Hair regrowth after cancer treatment

Most people find that their hair will start to grow back after treatment is over. For some, hair starts to grow back during treatment.

As your hair grows back

You may have lost your hair during cancer treatment. Most people find their hair will start to grow back after treatment. Your hair may grow back differently. Your hair may need to get to a certain length before you can have it cut or apply any treatments.

There are differing views about whether gentle scalp massage may help hair growth. If this is something you want to try, talk to a hairdresser or barber. Some people find gentle head massage relaxing. Check with your healthcare team to make sure it is safe for you to have a head massage.

You may feel that you cannot wait for your hair to be as it was before treatment. If your hair was long, it will take many months for it to get to that length again. But you may find that a shorter style suits you, or that you want a change.

For some people it can take years for their hair to grow back to the length it was before. Afro hair tends to grow more slowly and can be fragile.

A hairdresser or barber can help you find a style that suits you. Some have had training in supporting people who have been through cancer treatment. You can find out more and search for salons near you at My New Hair.

When you stop wearing a wig is up to you. You may want to keep wearing a wig until your hair can be styled. Or you may want to stop wearing one as soon as your hair shows. Wearing a wig will not affect your hair growth. But you might find it more comfortable to wear a wig cap.

Related pages

Hair styling and hair dyes

As your hair grows back, you should use shampoo and products that suit your hair or scalp condition. Most products can be used every day without any problems. If your scalp becomes irritated or the condition of your hair changes, ask a hairdresser or barber for advice.

Colouring, perming and relaxing

Your hair will usually need to be about 2.5cm (1in) long before you can use any chemicals on it. For treatments such as a perm or relaxing treatment, it may need to be longer. Your scalp and hair will also need to be in good condition.

Before you have any chemical treatment such as colouring, perming or chemical relaxing, it is a good idea to ask a hairdresser or barber for advice. It is important to carry out strand and skin sensitivity tests to make sure products will not cause any damage or allergic reaction. Tell your hairdresser or barber that you have had cancer treatment. This may affect how the treatment works.

You should not use any chemicals on your hair without talking to a professional if your:

  • scalp is scaly, sore or irritated
  • hair is drier than usual
  • hair is breaking or not growing normally.

Colouring your own hair

If you want to colour your hair yourself, ask a hairdresser or barber for advice. They may suggest vegetable or plant-based dyes. These are gentler on your hair and scalp than dyes containing strong chemicals.

It is important to make sure the colour will not damage your hair or cause an allergic reaction before applying it to your hair. You should do this even if you have used the same product before. Apply a small amount of colour to a hidden area of hair and scalp, such as behind the ear.

If you do not have any problems within 48 hours, it is safe to apply it to the rest of your hair.

Natural products may still cause an allergic reaction. This includes henna. Unless the henna is bright red, it will have other forms of tint added to it. If you do use a henna product after chemotherapy, the colour the henna produces may be more intense. It is important to do a skin sensitivity test, even with natural products.

If you are colouring your hair at home, always follow the instructions. If you want a permanent colour with highlights and lowlights, it is best for a trained hairdresser or barber to do this.

Cancer Hair Care has more information about colouring your hair.

Hair extensions

Hair extensions can make your hair look thicker and longer. They can be clipped on to your own hair. However, they can cause damage, even to healthy hair, so are not suitable for weak or thin hair.

It is important to talk to a hairdresser or barber who specialises in hair extensions before you go ahead. Hair extensions are not available on the NHS.

Looking after your hair

Your hair may be dry or break easily even after cancer treatment has finished.

We have some practical tips for looking after your hair. Cancer Hair Care also has information about looking after your hair when it is growing back after treatment.

If your hair does not grow back

Rarely, hair does not grow back after treatment. For some people, it comes back very thin and wispy. Your hair may not grow back if you have had radiotherapy. Sometimes, the chemotherapy drug docetaxel causes permanent hair loss. This can be very distressing. If you are concerned that your hair is not growing back, talk to your healthcare team.

Alopecia UK provides information and support to people with hair loss.

Hair transplants

If you have permanent hair loss in one area of your head, it may be possible to have a hair transplant. However, hair transplants are specialised treatments. They are not available on the NHS.

If you are considering a hair transplant, contact the Institute of Trichologists for a list of qualified surgeons. This option is not suitable for everyone.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our cancer pain information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    Cancer Hair Care website: (accessed June 2022).

    Dilawari A, Gallagher C, Alintah P, et al. Does scalp cooling have the same efficacy in Black patients receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer? Oncologist, 2021; Volume 26(4):292-e548. Available from www.doi:10.1002/onco.13690 (accessed June 2022).

    Kinoshita T, Nakayama T, Fukuma E, et al. Efficacy of scalp cooling in preventing and recovering from chemotherapy-induced alopecia in breast cancer patients: The HOPE Study. Front Oncol, 2019; 9:733. Available from www.doi:10.3389/fonc.2019.00733 (accessed Oct 2022).

    Sung-chan Gwark, Sei Hyun Ahn, Woo Chul Noh, et al. Similar negative emotional impact on hair loss in neoadjuvant endocrine therapy compared to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in young women with breast cancer from patient reported outcomes. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2020; 38:15 suppl, e19242-e19242. Available from (accessed June 2022).

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
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We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 December 2022
Next review: 01 December 2026
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.