Preparing for hair loss

If you are likely to have hair loss during treatment, there are ways you can prepare. You can talk to family and friends. They may be able to offer you help and support. Or you may want to find a hair loss support group. You can talk to people who are going through the same thing and exchange tips on how to cope.

If you decide to wear a wig, get one before treatment starts. It will be easier to match it to your colour and style, and you can get used to wearing it. You may want to buy a hat or other headwear to keep your head warm and protected. You can also buy products to help you cope with losing your eyebrows and eyelashes.

You could also consider cutting your hair short. You may find it easier to cut it in stages. You could ask a salon that specialises in styling hair for people affected by cancer to cut your hair.

Talk to family and friends

Other people’s reactions to your hair loss can sometimes be difficult to cope with. They may feel uncomfortable and not know what to say. It can help if you talk about it first. Once they hear you talking about your hair loss, they may be able to offer you more help and support. For example, they may be able to help you choose a wig or hairpiece that suits you.

If you have children, you may worry that they will be scared if they see you without hair. But children usually cope well when they are told about any changes to your appearance in advance.

We have more information about talking about cancer and talking to children and teenagers.

I decided that I would shave my head before the hair loss struck, but I asked my children their opinion. They agreed, so I let them loose with the clippers!

Anna


Find a hair loss support group

You may find it helpful to talk to other people with hair loss. You can talk to people who are going through the same thing and exchange tips on how to cope. Ask your doctor or nurse about support groups in your local area.

Support is also available on our Online Community.


Get a wig before treatment starts

You may feel that everyone will notice if you are wearing a wig. But it is very common for people to change their hair colour and style. Often, people may not realise you are wearing a wig.

If you decide you would like to wear a wig, it is a good idea to get one before you start treatment. It will be easier to match the wig to your own hair colour and style. You can get used to wearing the wig before your hair starts to fall out. It will also be ready in case your hair loss happens earlier or quicker than you expect.

In England, some people can get wigs for free on the NHS. In Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland, some wigs are free on prescription. Your nurse can tell you where to go to look at wigs. If you want a wig that is not covered by the prescription, you can pay extra for it. Some people decide to buy their own wig. It is a good idea to take a family member or friend with you when you are picking your wig.


Buy a hat or other headwear

You may need something to keep your head warm or protected when you are not wearing a wig. Your scalp will be more sensitive to cold, windy or sunny weather. Even at home your head may feel very cold if you have been used to having a full head of hair. Some people find they prefer to wear a hat or other headwear instead of a wig.

Watch our hair loss video playlist

In these videos, people with experience of cancer and hair loss share their stories. You can also watch tutorials on wigs, headwear and eye make up.

Watch our hair loss video playlist

In these videos, people with experience of cancer and hair loss share their stories. You can also watch tutorials on wigs, headwear and eye make up.


Consider cutting your hair short

Many people prepare themselves for losing their hair by cutting it short. Losing smaller clumps of hair can be less emotional than losing longer clumps. Hair often comes out in uneven patches. This is usually less noticeable on shorter hair. It can also give your family and friends the chance to get used to seeing you with shorter hair.

Some people prefer to shave their heads completely before they start losing their hair. This can give a sense of control over what is going to happen. You may prefer to do this rather than wait for your hair to fall out. If you want to remove all your hair, use clippers. Shaving with a blade or razor can lead to cuts and infections.

If you do not want to cut your hair for cultural or religious reasons, you may find other headwear helpful, such as hats, scarves or bandanas.

Tips for cutting your hair short

  • Cut your hair in stages to give you time to get used to a new length.
  • If you decide to crop your hair short yourself, remove the length of your hair with scissors first. Then use a set of clippers with a cutting guard or attachment on them. If possible, try to get someone to help you with this.
  • Leave a very short layer of hair. Don’t shave your head with a blade, as this can lead to cuts and infection.
  • It is easier to use clippers on clean, dry hair with no products in it.
  • If you want a hairdresser to cut your hair, there are salons that specialise in styling hair for people affected by cancer. You can find some salons through the charity mynewhair.org which trains salons to provide support for medical hair loss.

I would get up in the morning and find my hair on my pillow. Eventually, I cut it all off. It was my way of taking charge.

Matt


Think about your eyebrows and eyelashes

You might be worried about losing your eyebrows and eyelashes. It may be a good plan to buy products you think you will need and learn how to use them.

You could check whether a Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisor is available at your local Boots store. Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisors have been trained to support people living with cancer. They offer free, face-to-face advice about caring for your skin, hair and nails. Visit boots.com/macmillan to find out more.

Back to Hair loss

Scalp cooling

Scalp cooling may help to reduce hair loss from the head caused by some chemotherapy drugs. Treating thinning hair carefully can also prevent further hair loss.

When your hair grows back

Your hair may grow back after treatment but it might have changed. It’s important to care for your new hair.