Tips to help you prepare for losing your hair

If it’s likely you will lose your hair during cancer treatment, there are ways you can prepare:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet before treatment starts to help your body cope better.
  • Talk to friends and family about losing your hair.
  • Buy a hat or other headwear to protect your head.
  • Talk to other people who have hair loss to share tips on how to cope.
  • If you decide to wear a wig, buy one before treatment starts. It will be easier to match it to your colour and style, and you can get used to wearing it.
  • 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.
  • Don’t use a blade to shave your head.
  • It’s best to cut clean dry hair.
  • You could ask a salon that specialises in styling people affected by cancer to cut your hair.

Preparing for hair loss

It can be distressing to be told you will, or are likely to, lose your hair. Hair loss is most likely to happen when you are having chemotherapy, but it doesn’t happen with all chemotherapy treatments. We have more information about chemotherapy and hair loss.

There are some things you can do to help you prepare and feel more in control when your hair starts to fall out.

Eating well

Eating a well-balanced diet before treatment starts may help your body cope better with the effects of the cancer treatment in all areas of the body, including the hair. It is especially important that you get enough protein and energy to maintain your weight.

We have information on diet and cancer, including healthy eating and eating problems.

Talk to friends and family

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 for you to raise the subject first. Once they hear you talking about it, they’ll probably 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, or help in other ways.

People often worry that their children will be scared if they see them without their hair, but children usually cope well when they’re told about any changes to your appearance in advance.

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

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 for support groups in your local area. Support is also available on Macmillan’s Online Community.

Buy a wig before treatment starts

You may feel that everyone will notice when you’re wearing a wig. But it’s very common for people to completely 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 buy 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. You may find our information on choosing and buying a wig helpful.

Buy a hat or other headwear

You may need something to keep your head warm and protect it 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 wearing a hat or other headwear instead of a wig. You may want to read our information about headwear options.

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 longer clumps. Hair often comes out in uneven patches. This can be less noticeable on shorter hair. It can also give your friends and family 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 and 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.

Practical 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 cut your hair yourself, remove the length of your hair with scissors first. Then use a set of clippers with a cutting guard/attachment on them. Try to get a friend or family member to help.
  • 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.

Some salons offer specialist hair styling for people affected by cancer.

Macmillan is working in partnerships with TONI&GUY and with the national charity mynewhair to provide specialist hair care for people affected by cancer.

Some people may not want to cut their hair for cultural or religious reasons, and may find other headwear helpful. We have more information about your options.

Find a way to cope with loss of eyebrows and eyelashes

After my chemotherapy, my eyebrows and eyelashes decided to do a disappearing act. With the clever use of make-up this wasn’t too noticeable.

Sharon, affected by hair loss

Back to Hair loss

Preventing hair loss

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.

After treatment

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