Can hair loss caused by chemotherapy be avoided?

SMP Information

Those undergoing chemotherapy to treat one of many forms of cancer makes the occurrence of hair loss very likely to happen.

It is what men and women are often most anxious about once they learn how their condition must be treated. It should be noted that the rate of hair loss varies with the medicine type and dosage that one is treated with, and that not all types of chemotherapy lead to hair loss.

What is the link between chemotherapy and hair loss?

The active ingredient content in drugs used for chemotherapy to treat cancer cells is very strong. The drawback is that they assault healthy cells as well. Hair follicles are an example of such cells and prolonged treatment can lead to total hair loss in different parts of the body.


There is a high occurrence that chemotherapy can induce different types of hair loss. It can range from total baldness to simple thinning of the hair. One should consult with a professional before taking any medication to know its potential side effects. It is noteworthy to state however, that this is only temporary. Hair can return about six months after chemotherapy ends.

What could occur during chemotherapy pertaining to hair loss?

You may notice that you start to lose hair about two weeks into chemotherapy, if it is going to happen at all. Though there is not one type of hair loss that occurs, it could be evidenced either by a sudden or gradual onset of shedding. Hair would start to be left on one’s bedding, water drain or hairbrush. The scalp would also feel sensitive to the touch. This will occur throughout the duration of the chemotherapy and the degree of hair loss hinges largely upon the kind of treatment received.

Hair will regrow, though it might not have the same look and feel. Its texture might be less dense and the colour, lighter. The hair might come out a bit more wavy and greying in some parts before the pigments start to colour it again.

Hair loss, can it be prevented?

There is no known remedy to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy. It is recommended that the patient prepares themselves for the impeding results that will occur throughout this trying period. One should think about being at ease with their image at the beginning all the way to the end of their therapy.

To offer some possible treatments, the following have been performed although no conclusive evidence is available that they actually prevent hair loss during chemotherapy:

  • The use of minoxidil as a topical treatment for hair loss has been proven to work for patients with alopecia. Hair loss during chemotherapy is a different story, as the medication can be more aggressive in its onslaught upon the hair follicles. It may however, accelerate one’s hair recovery upon the cessation of chemotherapy.
  • Cryotherapy to induce scalp hypothermia is also another method that may be used. The cold temperature induces the blood to circulate at a more sluggish rate, hampering the chemotherapy medication from being able to reach it.

Scalp micropigmentation is another option. It does not prevent hair loss, however it could help some patients feel less conscious of their thinning hair by disguising it. For more information see this page.


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