When undergoing treatment for cancer there is a possibility that your treatment will cause changes to your skin and hair so you may have to change your shampoo and conditioner.
How does cancer treatment affect hair?
For some, treatments such as chemotherapy can cause the hair to thin, for others, treatment can cause the skin on the scalp to become sensitive or the hair to fall out[i].
This is because the treatment can have a toxic effect on the dividing cells found in hair bulbs[ii].
The effect that treatment has on your skin and hair will vary depending on the type of cancer you have and the treatment you receive. Specialists such as MacMillan Cancer Support can help you to understand what to expect.
According to MacMillan, some patients find that their hair grows back differently once they finish their treatment. For patients that have had Chemotherapy, re-growth typically starts 3-6 months after treatment and the hair can be curlier, thinner or even a different colour[iii].
Regardless of how your hair returns there are some simple tips you can follow to help it. Here, we myth-bust the common misconceptions about caring for your hair after receiving treatment for cancer.
Will shampoo and conditioner irritate the scalp?
It is generally thought that all shampoos and conditioners are safe for people who have undergone cancer treatment to use.
However, your Oncologist may advise that, during the period of hair re-growth, you switch to gentle, unscented products. In this instance you might want to switch to our Sensitive Scent Free Shampoo.
This ultra-gentle shampoo contains Green Tea to help strengthen the hair follicles, and because it does not contain parabens, fragrance or SLS it won’t irritate scalps prone to sensitivity.
Remember, the scalp may be more sensitive after treatment and for this reason should irritation occur, or if you notice any changes to the hair that concern you, you should cease using your hair care product until you receive further advice from your specialist.
How often should you wash your hair?
Advice regarding how frequently you should wash your hair varies but The Royal Marsden recommends that you try and limit hair washes to twice a week, always using a mild shampoo and tepid water[iv].
Because the hair can be brittle and delicate at this stage, it is also recommended that you condition the hair with a product that does not contain harsh chemicals.
For a conditioner that combs-through easily, limiting ‘pull’ on delicate hair, try Green People’s Scent Free Conditioner. Designed for sensitive scalps, it is fragrance-free and rich in essential vitamins and natural plant extracts that help boost the hair's condition.
Can you massage the scalp?
Initially massaging the scalp should be avoided. This is because your hair will likely have a fine texture once it starts to re-grow.
According to Macmillan Cancer Support some patients believe that massaging the scalp at this stage will help stimulate the follicles so that the hair grows faster[ii].
The reality is, the hair is so delicate at this stage that vigorously massaging the scalp could cause damage to new hair growth and may even cause the hair to wear away.
Can you dye your hair?
It is possible that as the hair re-grows it will be a different colour and some people may want to dye the hair back to its original colour.
Whilst natural dyes are becoming more widely available it is generally recommended that you do not dye the hair until at least 6 months after it has started to regrow.
According to Cancer Research UK this is because chemicals used in hair dyes can aggravate not only the hair but the scalp, which may be dry and prone to irritation[v].
Macmillan Cancer Support advises that patients wait until their hair is at least 3 inches long and in healthy condition before they consider either dying it, perming it or having it chemically relaxedii.
They also urge patients to proceed with caution and advise that before colouring their hair patients should speak to their specialist and undergo a patch-test to reduce their risk of experiencing an allergic reaction to the dye.
It is strongly advised that patients experiencing a sore or inflamed scalp or who have hair that is very dry avoid using dye until they have sought advice from their specialist[ii].
Have you got a question about finding a shampoo and conditioner after chemotherapy? Our customer care team are happy to help you identify which of our gentle, organic hair care products might be suitable for you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your comment or question below.