It is not common to lose eyelashes and eyebrows with FEC chemo, but it is very probable (even expected) with Docetaxel/Taxotere or Taxol.
It is unbelievable that Paxman (or any other, really) has not created a method to also cool the eyebrows during chemo infusions. I believe that it would have been enough to make the Scalp Cooling cap a bit longer, in order to cover the eyebrows, and perhaps avoid the forehead. It cannot be that difficult. The technology is already there!
Before starting Docetaxel/Taxotere, I thought of buying a thousand eye cool masks and a little freezer, in order to create a home-made solution to keep my eyebrows and eyelashes during chemo. However, it was really difficult to find a portable freezer that worked with batteries, or, more accurately said, to find an affordable one. I was not in the mood of paying about 400 pounds only for the sake of keeping my eyebrows and lashes. I mean, at the end, they usually come back a few months after chemo, and I kept on reading that not all women lose their full eyebrows in the process.
However, after my third cycle of FEC chemo, my eyebrows lost quite a few hairs, which I found really depressing, as I had not even started Docetaxel yet, the number one enemy of eyebrows and eyelashes.
Soon after Docetaxel started, my eyebrows changed a lot.
It was quite annoying and disheartening to lose these hairs as well, because they give people so much expression to their faces. I looked exactly the same as the Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Losing the hair from my eyebrows was a subtler process (than losing the hair from my head). I never realised when the hairs were falling (I assume it was every time I washed my face), but whenever I looked, I saw fewer and fewer hairs. The good thing, though, is that, during chemo, I always had some new very little hairs growing.
Although they were very sparse, I never really lost the shape of my eyebrows, so I could paint them easily and get away with them.
However, the day to day at home, without make up, was quite depressing, so I avoided mirrors during this time.
Losing the eyelashes was another different story. Soon after my 1st Docetaxel infusion, they lost all strength, and they suddenly became totally flaccid! So, when I showered, about ten hairs at the same time would go into my eyes, before falling.
It was absolutely painful. I soon lost almost all eyelashes, and those ones didn´t grow during my following infusions. I only kept about four or five eyelashes in each eyelid, and they looked so ridiculous that I had to cut them.
Only when you lose them, you do realise how important eyelashes are. Each hair in our eyelids is absolutely relevant for our well-being. These hairs are not just great to make your eyes look prettier (which of course they do), but they also act as a wonderful barrier for the eye, avoiding dust, dirt and even strong chemicals, just as the hairs from the nose do. Losing these two types of hair made my life miserable during those chemo months.
My eyes were absolutely red and irritated during the last months of chemo, when I received Docetaxel, not only for the drug itself but also for the lack of eyelashes, and therefore, protection.
I didn´t use fake ones, because if I had to wear make up, paint my eyebrows, put on a wig and, on top, glue fake eyelashes to my eyes, I would have rather stayed at home, honestly. I hate wearing makeup and fake stuff on me, so I felt I couldn´t cope with fake eyelashes as well.
Microblading BEFORE starting Chemotherapy
Microblading consists in getting semi permanent tattoos where your eyebrows are, emulating hairs. This is a great solution, which will make your life a bit easier during these tough times, as long as you do this before starting chemotherapy. Once you have started chemo, this is absolutely forbidden, as you might get an infection. It is not just because the tools might not be sterilised, but also because your body might not be strong enough to fight against a simple needle.
If you are planning to do it, it´s also advised that you do this before chemo, so the professional can draw your eyebrows exactly as they are naturally (so when the hairs come back, they don´t do it out of the margins that the professional drew).
I didn´t do this, as I thought I was too hairy and would not need it. Well, I could have benefitted from microblading, to be honest. I think anyone could do, especially if they are going to be going out a lot during the chemo months.
The results are great! Check this out!
Make up was the solution for me during my chemo months. I have never been an expert in this department (the opposite actually), but I found that with the correct brush, it was really easy to draw hairs in those annoying blank spaces.
TatBrow has the perfect brush to make this an easy process, and for $16 you can get two of those.
But I didn´t order from here, because I always get tricked with the taxes (I am in Europe), and, whenever I order from the USA, I end up paying much more than I should. That is why I decided to search in Amazon for an alternative, and found the same brush for just 2.99 pounds.
The product dries very fast, though, so I am not recommending it whatsoever; and at the beginning I was really annoyed because of this; but then I realised I could use the brush with a brown powder that I had for eyebrows. It was perfect, and now I use it everyday!
Check this tutorial, if you are unsure of how to paint your eyebrows. I agree; it isn´t easy!
If you haven´t had time to do microblading before chemo, and unfortunately you have lost too many hairs to be able to paint your eyebrows and make them look natural, there is still a solution. Eyebrow wigs!
The best looking ones out there, in my opinion, are Mission Brows, created by a girl who had Cancer herself.
You can find them in two shades and they are $49. However, I am not sure how much would they cost after delivery and taxes, if you are ordering from Europe.
A little bit more expensive are these ones from Simply Wigs. In this website you can find very realistic ones for 65 pounds.
The good thing about fake eyelashes is that they are everywhere. In the UK they are sold in Boots, Super Drug, TKMaxx, etc.
They are not extremely difficult to put in normal circumstances, but I cannot comment on how easy they are to glue, once you don´t have eyelashes.
I would recommend you not to use any fake lashes during chemo, as the glue might irritate your eyes further. If you feel that you must use them one day, because you cannot stand the idea of going out without eyelashes, then do so, but put very little glue in your eyes, and perhaps you want to put a little paper covering your eyes, to further protect them, until the glue is dry.
When Will My Hair Come Back?
Just out of interest, generally, the upper eyelid has about 90 to 150 lashes on it, while the bottom usually has between 70 and 80 lashes, and a normal person will have three or fours eyelashes falling per day. Most eyelashes grow to be about 10 mm long.
Each hair in your body (and therefore, also eyelashes and eyebrows) grow in three different phases.
Growth Phase (Anagen)
The eyelashes on this phase will be actively growing. This period lasts only between 30 and 45 days for eyelashes and eyebrows (for head hair it can last up to seven years!) Well, eyelashes and eyebrows don´t have to grow that much, do they? That is why they only need a month, or month and a half, to reach their full size.
Only about 40% of the upper eyelashes and 15% of the lower eyelashes are in this phase at one time. Each lash will grow to a specific length, and then, it will stop.
Transition Phase (Catagen)
During this phase, the lash stops growing. This phase lasts between two and three weeks.
If an eyelash falls out or is plucked out during this phase, it won’t grow back right away because the follicle needs to complete the Catagen phase before it can move on to the Telogen phase.
Resting Phase or Falling Out Phase (Telogen)
This is when a hair falls out. This doesn´t mean that the hair will not come back. It can take more than 100 days before the eyelash (or any hair) falls out and a new one begins to grow.
Because each individual lash is in its own phase of the growing cycle, it’s normal for a few lashes to fall out most days.
So how long after finishing Chemo to see my eyelashes finally grow?
You need to bear in mind that chemo has interrupted your hair follicles phase (whatever phase they were at), and it will take a while until the follicle becomes normal again.
If you consider than the last chemo can still be affecting your system two months after finishing your last dose, and that some follicles might have been in resting phase, it would take about 8, 9 or 10 weeks for you to start seeing hairs coming in your eyelashes and eyebrows. These will be the ones in the Anagen phase. But remember that you will only be seeing about 40% of the hairs you will eventually have in your eyelids. They will probably grow in sparse, but they will gain fullness over time.
After another extra 4 to 6 weeks (what the Anagen phase lasts) these hairs will stop growing, and nothing will grow in these follicles for another extra two weeks; however other follicles will be producing other hairs as well at this time (in their Anagen phase).
So let´s imagine you finished chemo on 1st of January, and that only at the beginning of March the chemo is out of your system. Then, from 1st of March until mid April you will only see 40% of your eyelashes coming out (the ones in the Anagen phase).
You might need to wait about four to five months after chemo to get to see a new full set of eyelashes and eyebrows. Consider, of course, that everyone is different, and that for some people it will take longer or shorter to see their eyelashes and eyebrows as they used to be.
Bear in mind that Docetaxel/Taxotere is a strong drug that can provoke strange side effects in your body. Some women report that even 4 months post chemo they still have their eyelashes falling out again (even a second and a third time!) I don´t want to discourage you, but they say this can happen.
My eyebrows and eyelashes did finally stop from falling five weeks after chemo ended, but they didn´t start coming out till week 8 (the bottom eyelids), and week 9 (the upper ones). 9 weeks after chemo they all started growing at a good rate. Well…, at least 40% of them started in weeks 8 and 9.
As I said, eyebrows are subtler (they were for me). I never saw them falling, although they were indeed going all the time. My eyebrows looked their worst a month after finishing chemo. However, after 9 weeks of finishing chemo, they finally started recovering. They just looked fuller, all of a sudden.
Grow, Grow, Grow!
To accelerate the growth of your eyebrows you can try the following:
– Jamaican Black castor oil (put this only in your eyebrows, as this is too strong for your eyelashes).
– Any product that contains Biotin, Panthenol, and Hyaluronic acid will help your eyebrows get stronger.
I also used RapidBrow Eye Brow Enhancing Serum, which I bought in Amazon, but I did not like it at all. It lasted very little, and didn´t make any difference during chemo.
There are a thousand products out there that can work in the process of making your eyelashes and eyebrows grow faster, but bear in mind that they can only help once the hairs are out.
Chemo drugs are really strong, and there is not a single product in the market that will help you retain hair during chemo or make your hair grow faster. Moreover, during chemo I kept on insisting applying products (several ones) and, as I didn´t have enough eyelashes, all these liquids entered my eyes and irritated them more.
Forget About Applying Magic Lotions in your Eyelashes During Chemo
This is my advice. Do not use anything on your eyelashes during chemo, and not until two months after finishing.
Chemo will affect your super fast diving follicles (the ones that are in the Anagen phase), and there is nothing that can help you with that. Do not spend money or waste your time and energy in trying to save them. You will only make your eyes worst, and it can be very painful to have these products inside your eyes (because they will enter your eye, 100% sure, as there is no hair to stop the product from entering)
Once your eyelashes start coming out (about eight weeks after finishing chemo), you can then start applying products.
I tried several eyelashes serums, but would not recommend any particular one.
I used Lilash, which is expensive (about 70 pounds), so, even though I did notice an improvement (again, once the hairs were out), I would not purchase such an expensive product again.
Perhaps you can try Evo Eyelash Formula, which is slightly cheaper (about 44 pounds) and it works well.
M2 Beauté causes discoloration under the eye, so, although it works, I would never ever recommend it. I would actually prevent people from using it!
I also used cheaper serums (bought in TKMaxx) that contained the typical ingredients that promote hair growth (Biotin, Hyaluronic, Panthenol, etc), but they only irritated my eyes, so forget about the placebo effect and ignore cheap products.
Check this list to know more about some of the mentioned products and other serums, that might help you recover your eyelashes sooner (once they are out, allow me to repeat this).
Finally, there is an off-label medicine that has proved to work well for eyelashes. Latisse or Lumigan are brands for Bimatoprost, a medication used to treat high pressure inside the eye and glaucoma. The truth is that it increases the size of the eyelashes, and this is why many women use it, especially in the USA. It is not that common in Europe yet, but people are starting to use it more and more for the beauty purpose.
Bimatoprost is generally safe when applied to the base of the eyelashes at the lid margin, with minimum side effect, as stated in scientific literature:
In the UK you can order it here:
3 months supply cost 79 pounds; 6 months, 135; and 12 months, 250.
In any case, you must understand that your facial hairs will come back eventually, at its own time (of course, your “moustache” will always come back sooner than your gorgeous eyelashes…); but you need to be patient.
Don´t be in a rush. If after six months of finishing chemo you think your eyebrows or eyelashes didn´t come back as they used to be, make an investment, then. Bimatoprost is the medicine that might truly help you to grow beautiful eyelashes.