Hair loss is an important part of cancer treatment, and to the outside world, baldness is often the most visible outward sign that a person has cancer. Everyone handles this change differently – for some women it’s a devastating and painful loss, while others may find that being bald is empowering.
But there is even more than that. There is also a delicate growth phase when the treatment is over, which only patients who have experienced it are familiar with.
When I was finishing my treatment for ovarian cancer three years ago, I learned firsthand that hair doesn’t grow back evenly – it comes back in patchy clumps – and the delicate phase of regrowth, at during which the hairstyle can be considered a “mullet,” lasts a long time.
What I found: Although there is nothing that makes the process of hair loss and hair regrowth easier, there are products that can help make it less difficult.
Here’s what cancer survivors who’ve been through it themselves recommend for each phase of the hair loss and regrowth process.
Unlimited Cardani Bamboo Tranquility Cap$24.99
Nightcaps aren’t just for Little woman and little house on the prairie. What you may not realize until you’re bald is that your bare, exposed head can get cold overnight. (On the other hand, you might feel very hot at night due to hot flashes caused by surgically or medically induced menopause, or as a side effect of steroids given with chemo.)
Even if you choose to go bald or wear wigs when you go out, it can be nice to have a soft, comfortable beanie to wear around the house or while you sleep. Founded by a breast cancer survivor and her daughter, Headcovers Unlimited designs products to meet the special needs of people suffering from baldness due to chemotherapy or other medical conditions – and as a result, the materials they use are incredibly gentle, so as not to be uncomfortable or irritate a delicate scalp.
StyleEsteem Two-Tone Cotton Blend Turban for Wardrobe$35
If you want a more fashionable cap option but don’t want to go through the hassle of learning how to tie a scarf, try a turban. A high-end option from StyleEsteem, founded by breast cancer survivor Sonya Keshwani, creates the look of a scarf, effortlessly. This two-tone turban can be dressed up or down, and there are a range of other styles and designs available, from tie-dye to satin to animal print.
Muah Makeup precision eyebrow pencil$20
It is common knowledge that chemo causes you to lose the hair on your head. What is less talked about is that you can also lose all or part of your eyebrows and eyelashes. While some women might consider semi-permanent options for filling in brows, such as microblading or microshading, these types of procedures can carry serious risks. “There is a concern not only for allergic reactions, but even more so for skin infections when patients are potentially immunocompromised,” says Elizabeth Comen, MD, medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and researcher at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). .
A temporary, noninvasive, at-home option like Muah Makeup Precision Brow Pencil is the safest bet, says Melissa Berry, 50, a New Jersey-based BRCA1-positive breast cancer survivor who is also podcast host Dear Cancer, I am beautiful, and founder of Cancer Fashionista, an online style and beauty resource for those going through cancer treatment and beyond. The Muah pencil is one of her favorites because the micro-precision pencil makes it easy to create natural-looking brows, she says. It lasts up to 10 hours and is available in five different shades.
If you’re not ready to try drawing your brows freehand, you can use brow stencils to help create the shape, like a set from Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Experts. And if you need visual guidance, watch a quick YouTube tutorial “Eyebrows 101 for Chemotherapy” by breast cancer survivor Toni Rissmann.
Wash & Co Beauty Set Co-Washing Cleansing Conditioner$29
In the interest of keeping things simple when you have enough hair to wash but it is still quite minimal, using a co-wash product instead of shampoo and conditioner separated is a simple and effective option. One option recommended to me when I was going through this phase by Sam Brocato, founder of a salon of the same name, is a cleansing conditioner from Together Beauty called Wash & Co.
Together Beauty, Anywhere, Leave-In Conditioner & Styling Product$28
When hair begins to regrow, it often occurs in uneven patches. (I called it my “baby chicky fuzz” phase.) Many women find that their hair has a different texture than it did before when it regrows after chemo – you may have seen this phenomenon described like “chemo loops”.
I had so little hair at first that I didn’t need to use any styling product at all for a while, and when I finally had enough hair to “style” I had no need a lot of product to get the job done.
My stylist recommended another Together Beauty product, Whatever Wherever, which is a leave-in conditioner but doubles as a light-hold styling product. Regardless was the only styling product I needed for the first year or so of regrowth, and it kept my curls well maintained and in control.
SUMAJU 12pcs Clear Rhinestone Hairpins Hair Pins$5.99
Hair regrowth after chemo is full of stages. For me, the first was when I was able to tuck my side-swept bangs into a small barrette — more specifically, a rhinestone-studded bobby pin. A friend gave me a pack of four rhinestone bobby pins (similar sets can be found on Amazon), and it was my favorite hair accessory to use at the start of regrowth, through the tricky phase, and beyond. . Bobby pins are great when you don’t have enough hair to fit in a larger barrette, and rhinestones have elevated this style beyond simple bobby pins and made it more elegant.
The awkward phase
LUS Brands 3-Step System Gentle & Moisturizing Shampoo, Moisturizing & Detangling Conditioner & Styler All-in-One$45
The hair, when it comes back, often has a different texture than before. A product that’s good for curls: the all-in-one shampoo, conditioner and styler from LUS Brands. The shampoo and conditioner are designed for all types of curls, and the styling product is available in three different formulations – for wavy, curly and frizzy hair. If you’re not sure which one to choose, you can take a short loop quiz on their website and they’ll recommend a line for you. They offer their shampoo, conditioner, and styling product in a three-in-one package. You can also buy their products individually, and if you’re sensitive to smells, they also offer a fragrance-free range.
Tyfthui 6 Piece Knotted Pearl Headbands$13.99
Megan Harris, 31, breast cancer survivor, hairstylist and owner of Crown Beauty Bar in Fayetteville, Arkansas, went from straight to curly hair after chemo. She went through the awkward phase with “lots and lots of headbands!” she says. This versatile six-piece set from Amazon was her go-to. Harris recommends solid-colored velvet headbands studded with faux pearls. These headbands also come in a set of polka dot and animal print designs for a more casual or edgy look. Harris created an Instagram reel showing how she styled her must-have hair accessories, including these headbands, while growing her hair out after chemo.
Scünci damage-free stretch nylon elastics in assorted widths$4.89 and Conair hairpins in assorted color$4.85
I’ve found basic hair ties and colored bobby pins to be essential staples to have on hand for those times when you need to get creative or put together an uncooperative lock of hair. For example, my favorite hairstyle during the tricky regrowth phase was baby pigtails on the top of my head. But that left out chunks of hair that weren’t long enough to fit in pigtails, and which I had to secure in a third ponytail holder at the back of my head and with bobby pins. hair on the sides. I have gray hair, so I have silver bobby pins to blend in, and you can find bobby pins to match your hair color for an equally stealthy approach until your hair is pretty long to fit in buns without a lot of extra help – and it’s going to be!
Although the tricky phase seems to last forever, one day it will be behind you and your hair will grow back into a real style that won’t require any fussing about accessories.