This blog post is from our My Ovacome forum and was originally written in November 2019.

Some types of cancer treatment, including many of the chemotherapy drugs used to treat ovarian cancer, cause hair thinning or loss. During hair loss, and while hair is growing back after treatment, it can be delicate and need extra protection from damage. In this post, we’ll be looking at some of the ways to care for your hair during and after treatment. We’ll look in more detail at options for covering your head, if you choose to, in a later post.

If you’re thinking of wearing a wig, it’s helpful to have it fitted and styled before your hair loss starts so that your hairdresser can cut and colour it to your usual style or another style to suit you.

Hair loss usually starts within a few weeks of starting chemotherapy treatment and will grow back over a period of weeks and months after treatment finishes. Many people choose to cut their hair short before it starts to thin or fall out, which helps them to get used to seeing themselves with less hair. You can find more information about this on the Cancer Hair Care website.

Hair loss may be less noticeable with a shorter style and it can be easier emotionally to lose shorter strands of hair. You can go to your usual hairdresser or find a salon specialising in medical-related hair loss. The charity My New Hair has information and a database of salons. If you decide to shave your hair yourself, use clippers and leave a short layer of hair rather than shaving it closely with a razor, which can cause cuts and risk infection. More information about cutting your hair with clippers is available here.

At first, the hair that grows back can be a different colour or texture than it was before. Hair affected by chemotherapy, or growing back after treatment, can be dry and brittle, so it’s important to take care to avoid damaging it. Wearing a soft cap or hair net at night can protect the hair and contain any strands that fall out. Washing your hair every other day with gentle, non-medicated shampoo will help to keep it clean and free of any strands that have fallen out which could cause tangles. If you’re using conditioner, use it on the lengths of your hair rather than near the scalp, don’t towel-dry too vigorously and use a brush with bristles or prongs that are spaced apart or a wide-toothed comb to avoid pulling on the hair. Avoid heated appliances like hairdryers or rollers, but if you do use them occasionally, set them to a low heat to avoid damaging the hair. Hair straighteners aren’t recommended because they use very high levels of heat. If you tie your hair back or plait or style it, do this loosely and gently so as not to tug on the hair. You can find more information about caring for hair as it grows back here.

You may be keen to colour your hair once it starts to grow back, especially if it’s grown back a different colour or if you previously coloured your hair before starting treatment. Using strong chemicals like permanent or semi-permanent colours or perms isn’t recommended until at least six months after treatment finishes. However, there are more gentle options that you can use earlier. Henna or vegetable dyes are generally considered safe to use on new hair, although it’s still advisable to do a patch test before using them to make sure that your skin can tolerate them. Your hairdresser may be able to recommend products, or you can go to a health shop and ask about products with natural ingredients. You can find more information and tips on colouring new hair here.

For many people, hair loss is a distressing experience. Talking to friends and family about how you’re feeling can help. It can also be helpful to talk to other people who have been through a similar experience, such as at a support group or online space such as this forum. We have a list of local support groups on our website, or your team may know of a group in your area. If you’d like to have talking therapy one-to-one, you may be able to access this through your GP, the hospital, your local Maggie’s Centre (if there is one) or another cancer support centre or hospice. If you want to find a counsellor for yourself, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy accredits therapists and you can search their directory through their website and find a local therapist with an interest in cancer.

If you have any tips on caring for your hair that other members might find helpful, or would like to share your experience, please do leave a comment.

Below are some useful websites if you would like to read more about this:

Cancer Research UK

Macmillan Cancer Support

Cancer Hair Care