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How to Care for the Hair & Scalp During Chemotherapy

author image Holly L. Roberts
Holly Roberts is an award-winning health and fitness writer whose work has appeared in health, lifestyle and fitness magazines. Roberts has also worked as an editor for health association publications and medical journals. She has been a professional writer for more than 10 years and holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in literature.
How to Care for the Hair & Scalp During Chemotherapy
A woman going through chemotherapy who is bald looks away. Photo Credit: prudkov/iStock/Getty Images

Chemotherapy fights cancer by attacking the fastest growing cells in your body--which in some cases includes the cells in your hair follicles. For many people, the damage to hair follicles during chemo can result in weak or brittle hair, thinning hair or even complete hair loss. Coping with the effects of hair loss during chemotherapy can be physically and emotionally uncomfortable, but learning how to care for the hair and scalp during chemotherapy can make things a little easier.

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Step 1

Switch to a soft bristled hairbrush that will be gentle on your scalp.

Step 2

Choose a gentle, pH-balanced shampoo. Look for one that's recommended for children or babies, or ask your doctor or hairdresser for a recommendation.

Step 3

Stop coloring, perming or otherwise treating your hair during chemotherapy. Consider a short haircut, which may be easier to manage.

Step 4

Wash your hair only when necessary, and avoid brushing or styling hair when you can. In general, leave your hair and scalp alone as much as you can.

Step 5

Opt for a hairstyle that doesn't require you to use styling aids like blow dryers and curling irons.

Step 6

Use sunscreen on your scalp and wear a hat, scarf or turban outside to protect your scalp. You may be more comfortable wearing a head covering inside, too, because your head may be more likely to get cold without hair to protect it.

Step 7

Change your pillowcase to a silk or satin one, which is less likely to create uncomfortable friction on your scalp while you're sleeping.

Step 8

Rub baby oil or mineral oil onto your scalp if hair loss has made your scalp feel itchy or sensitive.

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