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On 16 March we hosted a webchat with TONI&GUY Strength in Style consultant Katie McCardle, who specialises in hair care, advice and support for people affected by cancer. Katie answered questions on hair care, hair loss and wig fittings.
Thanks very much to Katie and to everyone who asked a question. If you would like to know more, read our section on coping with hair loss.
Find a Strength in Style consultant near you.
I would be interested to know if there are any hair colourants without hydrogen peroxide or ammonia that are available. I am fortunate not to have lost my hair during chemo, but now it's finished it would be a huge boost for me to colour my hair again. I've been advised not to use anything containing those two chemicals, but other than that I shall have to wait 6 months!
I wouldn't recommend any products without looking at your hair and seeing you face to face, but if your chemo has finished, you would be able to use hair colour after 6 months or three inches long. Just make sure you have a strand test and a skin test to make sure you have no reactions to the colour. I would also not recommend henna colour because it can make grey hair an orangey colour.
My hair is growing back with the ‘chemo curl’. Is this just temporary or do I need to try to adapt to my ‘new hair’? It was previously thick but dead straight. I have also received mixed messages regarding whether I can have it dyed or highlighted. It is growing back as a ‘salt & pepper’ afro.
Don't worry - that's very normal. After chemo, most people's hair can grow back very different to how it was before. The curl will relax by itself. Sometimes it is best to keep it short until the curl is cut out of the hair. Also, it should thicken up within the next 6 months. In regards to colour, it is advised not to colour your hair until 6 months after you have completed your chemo treatment and when your hair is strong enough. Again, just make sure you have a hair and skin test to see how you react to the colour.
When your hair starts to grow back after treatment, is it more delicate than before, or will it grow back to its normal strength?
At first it will be similar to baby hair, so you should always try to give it time to thicken up and be gentle with your hair when brushing. But in time it should go back to normal.
I haven’t actually had chemo, but I do have alopecia, and I have some bald patches on my head. Is there anything I can use to encourage it to grow back? It’s not all over, only in patches. I have to keep my hair down to cover them. They aren’t huge, but they are noticeable.
Alopecia isn't my area of expertise as I specialise in hair care for people affected by cancer. However, if you are worried about it, I suggest you get in contact with a trichologist. Maybe your GP can put you in touch with someone. I understand that this may worry you but 9 times out of 10, alopecia should sort itself out so try not to be too alarmed.
Could you tell us whether certain shampoos/conditioners are better for hair that’s growing back?
It is best to use something mild, so a gentle cleansing shampoo and conditioner.
It is ok to use hair extensions instead of a wig while your hair is growing back?
No, I really wouldn’t recommend using hair extensions on the new hair, as it isn’t strong enough. You need to wait at least six months, until your hair has strengthened.
Is it better to leave the hair and let it grow before you cut it into a new style? If so, for how long?
It is a personal preference. Some people keep it short until the curl is cut out and then let it grow. There is a myth that suggests that cutting the hair makes it grow quicker, but this is untrue.
Is it true that your hair can change colour after chemo, and also go from straight to wavy or vise versa?
Yes, your hair can sometimes come back very differently to how it was before, whether it is a texture change or a colour change. Sometimes if you have been colouring your hair for years, your natural colour could be greyer than you thought. However, even if you haven't ever coloured your hair, it may still come back a different colour. Like we said before, the curl should drop out, but the colour may not return back to the way it was.
Is there a chance the hair could grow back thinner than before?
The hair can grow back thinner. Hopefully it will go back to normal, but everybody is different so it is difficult to say for sure.
Are there any products that encourage hair growth?
A trichologist can advise you on products to help stimulate the hair growth through the follicle. However, it is a myth that massaging the head will help growth by stimulating the blood flow to the follicle. This can actually be more damaging to the hair whilst it is still growing back and trying to strengthen, because it can break the hair.
What kind of wigs won’t irritate my head?
All wigs may feel uncomfortable at first, but you could always wear a wig cap underneath to make it more comfortable. Alternatively, you could wear a scarf instead. Also, wigs can be hot and heavy – you can always ask a Strength in Style consultant if they can reduce some of the weight of the wig and personalise if for you by cutting it.
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