Your feelings about hair loss

It can be very upsetting if your hair falls out during cancer treatment. You may feel uncomfortable about how you look or worry about what people think.

Family and friends may be upset by your hair loss and find it hard not to show it. This can be difficult for you to deal with. If your hair is important to you for religious or cultural reasons, you may find it more difficult to deal with.

Most people find they can talk to family and friends about their hair loss. Others find it easier to talk to someone they don’t know. You can talk to one of our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00 if you are finding it hard to cope with hair loss. They can also give you information about counselling and how to contact a counsellor in your area.

You may want to join an online community or support group where you can chat with other people, make friends and share experiences.

Emotional support

People’s first question when they are told they have cancer is often, ‘Will I lose my hair?’.

Our hair can be an important part of our appearance and identity. It may be a way we express our personality. Often, when our hair looks good, we feel good.

Many people find losing their hair upsetting. You may feel uncomfortable about socialising with your different appearance. If your hair is important to you for religious or cultural reasons, it can be even more difficult to adjust to losing it. You might also worry about how it will affect relationships with your family and friends.

Nothing prepared me for the loss of my hair. Because it happened so quickly, it took me by surprise. But I got support and eventually got through it.

Lurline


Your feelings

People have different feelings about losing their hair. For some, losing their hair is one of the hardest parts of having treatment. For others, it is not as bad as they expected.

You may feel low in confidence, anxious or depressed. You may feel angry that the hair loss is a visible reminder of the cancer – for you and for others. It may feel like you have to tell people about your cancer diagnosis when you don’t want to.

Losing your hair may make you feel vulnerable and exposed. You may feel this even more if your eyebrows, eyelashes or pubic hair fall out.

If you have a beard or moustache, losing this can be difficult, especially if you have had facial hair for a long time. You may think of your beard or moustache as part of your usual appearance and not feel right without it for a while. 

All these different feelings are completely normal. Our information about the emotional effects of cancer suggests different ways to manage difficult feelings.

If you’re struggling emotionally with hair loss, it’s important to get any emotions out. Whether that’s with family, friends or a counsellor, just don’t hold back.

Amanda


Other people’s reactions

Today, cancer is much more talked about than it was in the past. People are more aware of the effects of cancer treatment on hair. It is more openly discussed and accepted. But sometimes family and friends may be upset by your hair loss and find it hard not to show it. This can be difficult for you to deal with. Try to remember it is usually because they are concerned for you and may not know how to react.

Only you can decide whether to tell people you have cancer. You should not feel under pressure to tell people if you do not want to.

When some people first saw me with no hair, they were a bit shocked. But then you start talking and they realise you’re still the same person.

Julie


Talking about it

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. But it may take some time for you to come to terms with your hair loss. It may also take you time to talk with other people about your hair loss and deal with their reactions.

At the hospital, you will probably meet other people who have lost their hair. They may be able to give you advice and tips on how they have coped.

You can also meet people at cancer support groups. We can give you details of support groups in your area.

Some people find it easier to talk to someone they do not know. You can call our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00 if you are finding it hard to cope with hair loss, cancer or your treatment. They can also give you information about counselling and how to contact a counsellor in your area.

Our Online Community is a social networking site where you can chat with other people, make friends and join support groups. You can also read posts or blogs other people have written about hair loss, or you can write about your experiences. 

Our information about talking about cancer has practical advice on how to talk to people close to you.

The support I got from family and friends was brilliant. I also started writing a blog to raise more awareness of breast cancer in men.

Doug


Facing your fears

When you have hair loss, it is common to avoid situations that make you feel anxious.

Here is an example of how facing your fears can sometimes reduce anxiety and help you feel more confident:

Anita’s hair was growing back after treatment. She planned to meet a friend for lunch, but she was anxious about going out for the first time without her wig. She chose a quiet hotel and agreed to meet her friend in the reception area.

Anita did not know that there was a big event at the hotel that day, and that people she knew would be there. When she realised, her first reaction was to leave straight away. But she did not want to let her friend down, so she stayed and waited anxiously. Her anxiety quickly passed as people she knew came up to her and were clearly happy to see her. They did not seem to notice her hair, and people she did not know just carried on as usual.

A man and two women are sat at a table, the words 'experiencing hair loss' are written along the bottom.

Coping with hair loss

Treatment for cancer can cause hair loss. We brought cancer patients Amanda, Lurline and Doug together to share their experiences.

About our cancer information videos

Coping with hair loss

Treatment for cancer can cause hair loss. We brought cancer patients Amanda, Lurline and Doug together to share their experiences.

About our cancer information videos

Back to Dealing with hair loss

Wigs

Wigs may help you cope with hair loss. There are many different styles and colours available.

Tips for wearing your wig

Lots of people worry about wearing a wig. There are ways to make sure the wig stays in place and to keep you comfortable

Hair experts

TONI & GUY and mynewhair salons provide specialist hair care and advice for people affected by cancer.