What causes hair loss?

Some cancer treatments can cause hair loss. These include chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Treatment can damage the hair follicles, causing hair to fall out and preventing new hairs from growing. 

Can hair loss be prevented?

In general you cannot prevent hair loss entirely if it is a side-effect of your particular treatment. But for some patients having certain types of chemotherapy, it may be possible to reduce or delay hair loss by using a ‘cold cap’. This is also known as scalp cooling. The treatment reduces blood flowing to your scalp for a short period so less of the drug reaches your scalp.

While the cold cap can reduce the risk of hair loss, it does not always prevent it and it only blocks the action of certain drugs. It is also not suitable for all patients and not all hospitals offer this kind of treatment. Ask your doctor or nurse if it would be useful for you.

Hair care during treatment

Your scalp may feel very sensitive to washing, combing or brushing during the short time when your hair is actually falling out. Here are some tips to help:

  • Brush or comb your hair gently – use a soft brush or baby brush.

  • Use gentle hair products.

  • Use a gentle, unperfumed moisturiser on your scalp if it becomes dry or itchy. Natural oils such as almond oil or olive oil are suitable.

  • Avoid using a hair straightener, curling tongs or heated rollers.

  • Pat your hair gently after washing it. If using a hairdryer, keep it on a low to moderate heat only.

  • Do not perm or straighten your hair during chemotherapy.

  • It is best not to colour your hair during treatment. Ask your hairdresser for more advice.