The Post-Chemo Grow out
GETTING YOUR HAIR BACK AFTER CHEMOTHERAPY LOSS IS A JOURNEY - HERE ARE SOME TIPS...
Chemically-induced hair loss... It happens and it is often a dreaded part of starting a cancer-fighting treatment.
In 2011 I had been diagnosed with a gnarly case of aggressive breast cancer. Naturally, 14 days into chemotherapy (as my oncologist predicted) my hair began to go on its own epic escape plan.
FIRST, LET'S TALK ABOUT THE "WHY"
The first thing to note is that: Not all chemotherapy drugs are the same, just as not all bodies or cancers are the same; so, not everyone you know who goes through chemotherapy loses their hair.
It is also true to state that not everyone loses all of the hair. Some lose it in patches while others lose every stitch, brows, lashes and all.
Some patients may have had success with cold cap treatments (using cold compresses and caps during chemo) to sustain scalp hair. This helps some because it causes circulatory constriction in those blood vessels, thus reducing the amount of chemo drugs making their way to those follicles. This doesn't work for everyone but it has had some success for some people.
Me? I had a typical experience with my chemotherapy and lost all of my hair - scalp, face, body - even nose hairs go away; which is, to this day, a blast in allergy season.
Why is the hair falling out? This happens because Chemotherapy affects all of the cells of the body and not just the cancer cells. The cells that make up the inside of the mouth and the stomach, as well as the follicles are cells that multiply rapidly. Do you know who else multiplies rapidly? Cancer cells. The medicines are designed to go right to these things.
Another factor that affects the scalp is that it is made up of mostly capillaries. Those tiny, fragile vessels that cells go single-file through.
The drugs are powerful and are especially rough on those babies. Fingers and toes, for example, because of the high concentration of capillaries, can lose skin or nails during chemotherapy, because of the medicines and their strength vs. the capillaries' weakness. The scalp has a disadvantage with both capillary concentration and cellular growth patterns.
The good news is the stomach and follicle cells can reproduce and repair.
Once the treatment is over, however, the return of the hair can be a new adventure...
The hair can grow back differently in texture (curly vs. straight hence the term "chemo curl") or in density. Not all of my hair grew back in areas which explains the allergy season reference. Some have that same issue on their scalp. I've seen ladies who have had permanent texture or color change. I've known others who have had different textures grow in on the same scalp.
I, for one, have new and different cowlicks. That is very common. I even have a little "divot" in the back of my scalp that never came back which is a hoot when I do one of my short 'do's. But it's my new normal - as you'll have yours - and they're all okay.
POST-CHEMO GROW OUT TIPS:
First and foremost, be patient with yourself and your scalp.
Your capillaries have been burned and beaten up quite a bit. Cancer sucks. Give yourself permission to love yourself patiently.
That being said:
his is the time in which you become an active participant in the management of your scalp. You will have a new routine.
Logically, if chilling the capillaries to prevent circulation can be helpful, the opposite is most, absolutely, true...
1. Circulation is now your friend. Encourage it.
Shampooing is your friend. If you were someone who lived by dry shampoo before, that is not how you live now. Circulation and encouraging the scalp to be active again takes participation and time. The massage and cleanse encourages the opening of the follicles and the circulation. Do a little scalp massage with conditioner, too, and rinse.
Regular cleansing keeps you from acquiring build-up. Contrary to some beliefs, build-up at this time doesn't help retain any moisture or nutrients. It's, actually, counter-productive as you're suffocating the vellus hair (that 'baby' hair that comes first) from making it's way out.
2. Product Check:
What are you using at home? Is it filled with drying and building sulfates? Time to change it up. Invest in quality products that are based in health and are encouraging to your goals.
Remember, too, that your scalp is skin and to love it.
Some have asked about shampoo systems that have serums or are to be "growth" encouraging. Personally, I have my hesitations when it comes to adding more chemicals to an area that has already been overrun with them. I use and recommend ColorProof BioRepair 8. It's plant-based, highly concentrated, and made for the ladies and our own biological issues with DHT.
3. Yes, what you eat matters...
You need to be sure you're getting all kinds of great nutrition. The basis of the cell's entire ability for regrowth is depending on it. Taking one Biotin a day won't be the magic cure. Drink water and eat good plants, fats and proteins like Avocados, nuts, grains and more. This helps the stomach re-balance, too.
4. Work with a stylist
A hairstylist that understands hair growth, biochemistry & cancer is a much-needed asset. They can keep your cuts managed and growing out. They can help you find new products that work for your new you. Regular visits help the hair to stay managed with shape - which can help manage growth frustrations along the way.
With texture and color changes, changes in needs and routine come, too. We're here to help.
At FUSION we offer consultation time with ladies to answer these questions and discuss what the potential new normal will be like - and how to have joy in it.
No matter who you work with, or what your goal is, it is important to remember to love your scalp from the inside out to maximize your new happy hair.