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's a usually 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. 

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 drugs that are used, specifically, for cancer treatment. It’s often shortened to “chemo.”

Surgery and radiation therapy remove, kill, or damage cancer cells in a certain area of the body, but chemo can work 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 at a fast pace and so do hair follicle cells. Chemotherapy can't tell these two types of cells apart, so the drug tends to attack both kinds. 

The extent of hair loss can vary widely, depending on which types of drugs are used and what dosages. Some people may experience mere thinning, while others may lose all of their hair.

This process tends to begin after a few treatments. The hair may fall out gradually or it may fall out in clumps. Some patients choose to shave their heads (and sometimes wear wigs or hats) so they don't 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.

Hair Regrowth After Chemotherapy

Luckily, hair loss is temporary for most people who undergo chemotherapy. How long it takes for the hair to grow back varies from person to person. Hair may start to grow back while you're still undergoing chemotherapy or after the treatment has ended. Many people report seeing hair growth around four to six weeks after the end of treatment.

When hair does grow back, be prepared that it may be a different texture or possibly even a different color than it was before you started treatment. For example, if you had straight hair, it may grow back in curly. Some people also find that their hair grows in gray, and then a few months later, it returns to their natural color.

As your hair grows, use a gentle shampoo and conditioner. Are you interested in dyeing or coloring your hair after chemotherapy, especially if your hair has become a color that you don't like? For the first six months, you may want to hold off on having chemical processes like perms or hair coloring done, because your hair is still fragile and your scalp is still very sensitive. Using a hairdryer or curling/straightening iron may also cause damage. Talk to your oncologist and your dermatologist for more personalized advice on the topic.

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  1. American Cancer Society. Hair Loss.

  2. American Cancer Society. Chemotherapy.

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