Hair Loss from Cancer Treatment

Hair loss is one of the side effects of chemotherapy, but some cancer patients may have a new way to try to save their locks.  The Food and Drug Administration said in December 2015 that it will allow marketing of the DigniCap, a cooling system that chills patients' scalps to reduce the hair loss that is so common during breast cancer treatment.  Scalp cooling is an idea that has been around for decades.  The near-freezing temperatures are supposed to make it harder for cancer-fighting drugs to reach and harm hair follicles by temporarily reducing blood flow and cell metabolism in the scalp.  Several versions of cold caps are sold around the world; but the DigniCap, made by Sweden's Dignatana AB, is the first version officially cleared by the FDA.  (from wire reports, December 9, 2015)

After cancer treatment, hair can become fragile, thin, dry, fuzzy and brittle.  Not only can this be difficult to work with, it can also be downright devastating, especially if you are experiencing hair loss.  

Your hair and scalp can recover from cancer treatments, and you can keep your hair looking great through any of these hormone transitions, with the following suggestions.
What You Can Do

Hair Color.  Hair color can be great for thin, brittle, or dry hair.  Find a salon that uses a color line free of ammonia.  Ammonia is not only toxic to the body, but it also damages the hair and scalp.  Ask your stylist to make color suggestions that fit your skin tone, hair texture and density.  Opt for colors in the mid-to-dark range, as darker colors tend to make hair look fuller and thicker.

Haircut.  It may seem counterintuitive to cut your hair, if it is very thin or just growing back after cancer treatment; however, a good haircut can work wonders when it comes to making hair appear thicker.  Find a stylist who is familiar with classic haircutting techniques, such as Vidal Sassoon, a technique particularly focused on analyzing hair texture and density and customizing a haircut that will fit your needs and leave your locks looking great.

Volumizers and Styling Products.  For fine, thin hair, invest in a water-soluble organic volumizer free from alcohols, plastics, silicones and fragrances.  A great volumizer will be buildable, so the more you use the more hold you get, without weighing hair down.  

Most styling products on the market contain cheap plastics and silicones that coat the hair and clog the follicles, making hair even more dry and brittle, as well as increasing hair loss.  Some plastics on the labels are:  PVP, PVA, acrylic copolymers, polyacrylamide, silicones and any ingredient ending in methicone.  Watch out for those.  

Protein.  Brittle hair lacks proteins.  Many salons offer protein building treatments and products containing protein building ingredients.  This will strengthen the hair by decreasing dry, weak strands.  

Massage and Essential Oils.   Increasing circulation to the scalp is a great way to support hair growth, whether it is a scalp massage from your stylist, or an at-home routine using a brush, or your own hands.  Massage increases circulation and blood flow to the scalp, and relaxes the follicles, creating the best possible environment for re-growth. 

Essential oils can also be used to increase circulation.  Some essential oils particularly good for circulation and h air growth are:  rosemary, sage, and sea buckthorn.  Mix 6 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce carrier oil such as jojoba, coconut, apricot kernel, etc.  Massage into the scalp and leave on for a minimum of 10 minutes, or even overnight.  You can also mix a few drops into your shampoo or conditioner and use as directed.

Diet.  Having the right kind and proper amount of high quality fats and oils in your diet will greatly affect the condition and appearance of hair and skin.  Without healthy fats (i.e., coconut oil, cod liver oil, flax see oil), hair can become dry and brittle, and skin dry and flaky.  During the winter, when the air is especially dry, increase your healthy fat intake until your dry skin is gone.  This usually means an extra tablespoon or so of oil per day. 

The hair changes any time our bodies go through hormonal shifts or imbalances.  The hair and scalp can be affected by anything from stress to pregnancy, or cancer.  

There are many effective ways to guide the scalp and hair back to its proper balance to achieve beautiful hair and skin.  Finding a stylist who understands these changes will be a huge asset to you, as you and your body recover from cancer treatment.  

Malina Rogers, owner/operator
K-Salon organic and natural products
16823 E. Sprague Ave., Ste A
Spokane Valley, WA   99037
(509) 926-5392
http://ksalonorganic.com/




Additional Resources
Audrey's
3131 N. Division St.
Spokane, WA   99201
(509) 324-8612
Mon-Fri 10 am-5:30 pm; Sat. 10 am-4 pm

Cancer Care Northwest Foundation
1204 N. Vercler
Spokane Valley, WA  99216
509-228-1019
foundatioan@ccnw.net 
http://www.cancercarenorthwest.com
Offers financial support for basic necessities such as transportation, prescriptions, groceries and rent; Counseling for children and families through Kidz Count Support Group; Community resource referrals. 

Faye's House
7594 Hwy 291
Ford, WA
509-939-9672
btih@becausethereishope.org
http://www.becausethereishope.org/
Gives breast cancer patients a place to go and rest while they are in active treatment. 

The Essential Woman Boutique
507 S. Sherman Street
Spokane, WA  99202
Hours:  Monday - Friday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm; Saturday & Sunday by appointment
http://www.essentialwomanboutique.com
A special place for women with cancer.  A large selection of wigs and wig accessories, hats and scarves.  Mastectomy wear, mastectomy swimwear, and skin-care products.