Coping emotionally with hair loss

Many people see their hair as part of their identity. It can be very upsetting if your hair falls out during cancer treatment.

Family and friends may notice the changes to your hair. This might make you feel vulnerable and less confident. If hair has a special significance in your culture, you may find it more difficult to deal with.

However, as your hair falls out you may not find it as bad as you expected.

Most people find they can talk to family and friends about their hair loss. Other people find it easier to talk to someone they don’t know. You can talk to one of our cancer support specialists or a counsellor.

You may want to try joining an online community or support group at your hospital. There might also be programmes in your area to help you, such as Look Good, Feel Better or HeadStrong.

Some people find it hard to draw attention away from their hair loss, you might want to try:

  • wearing bright clothes
  • emphasising your makeup
  • wearing jewellery.

As you spend more time around people, you will hopefully feel more confident.

Emotional support to cope with hair loss

It can be very upsetting if your hair thins or falls out due to cancer treatment. Some people find that it’s one of the hardest parts of having treatment. You may have many different emotions, ranging from anger to anxiety, and feeling low and depressed. Many people see their hair as an important part of their appearance and identity. You may worry about how your different appearance will affect your relationships with family and friends. You may also feel uncomfortable about socialising and feel less confident if you look different. Other people find that their hair loss can act as a visible reminder to themselves and others that they have cancer. This may make you feel vulnerable and exposed, especially if you feel forced to tell people about your cancer diagnosis when you do not wish to do so. It can also be a shock if your eyebrows, eyelashes, beard or moustache and pubic hair fall out. You may feel even more vulnerable and this can affect the way you feel about yourself.

Today, people are much more aware of the effects of cancer treatment on hair, but some people find they are still surprised by other people’s reactions to their hair loss. Family and friends may be upset and find it hard not to show this. If they don’t know the reason for your hair loss, they may wrongly assume that you’ve chosen to have your hair or beard shaved off and wonder why. For some people, learning that you may lose your hair can seem like the final straw, while others find that it isn’t as bad as they expected.

All these reactions are completely normal. It may take a while for you to come to terms with your hair loss and to talk with others and deal with their reactions. Most people find that their family and friends are very supportive and that it can help to talk through their feelings about losing their hair.  In some cultures, hair is seen as a symbol of or a sign of health and status. Some cultures believe that hair gets rid of impurities from the body. If hair has a special significance for you, it can be even more difficult to adjust to losing it.

At the hospital, you’ll probably meet other people who’ve had hair loss, who can often give helpful advice and personal hints on how they’ve coped. You can also meet people at cancer support groups.

Some people find it easier to talk to someone they don’t know. You can talk to our cancer support specialists if you're finding it hard to cope with hair loss or other aspects of your cancer and its treatment. They can also give you information about counselling and how to contact a counsellor in your area.

You can also visit our Online Community. There you can chat with other people who have hair loss, or just read through the posts or blogs other people have written.

Making the most of how you look with hair loss

You may find it difficult if it feels like your wig or other headwear is the first thing people look at or comment on. But there are things you can do that may help draw people’s attention away from your hair loss.

Here are a few suggestions from people who have temporarily lost their hair:

  • Wear brightly coloured shirts, sweaters, tops, ties or neck scarves to draw attention away from your hair loss.
  • Try wearing a little extra make-up around your eyes, cheekbones or lips to direct attention to your face.
  • Jewellery can also change the focus – necklaces and chains emphasise your neckline, while earrings look good with hats and scarves.

Some hospitals and support groups run programmes such as Look Good, Feel Better or HeadStrong that give expert advice on make-up and skincare (usually for women). Your nurses can let you know if there is a programme like this in your hospital or at a nearby support group.

At first you may feel reluctant to go out and carry on with your social life. But hopefully, as you spend more time with other people, your confidence will grow and help you cope with the situation.

Back to Hair loss

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