Hair usually starts to grow back once chemotherapy has finished. Sometimes it starts sooner. After about three to six months you should have a full covering of hair on your head. Other hair such as eyebrows and eyelashes may grow back more quickly but everyone is different.
When your hair grows back the quality and texture may be different from before. It may be curlier or a different colour. In most cases, your hair will eventually return to the colour and condition it was before your treatment for breast cancer.
As your hair grows back you may find that your scalp is very dry, sensitive and scaly. There are treatments available that can help to repair and moisturise your scalp, reduce dryness and scaliness.
Until your hair is long enough to shampoo, an aqueous cream (available from chemists) may be suitable for cleansing and moisturising the hair and scalp. Once your hair is long enough, you can begin to use a gentle shampoo and conditioner.
While your hair is growing back, continue to treat it with care by avoiding perming, colouring or using chemical products on your hair for at least three months (ideally six) after the end of chemotherapy.
If you do want to colour your hair, ask your hairdresser for advice on natural products such as henna or vegetable-based colour.
Hair extensions that are woven in are best avoided for several months as the new hair will be very delicate and liable to break easily.
People vary in how comfortable they are going out when their hair is growing back. Wigs, scarves and other headwear are available if you chose to wear them, until your hair is longer.
Finding a suitable hair care salon
Macmillan Cancer Support and TONI&GUY salons have developed a training programme called ‘Strength in Style’ that aims to ensure people affected by cancer have access to a salon in their area where a trained professional can provide specialist support and advice on hair care. To find out more or to find a participating salon near you, visit the Macmillan website.
The charity My New Hair lists a national network of independent salons and professionals who offer a wig styling service for people affected by cancer who are experiencing hair loss. For more information, see www.mynewhair.org
Content last reviewed September 2011; next planned review 2013