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Caring for Your Scalp During Chemo Hair Loss

Cancer Care

Hair loss is just one of the unfortunate side effects that comes with chemotherapy treatment. The cancer-killing drugs attack all quickly-forming cells, and yes, that includes hair follicles, too. 

But when the hair is gone and your head is bare, how can you care for your scalp and skin?

  • Keep your scalp clean and choose your shampoos wisely. Pick something hydrating and organic, if possible. Most shampoos are filled with chemicals that can irritate and dry out the already-compromised skin. I suggest avoiding shampoos with sodium lauryl sulfate, a chemically-derived detergent. Also, stay away from parabens such as methylparaben. The chemical name may also have the prefixes ethyl-, butyl-, methyl- or propyl-, which are all from the paraben family even if the word “paraben” isn't in the name. These are chemically derived preservatives that are not healthy to use on your skin or hair. 
  • Do not use Nioxin or other scalp stimulator products. While they are great post-chemo, we find they can be an irritant to the scalp during treatment. Unfortunately, chemotherapy-induced hair loss will not be helped by these products because you are losing hair from a cellular level. After you are finished with your treatment, we can talk scalp/follicle stimulators.
  • I do not recommend using heavy lotions full of petroleum and fragrances. Petroleum suffocates the skin. Raw, organic coconut oil is an option. This will keep the scalp hydrated and help with minor irritation. I personally suggest applying emu oil to your scalp if it is itchy. This soothing transdermal oil is chemical-free has anti-inflammatory properties. (Note: NOT all emu oils are created equal!)
  • If you have cradle cap, I suggest massaging emu oil into your scalp. A soft baby brush can be used, moving it in clockwise and counterclockwise motions. This will help to lift the scales off of the scalp. If it is a bit stubborn, I suggest over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, using the same gentle motions with a soft baby brush. Check with your health care provider to make sure this is OK.
  • Wear a soft beanie that will comfort your scalp. Do not wear anything that causes more irritation if you are experiencing discomfort. 
  • If you want to wear a wig, use a soft wig cap over the scalp until any tenderness subsides.

Read more: Hair Loss During Cancer Treatment: What to Expect

Facing Your Fears

Our biggest role at Inner Beauty salon is to educate our patients because it hits fear in the face. When they come to us, they know what they can expect – facing their fears without worrying something else is wrong with them.

Our Inner Beauty teams are licensed clinical cosmetologists and certified orthotic mastectomy professionals. The services and products we offer are available to all cancer survivors, regardless of where they receive their care. All consultations are complimentary and covered by donations. 

To schedule a personal appointment, call (402) 354-7813.
 

Lori Fuchs

About the Author:

As a beauty specialist for more than 38 years, Lori Fuchs has worked as a regional and national educator, makeup artist and skin care specialist. She is a clinical cosmetologist, a certified mastectomy fitter, and the coordinator of Inner Beauty: A Specialty Salon for Cancer Survivors

Lori is passionate about empowering patients diagnosed with cancer to reclaim confidence during their cancer journeys.
 

See More Articles by Lori Fuchs