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Hairloss and cancer

A quick guide on hairloss, wigs and cancer.

Hairloss is one of the most feared side effects of chemotherapy although not everyone experiences it. And whilst everyone is different and has a totally different approach to losing their hair (shave, cut it short, try cold capping) the effects can be heartbreaking both physically and emotionally. Ok so you are made aware that hair loss is a possibility at the start of treatment, but unless you are used to having a shaved head, this is going to be challenging. Therefore comments from well-meaning friends or loved ones who say; 

It’s only hair it will grow back
You will look cool as a skinhead
You can have loads of ‘fun’ with different wigs and hairstyles
How exciting you can go blonde, brown, pink
Think of all the time and money you will save now you don’t have to wash and shampoo your hair


So what we hope might be a little more helpful is our quick guide if you are thinking of getting a wig. 

1. Synthetic v Real Hair

  • Real hair is more expensive but gives you the opportunity to style your hair each day as you would your own and create that personal look.
  • Synthetic hair is less expensive and needs nothing but a wash once a week and gives you the freedom to put it on and be ready to go.
  • Either way a wig does not have to cost a fortune. 

2. Style

  • Don’t feel that you should choose a wig that matches the colour/style of your original hair.
  • Allow yourself the chance to try on different styles and colours; you may be surprised what you find suits you!
  • The single most important in order for a wig to look as natural as possible is to ensure that the wig is customised to suit the face shape, this may be different from your original style.

3. Wig Stand

  • Its best to buy a polystyrene headstand to keep your wig in shape when you aren’t wearing it.
  • These can usually be bought from the wig specialist.

4. Head Scarves / Beanie Hats

  • If you decide that you want to wear a wig, it is still worthwhile buying a couple of beanie hats or head scarves.
  • Wigs need to sit securely on your head and after a few hours this can get quite uncomfortable. Scarves and Hats give you an alternative head covering and keep your head warm; especially at night.  They also provide protection against the sun.
  • Choose a cool cotton material that won’t irritate your scalp and will keep you warm/cool depending on the climate.

  • Having lived in scarves and cotton hats for 6 months during my treatment I know how important lovely headwear is. I found it really difficult to find modern and comfy headwear, so I came up with contemporary and modern headwear range which consists of soft cotton beanies, cotton headscarves and light cotton berets that are perfect on their own, under hats or in bed.

5. Caring for your Wig

  • Wigs generally need to be washed once a week in a bowl of cold water mixed with specialist shampoo. Real hair wigs may need more frequent washing depending on wear.
  • Leave the wig to soak for 5 minutes, rinse with cold water and place on a headstand to dry.  Its best to do this in the evening and leave overnight somewhere warm. 
  • You can also buy a detangling spray to put on after the wash to help with styling.

6. Support and help 

  • Wigs can be made available on the NHS should you meet the criteria. For more information click here 
  • My New Hair a charity founded by Trevor Sorbie following his sister-in-law's struggle with hairloss during her cancer treatment. The charity is a network of hairdressing salons which provide help and support as well as cutting, styling and cutomising wigs. There is an excellent online support booklet which covers all aspects of hairloss, wig provision and hair after cancer treatment. My New Hair Booklet 
  •  Chemo For Beginners guide. H is for Hairloss also provides a honest, open and personal account about hairloss, wigs and cancer.
    Previous article 5 Genuinely Useful Gifts To Give Someone Going Through Cancer Treatment

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