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Chemotherapy related hair loss - Best treatments

Hair loss is one of the distressing side effects of chemotherapy, and for many cancer patients, hair regrowth is desired. If you're looking for the best treatments for chemotherapy-related hair loss, we've broken down everything you need to know below.

Why does chemotherapy cause hair loss?

Chemotherapy drugs are potent, aggressively attacking cancer cells to hinder their progress. These drugs can also attack other cells in the body during treatment, including those present in hair follicles. This can lead to hair loss, which usually starts around 2 to 4 weeks after starting treatment. This loss will continue through treatment and about a few weeks after it ends.
Chemotherapy hair loss statistics show that around 65% of patients experience hair loss. The speed at which you lose your hair – and the amount of hair you lose – will vary from person to person and can also depend on your specific drug and dosage.

Does chemotherapy cause permanent hair loss?

The good news is that hair loss from this cancer treatment is typically temporary. New hair regrowth will occur approximately 3 to 6 months after the end of your chemotherapy treatment. Remember that your new hair may have a different color, texture, or curl. Sometimes, hair color may even be gray while the cells that control pigment regain their function. These changes in your hair are often temporary, but in some cases, hair loss can persist for extended periods. (Persistent chemotherapy-induced alopecia (pCIA).

Do all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss?

Not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss; some are more likely to cause this side effect than others. If you take a medication known to have a side effect of hair loss, various factors will affect your risk of losing hair during your treatment. Higher doses, as will as more frequent doses, will increase the risk of hair loss. Additionally, drugs taken intravenously are more likely to cause hair loss than drugs taken orally. You also need to take genetic makeup into account – some people are more likely to experience hair loss from chemotherapy than others, even when taking the same medication.

For the most accurate information for your case, you can talk to your oncologist about whether you might expect hair loss from your cancer treatment.

The best treatments for hair loss related to chemotherapy

Below, we've broken down a few treatments that support scalp health to boost hair regrowth after chemotherapy.


Minoxidil is an FDA-approved medication for treating alopecia (hair loss). It is applied topically to the scalp and increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to hair follicles to prevent further hair loss and support hair regrowth. Research has shown that minoxidil accelerates hair regrowth after chemotherapy for cancer patients. In one study, women with breast cancer who experienced hair loss from chemotherapy and used a 2% minoxidil solution experienced a shorter period of baldness (a mean of about 50 days) than women who did not use the treatment. In another study, on 99 women with persistent chemotherapy-induced alopecia, treated with topical minoxidil combined with anti-androgen (DHT blocking agents), a significant proportion of patients achieved cosmetically significant hair regrowth, suggesting that pCIA may be at least partly reversible.

If you're interested in using this topical treatment to encourage hair growth, check out MDHair's Minoxidil 2.0%. This vegan and cruelty-free formula is clinically proven to regrow hair and is safe and non-irritating. Apply a full dropper to your scalp in the morning and evening, spreading the solution all over the scalp with your fingers. People with normal blood pressure who are not taking antihypertensive medications can also use topical minoxidil. MDhair's plant-based scalp treatment serum, shampoo, oral supplements, and collagen peptides can be used before, during, and after chemotherapy.


Oral supplements containing essential vitamins and minerals that support scalp health and boost hair growth can also help patients who undergo chemotherapy accelerate their hair regrowth. Some common vitamins and minerals that help with hair growth include the following:

  • Vitamins B9 (folic acid) and B12: These B vitamins promote circulation to help deliver oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles so that they can produce healthy hair. Folic acid also assists with the keratinization of hair, which allows follicles to produce keratin (a hair protein) for stronger hair.
  • Biotin: Also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, biotin is believed to strengthen hair follicles, increase hair density, and improve circulation to the scalp.
  • Iron: Iron boosts circulation and brings oxygen to follicles to promote growth. An iron deficiency has also been linked to hair loss.
  • Calcium: This mineral keeps the scalp from getting too dry and reduces hair breakage. Bonus: it's also great for nail strength!

The MDhair's Restore Supplements formula contains all the above vitamins and minerals and additional nutrients proven to support hair and scalp health. These supplements are dermatologist-formulated and tested and are also vegan and cruelty-free. Take one capsule a day with food.

Scalp Cooling

You can try scalp cooling during and after your chemotherapy treatment to help prevent hair loss. Research on this method is still limited, but the idea is that by wearing a tight cold cap filled with a cold liquid or gel, you can help prevent chemotherapy-related hair loss. The cool temperature restricts the scalp's blood vessels, limiting the amount of medicine that gets to those follicles. It may also prevent damage to the hair follicles. Talk to your oncologist and dermatologist about whether scalp cooling is a suitable preventative treatment method for you.

What is Cold Cap Therapy?

Cold cap therapy presents a promising option for those undergoing chemotherapy, seeking to reduce hair loss by cooling the scalp to constrict blood flow and lower the activity of hair follicles. The effectiveness of this innovative treatment varies depending on the chemotherapy regimen, making it a personal journey for each patient.

Who is it suitable for?

While broadly accessible, it's unsuitable for all—particularly individuals with certain cancers or cold-sensitive conditions. Patients weigh the psychological benefits against the commitment of extended treatment sessions, and choosing between products like Penguin and DigniCap involves considerations of cost, convenience, and available support.

Cold Cap Therapy Procedure:

Preparation requires clean hair with specific shampoo guidelines, and the procedure extends the day with pre-cooling, during treatment, and post-cooling phases. Managing side effects such as chills and headaches is part of the process, and meticulous hair care post-treatment is crucial to maximizing the therapy's efficacy.

Financial and Personal Considerations:

The costs can be significant, but insurance and financial assistance may offset them. Ultimately, choosing cold cap therapy is as much about emotional well-being as it is about clinical outcomes, prompting patients to evaluate their options in consultation with healthcare providers carefully.

Hair care tips for people treated with Cold Cap Therapy

1. Wash the hair weekly with lukewarm water; reduce frequency if the hair is dry.
2. Select shampoos that are free from sulfates, silicones, and parabens.
3. Avoid using hair-styling products such as gels and creams.
4. Refrain from dyeing, heat-styling, and blow-drying your hair.
5. Comb hair once daily with a wide-tooth comb for detangling.
6. Use loose hair ties like scrunchies instead of tight rubber bands.
7. Avoid hair extensions to reduce stress on hair follicles.
8. Style braids, cornrows, plaits, or twists loosely to minimize pulling.
9. For natural textured hair, straighten before treatment and apply grease to ends.
10. With chemically straightened hair, wet the scalp as usual before treatment.
11. Limit handling your hair to avoid disturbing the roots.
12. Use satin or silk pillowcases to reduce hair friction while sleeping.
13. Opt for loose, lightweight hats over restrictive swimming caps or wigs.

When does hair grow back after chemotherapy?

After chemotherapy, hair regrowth times vary for everyone. A usual hair regrowth pattern on the scalp is:

  • At 3–4 weeks: light fuzz.
  • From 1 to 6 weeks: thicker hair starts.
  • At 2–3 months, hair grows to about one inch.
  • At 3–6 months, hair reaches 2–3 inches.
  • At 12 months, hair is 4–6 inches long.

Hair might look different in color or feel when it comes back. If you had treatments on your hair before chemo, your natural hair might look unexpected as it grows.
That said, often, hair does return to normal after chemo's effects lessen. However, some people don't get all their hair back. Permanent hair loss, including eyebrows and eyelashes, can happen, especially with Taxotere.

Additional steps to support hair regrowth and scalp health

During and after chemotherapy, you can do a few things to protect your scalp and any remaining hair you might have. Regardless of whether you've experienced some hair thinning or complete hair loss, your scalp will be more exposed to the elements than it is used to. It may also feel more tender and sensitive from your chemotherapy treatment.

With that in mind, it is essential to implement a few practices to keep your scalp protected. Many people use head coverings (like scarves, turbans, or hats) to protect their sensitive scalp from the sun and harsh, cooler weather, both of which can irritate the skin. When you're not wearing a head covering, apply (and reapply) sunscreen to avoid burning.

During and immediately after chemotherapy, if you have some remaining hair, you should be as gentle with it as possible, as this hair will be more fragile. Avoid using dyes, bleach, curling irons, straighteners, hairdryers, or other tools that can damage the hair. Perms should also be avoided during this time. It would be best to skip any hairstyles that pull on the hair – stick with looser styles that are gentle on your scalp and hair.

As new hair starts to grow, stick with these rules for about six months after you finish your chemotherapy treatment. Your hair will be fragile as it grows, so you want to treat it as delicately as possible while it strengthens.

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