalp was so sore, that I honestly thought I was bleeding.
Just imagine someone grabbing your hair from the roots and twisting it so strongly that you feel is going to get violently taken out. I just couldn´t bear with this situation any longer, so the only solution was to cut the big chunks of hair, until I looked more like Gollum than to anyone else.
That was me. Except for the blue eyes (mine are brown).
But guess what?
After all that suffering it actually made me feel so happy when I cut all my hair. I was so relieved to be able to finally sleep! I was happy to see myself finally bald; it was such a liberation! After a couple of days, I could finally smile and sleep.
I then understood what many women say: that shaving the hair in advance gives you some control; some power, they say, over Cancer. But Cancer is not who takes your hair. It is fucking chemo.
I do get their point, although I am happy with my decision of not shaving it in advance. Because I didn´t want to give up. I have fought for my hair in all possible ways, and I lost. I was bald, but so relieved and happy to have given it all.
Plus now I am more knowledgeable. I actually love experimenting!
By the way, even if you don´t do Scalp Cooling to preserve your hair, it is not uncommon to see your hair coming back while receiving TCHP chemo. Some hair will still fall, but others will keep on growing. Mine started to grow as soon as FEC was out of my system (one month and 22 days after the last FEC cycle, to be precise), and when I had received two cycles of Docetaxel (Taxotere) my hair started showing! On the day of my birthday!
At first I thought it was dirty or even my Cancer spreading to my scalp (that is how positive I am sometimes), and then I remember my dear Homer Simpson, and I realised that the shadow must be hair!
What to do when you actually lose your Hair
Crying is a must. You will for sure do some mourning.
To lose any kind of hair is quite traumatic. Also because it is so fast. You know it is something that is coming, but nothing prepares you for when you actually lose it. A few women assure that they do not actually mind that much losing their hair, but admit that this is because they do not have great hair. These women also say that, when their hair came back, it was actually stronger than before.
But the majority of women out there will tell you that this was the worst part of their whole Cancer journey. For me, it has been. If this illness didn´t make me lose the hair, I would have felt as if I could come back to my normal self and life much faster, after treatment was over. But when everything finishes, and your face starts getting back to normal (really slowly, let me add), you still have to look at yourself in the mirror and see that little hair that seems nothing like it used to.
Another reaction/comment from many women with Breast Cancer who suffered hair loss is that they considered more traumatic to lose their hair than losing their breast(s). I completely disagree with this one, though. Even though the whole losing your hair experience is traumatic, hair is just hair and it will come back, but a breast you cannot grow it, for God´s sake.
Anyway, each person is different, of course.
In any case, after a bit of crying and feeling miserable, get back into the game!
Some amazing women are happy to go bald, but it is just so difficult to look good without hair. Think of Natalie Portman or Demi Moore. Well, they looked great in those movies but they were shaved, not bald! Bald is a completely different story. It is tough.
Having said that, I have to add:
Who cares about the lack of hair in these cases, right?
A few very lucky woman can also rock the bald look.
I would also be happy to be bald if I looked like her. However, 99% of people don´t look that good without hair, and are not going to follow that example. Besides, she is not 100% bald. Total baldness is still different than that.
Having said all that, let´s check for a few solutions to make our life more bearable while our hair is gone.
Here is a Shopping List that might be useful for you:
Cotton Caps for Sleeping
These can be useful even if Scalp Cooling works for you, because there will always be much hair falling, and you don´t want to see your pillow and the whole house full of hairs.
I started buying two, but I ended up buying four more. They are very useful, as I said, to collect all the falling hairs, and when they have fallen, to keep you warm in the winter nights. They are also great to hide your scalp. I mean, some women do not mind about showing their scalps to their family, but I was not even comfortable showing my baldness to myself. It is not only because bald heads are a bit ugly, but also because it was a reminder that I was sick, and the thing is that I didn´t feel sick at all! I mean I had Cancer and chemo was a killer, but I was healthy otherwise!
You can find these cotton caps in Amazon for 7 pounds, but also in Ali Express for as little as 1.50!
There are of course websites that will want to rip you off, but do not let them. I was happy with my 3-pounds hats from Ali Express. After all, why do you want to spend so much money in the ugliest hat ever, that you will want to burn as soon as chemo is over?
This one is a very simple style that will do the job perfectly:
Webs like this are a bit shameful… I mean 20 pounds for a horrendous hat…?
I really disrespect the idea of making a business out of such a terrible event. I mean… we have to buy these hideous hats out of necessity; not for fashion!
Some women look just gorgeous with scarves. Perhaps you are one of them!
I would use scarves at home, on top of that ugly cotton hat, as it can give an impression of having hair. Again, my recommendation is buy scarves in Ali Express.
I did like these ones, and they are 3 pounds!
They are large, don´t slip off, and they do the job really well. They will really keep you warm in the winter.
If it is Summer when you need them, then these ones are very light (the measure is a bit weird, though; a bit long and just wide enough):
They are around 1.50.
Honestly, why would you want to spend more money on this? These ones absolutely do the job. I can assure you that when chemo finishes you will want to burn the clothes that remind you of such a tough time.
The only trouble with Ali Express is that it might take a long time for the goodies to arrive (sometimes a month!) Check the delivery time in their website.
And if you cannot wait that long, then I liked these ones from Deresina very much. They have the right meassure and lots of colours! You can get them from Amazon, which is much faster than Ali Express). They are a bit more expensive, though (5.99).
This is a tricky one. There are a thousand bad wigs out there, and very few decent ones. And the great ones are utterly expensive (prices range from 500 to 2.500 pounds).
The general recommendation is: if you have lost your hair to chemo, this will usually come back after you finish your treatment, and so, it is advised to buy a good synthetic wig, because they are cheaper and they do not require much effort from you. Besides that, nowadays they can be very realistic.
A human hair one (usually made of Peruvian or Brazilian hair) will cost more money, and they do need styling (as real hair does), but of course the texture of the hair will be so much better. Besides that, they can look absolutely realistic. Well, because it is real hair, isn´t it?
If you have Alopecia for other reasons and your hair wont come back, then, there are many solutions out there where they glue real hair onto your scalp, and you will be able to wash it and style it as if it was yours! You will even sleep with it! I find it amazing what they can do these days. In London there is one very popular place called Jennifer Effie´s Solutions.
But this… solution is definitely not recommended if your hair is going to grow back. You can still do it, but I personally didn´t want to have any hair glued to the new hair growing in my head. My new hair is too precious since day one!
If you don´t want to spend that much money, then, keep reading!
These are the best synthetic wigs I found during months of research. Some of them are really cheap!
Check the customers´photos!
I did buy one from Chantiche that is not in the market anymore (so I cannot paste here a link), but they do have a similar one, very cheap, that is very long, and it is made of good synthetic quality hair. You can cut it (because it is definitely too long), and, of course, the top part is not realistic, but with a hat you can pull it off! You will see mine later on in this post.
This one is from the same brand, and I find the hair to be realistic. Again, the hairline is not great, so you will need a hat.
A very decent one; again, from Chantiche.
This one doesn´t have any reviews, but I felt tempted to buy it on many occasions.
If this one had the hairline in the other side, I would have purchased it. The photos from the customers look really nice.
The good thing about Amazon is that you can return it, if you are not completely satisfied, so you don´t have anything to lose!
When buying a wig, you can always try to find a similar hair to yours, but you can also have fun and try that hair you´ve always wanted to have!
Feeling adventurous? Why don´t you Try Pinkish?
I did buy this one, and it has a good amount of hair, plus it is very comfortable!
I did need to wear it with a hat as well, as I could not find a single synthetic wig with a realistic hairline in Amazon.
The only good synthetic wig (and with a decent hairline) costed 700 euros in a Spanish hairdresser. However, I was still not convinced by it.
I think the issue I encountered in many of the wigs I saw is that they have more hair on the top than on the bottom part, making it look as if you are wearing a big helmet.
Take your time before making a decision. People (friends and family) might want to rush you, but if you take decisions lightly, you may spend much money in things that you might not need at the end.
During my chemo months I used a synthetic wig that costed me 13 pounds. I wasn´t being stingy, I swear (my family laughs at me for this). I just found it to be exactly what I needed in those winter months, when I was so cold, that I didn´t mind to wear a hat at all times. Because I did have a massive amount of hair before, and when I found myself bald, oh my… I was freezing at all times. So I started using that wig from Amazon that did work really well, so… why to change?
After 5 months using it (let´s say I used it for about 40 days, as I was at home most of the days in which I didn´t have medical appointments), that was as soon as I finished chemo, I did cut the length of the wig, as it was quite damaged already. After cutting it, it was still quite good to use it with a hat (this time a Summer hat).
In May my chemo sessions finished and the Spring had arrived, so I did travel to Spain to buy a natural wig, thinking that it would be cheaper than in the UK. Well, I was wrong. I got a natural one, which did cost 1.500 euros. Outrageous, as I find it to have very few hairs, and it does make me feel really strange, as I used to have so much.
After a month os use, I think is decent; I must admit I am getting used to it (well, there´s not much choice, is there?)
Chemotherapy destroys your image, I know! But I could finally get out without a hat!
I was so relieved!
If I could do things again, I would have bought a wig from Nuola Wigs (link).
Look at this gorgeous collection! https://www.nuolawigs.com/wigs
Besides that, they discount 10% and the VAT for people who suffer medical hair loss. It is all benefits really!
Eniola is the owner and creator of Nuolawigs UK. She is a Wigmaker in London, and she is also a Graduate MPhil Chemistry Student from Durham University. She has always been interested in fashion and beauty. Eniola and her two partners claim to create “trendy hairstyle wigs that are realistic looking with a natural hairline and glue-less”.
The truth is that they do have really nice wigs (the best ones I have seen in the whole Internet, after months of research!), but they do not have a physical shop where you can try them, and this fact made me pass on them, as wigs are about 700 to 800 pounds. Compared to others in the market (that range from 1500 to 2500 pounds), Nuola Wigs are definitely a better value, but could I trust that they are as good as they seem? No idea! There are so many scams out there!
Another problem I find is that you cannot return a wig. At the beginning I though this was for hygiene reasons, but Eniola told me that, if I find the wig unsuitable for me, they can, then, change it for another one. This made me think that it is not for these purposes; so, if the wigs are so good, why can they not be returned? I find it contradictory and slightly annoying.
I might still buy one from them later on, but from my initial investment of 13 pounds to now thinking of spending about 2000 in total… there is an abysm (as I have already purchased a human hair one for 1.500). I have always been a woman of extremes it seems. Not good.
In any case, if you buy a wig (synthetic or natural), remember that you will need a wig stand. This was the best value I found, as you get three for nine pounds.
If you buy a natural one in a shop, they will of course provide you with one (they better do, after spending so much money!)
Wig Cap Liner
Not that I had hair to keep in place (I didn´t have any; ok, maybe I kept about thirty brave hairs – I could actually count them), but this was useful for me during the winter months, as it was really cold in London.
They are, however, super tight and they even made a mark in my head and provoked a headache sometimes. If you want to be extra warm, these ones are good value for the money:
In the winter there are so many options out there. You just need to try them to see which ones are the most suitable for your shape of face.
Check this article to see different types of hats:
Beanies are the typical ones to be used during the winter months, although they were terrible for my long face. However, I found this type of beanie (Rastafarian style) to be suitable for my face.
This beanie is not great for a long face, but it did cost 1 pound in Ali Express, and I needed different colours to match my hats with my clothes!
And this is how cold it was in London!
Beret hats can be quite fashionable, and baseball caps are great for the Spring and summer.
You can keep your hats in your wardrobe, on top of your wigs.
Don´t forget to take care of your head!
Remember that even though you don´t have hair, you need to wash your head, and keep it moisturised, during chemoherapy.
Use gentle shampoos and conditioners, without chemicals on them, and comb your fuzzy hair gently while on chemo. A hair brush for babies will help:
However, as soon as your hair comes back, and it covers your whole scalp, start combing it properly. It doesn´t matter if it looks like a soft fragile hair. You must increase the blood flow in the scalp, with a proper comb and with a daily massage to make it flourish.
More about how to grow your hair faster in another post!