Hair Regrowth After Chemotherapy

Hair regrowth after chemotherapy is a common concern for cancer patients. In fact, hair loss can be a devastating side effect of chemotherapy. But the good news is that it is usually a temporary side effect. Learn more about how long it might take for your hair to grow back, how it may look and feel different when it does, and how to care for it.

This article discusses how chemotherapy impacts hair loss and regrowth. It also includes information about caring for hair that regrows after chemotherapy.

Portrait of a young African American Woman with Cancer
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What Is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of any drug to treat any disease. But to most people, the word chemotherapy means medicines used, specifically for cancer treatment. It is often shortened to “chemo.”

Surgery and radiation therapy remove, kill, or damage cancer cells in a specific body area. Chemo is different because it works throughout the whole body. This means that chemo can kill cancer cells that have spread (metastasized) to parts of the body that may be far away from the original (primary) tumor.

Chemotherapy and Hair Loss

One of the most devastating side effects of chemotherapy is often hair loss. Cancer cells divide quickly, and so do hair follicle cells. Chemotherapy cannot tell these two types of cells apart, so the drug tends to attack both kinds of cells.

The extent of hair loss can vary widely, depending on drug type and dosage. Some people may experience mere thinning of the hair, while others may lose all of their hair.

Hair loss tends to begin after a few treatments. The hair may fall out gradually, or it may fall out in clumps. Some patients shave their heads (and sometimes wear wigs or hats), so they do not have to watch it fall out. Any remaining hair might look dull or feel dry during chemotherapy.

Some patients lose more than just the hair on their heads—some lose hair all over their bodies. They can lose eyebrows, eyelashes, pubic hair, and even arm and leg hair. Each person reacts differently to chemo, so it is impossible to predict who will lose hair or how much hair.

Hair Regrowth After Chemotherapy

People undergoing chemo will notice different levels of hair regrowth. The speed and thickness of your hair returning depends on various factors, including the drugs (or combination of drugs) used, the dosage given, and the type of cancer being treated.

The time it takes for the hair to grow back also varies from person to person. Hair may start to grow back while you are still undergoing chemotherapy, or you may not have hair grow back until after the treatment has ended.

While each person has a unique experience with hair loss and regrowth, some general timelines may help understand what to expect. After treatment ends, you may see the following regrowth pattern:

  • Several weeks: Soft fuzz
  • One to two months: Real hair starts to grow
  • Two to three months: Hair about an inch long
  • Three to six months: Hair grows about 2-3 inches long
  • Twelve months: Hair is about 4-6 inches long

When hair does grow back, it may be a different texture or color than the hair you lost. For example, if you had straight hair, it may be curly when it comes back. Some people also find that their hair grows back gray at first, and then a few months later, it returns to its natural color.

Caring for Hair Regrowth

As your hair grows, use a gentle shampoo and conditioner. New hair growth is fragile and your scalp may still be very sensitive. Talk to your oncologist and your dermatologist for more personalized advice on the topic.

For the first six months after therapy, you may want to hold off on having chemical processes like perms or hair coloring done. Using a hairdryer or curling/straightening iron may also cause damage to the fragile new hair.

Summary

Hair loss with chemotherapy and cancer treatment is common. You may experience changes to your scalp also. Most people do regrow hair eventually after treatment. But, the hair growing back may differ in color, texture, or volume. It can also take some time for your appearance to return to match your internal picture of yourself. Take the time you need to adjust.

A Word from Verywell

Hair loss with cancer treatment can be emotionally tough due to the noticeable physical changes to your appearance. Wigs, hats, and head coverings can all help to reduce the visible impact of hair loss. For others, baldness is a sign of their cancer journey, and they prefer not to cover up hair loss.

Each person has their response to hair loss, which might turn out to be different than you expected. Only you can decide what is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does hair grow after chemo?

    Hair regrowth after chemo is different for each person. However, many people see hair start to return a month or two after treatment and have several inches back after their first year.

  • What vitamins help hair growth after chemo?

    Hair loss from chemo is different than other kinds of hair thinning or loss. There are no reputable studies that show vitamins or supplements that are helpful in preventing hair loss or making it grow back faster.

Originally written by Lisa Fayed
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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Cancer Society. Hair Loss.

  2. American Cancer Society. Chemotherapy.

  3. breastcancer.org Hair loss.

  4. oncologynurseadvisor.com Impact of vitamins, supplements, and diet on cancer treatment-related hair loss.

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