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The Talk Peach guide to all things hair

Why does chemotherapy cause your hair fall out? How can I prepare for this? Are there any special tips for taking care of my hair during chemotherapy treatment and  long until it grows back!? 

For many individuals one of the most daunting things about chemotherapy is the thought of losing their hair. Understanding the process and being prepared for hair loss is a great way to minimise the anxieties around it. 

Below we have made a list of frequently asked questions about hair loss and chemotherapy. 

Questions and Answers

Chemotherapy is an umbrella term for any cancer treatment using what are known as cytostatics. Cancerous cells divide rapidly and cytostatic drugs are drugs that set out to destroy these rapidly dividing cells or to delay their growth. Unfortunately, they also destroy other rapidly dividing cells such as the cells in our follicles that make our hair grow. This is why chemotherapy can also cause hair loss.

Many cancer treatments differ, and all chemotherapy regimens use different combinations of drugs depending on what cancer you have . Some chemo regimens will cause hair loss and others cause very little to no hair loss whatsoever. Some people experience their hair thinning or notice it becomes a lot duller or drier during treatment. Your medical team will know the likelihood of you losing your hair based on the type of chemotherapy treatment you have been prescribed.

During chemo it’s best to be gentle on your hair and scalp, your skin can dry out and become more sensitive during chemo. Don’t wash your hair too vigorously and if you can it’s best to use a more gentle hair care range. If you use a hair dryer or styling tools it’s best to keep them at the lowest temperature setting, oh and best to go easy on the brushing, try source a softer bristled brush.

Dyes can dry your hair out even more, BUT you know your hair best and will have a better insight into how your hair is coping; you can always seek out the opinion of a reputable hair salon who can advise you, it’s good to note that there are less chemical heavy products out there that are kinder to your more fragile locks and there are lots of great salons who are using and promoting these.

This usually begins to happen 2 to 3 weeks after your first chemo. Some people lose their hair gradually, and others begin to lose hair immediately. By the second round of chemo the majority of head hair will have fallen.

Cutting or shaving your hair prior is a personal choice. Some people find that it helped them with the transition from having hair to going bald, that it felt less abrupt and they had some power or control over the loss of it. When your hair starts to fall it is often easier to deal with if it is shorter locks falling rather than losing long strands, if it’s shaved you will only notice the stubble, if it’s short you will only have to deal with shorter hair strands falling and this can be pretty handy when it comes to the shower, a lot of people find this less confrontational.

If you choose to shave off your hair we recommend using electric clippers and having someone help you as it can be an emotional time for some. Please note if you are not used to using electric clippers, go to the hairdresser or ask someone with experience to help you out.

Some people feel some scalp pain when hair loss occurs, others feel an itching or a prickly feeling. It usually only lasts a few days when hair loss first starts and symptoms will vary from person to person.

Yes you may also lose your body hair, i.e the hair on your legs, arms, armpits, pubic hair and your eyebrows and eyelashes. Please note that, this depends on the type of chemotherapy regimen you are on and it can also vary from person to person.

Yes. Wigs, scarves and hats also are key items to a chemo hair loss sufferer to keep their heads warm. At night you will feel cold a lot more especially during the colder months of the year. It’s good to get hold of a nice soft cotton hat for wearing in bed at night time too.

Hot topic! “chemo curls”.

Many people report that the colour and texture of their hair grows back differently to what it was prior to chemotherapy. It may come back super curly or if it was curly it can end up growing back straight, people also note that their hair grows back thicker or more wiry, your hair colour can also change and come back lighter or darker, some people report hair coming back alot greyer than before. New hair growth usually appears after 3 to 6 weeks. How it grows back varies from person to person, and may change over the months it grows back in. For some the changes are permanent and for others only temporary. Chemo drugs attack the follicles and it takes some time for these to get back to how they were pre chemo.

This depends on the type of chemotherapy treatment you receive. Speak to your medical team about this, but generally if the chemo regimen you are on is likely to cause extensive or total hair loss, then there is a very high chance that you will lose your eyelashes and brows too. In some cases, they become a little bit thinner, other people lose the majority of hair and others temporarily lose all of their brow and eyelash hair. Eyebrows and lashes tend to take longer to fall out than head hair.

YES! They will almost always grow back. It may take a little longer because you probably lost them at a relatively later stage in your treatment than your head hair. They may also grow back thinner or more sparse, however some people report bushier brows. There are amazing treatments for speeding up the hair growth process and ensuring thick strong hair growth too.

Petal Trust founded by Ashley Allen of Ashley Allen Lashes work solely with people undergoing cancer treatment to apply lashes specifically for eyes with very minimal to zero lashes. Contact Petal Trust for further info.

http://www.petaltrust.org/

Petal Trust in alignment with OFF/ON can provide brow services to those undergoing cancer treatment. Contact Petal Trust for further info.

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How to donate your hair

If you would like to donate your hair, Freedom Hair in Dunedin welcomes the opportunity to purchase high quality hair.

Requirements in order to donate: 

Not all hair is suitable for wig-making. The hair must:

  • Be uncoloured, undyed and not permed or hennaed. It must not have been processed in any way.
  • Be longer than 14 inches (35.5 cm) long.
  • Not have been dropped on the floor after cutting. (When cutting tie it in a ponytail with all the hair pointing in the same direction.)

They regret that they cannot accept salt and pepper coloured gray hair.

They  do not accept gifts of hair. If you do not wish to be paid for your hair, they will donate the amount they would pay you to a charity of your choice, or they will subsidise a customer whose financial situation makes buying their freedom hair difficult.

For further information: 

Freedom Wigs Ltd, Dunedin
PO Box 575, Dunedin 9054
62 Vogel Street
Dunedin 9016 

Phone: 03 477 7575
Email info@freedomwigs.com

Wigs and hairpiece subsidy

The Wigs and Hairpieces Service Payment is a payment to people who suffer from serious hair loss because of a medical condition or from certain cancer therapies. The payments are to reduce the cost of purchasing and maintaining a wig or hairpiece or other related products.

The Wigs and Hairpieces Service Payments notice sets out the terms and conditions on which the Ministry will:

  • pay any provider for providing wigs, hairpieces or other headwear (‘the Services’) to any eligible person; or
  • pay any eligible person for the purchase of the services by that eligible person from a provider.

Who can claim this service payment?

You may claim for this service payment if you:

  • are a New Zealand citizen, or are ordinarily resident in New Zealand; and
  • have a medical condition that has caused you to lose your hair (like treatment for cancer, alopecia or other scalp conditions that cause hair loss). Your specialist or general practitioner (GP) needs to give you a current medical certificate with your NHI number, details of the hair loss condition and whether it is permanent or temporary.

What can I use the service payment for?

The service payment is available to cover the cost of the following items only:

  • wig or hairpiece
  • headwear (eg, hats, turbans)
  • eyebrow wigs and associated products.

Your entitlement

If you are an adult (18 years or over), the amount you are entitled to depends on whether your hair loss is permanent or temporary. If you are under 18, your entitlement is the same whether the hair loss is temporary or permanent.

For adults (with temporary hair loss)

Your entitlement is $408.88 (GST incl) over a 1-year period. You can claim all of or part of your $408.88 entitlement at any time over the 1-year period.