Chemotherapy and Hair Loss

Chemotherapy and Hair Loss

People do not realize how important their hair is until they are on the brink of losing it. There are a number of different ways in which hair loss can affect people. Most of the hair loss conditions take effect quite gradually. For instance, the most common cause of hair loss, heredity, leads to slow and steady hair loss over a period of several years. Most people do not even notice their hair fall until they have lost about half of their hair. The slow progression of hair loss is not much of a problem when you compare it to other hair loss cases where the rate of hair loss is very high. The people who are the most vulnerable to rapid loss of hair are those who are suffering from cancer and are about to undergo chemotherapy. It does not take years for your hairline to recede when you are going through chemotherapy. You could be completely bald within a matter of months, if not weeks. This is how serious chemotherapy induced hair loss is.

Cancer Patients Fear Hair Loss

Both men and women report hair loss to be one of the side effects they fear the most after being diagnosed with cancer. Can you imagine how difficult it is for a person, regardless of age, gender or social status, to realize that they have to deal with the added burden of hair loss along with surviving cancer? While cancer eats away a person from the inside, hair loss eats away a person from the outside. Out outward beauty and appearance is severely compromised by the abrupt and rapid hair loss spurred by chemotherapy. Most people who suffer from cancer and go through chemotherapy, find it extremely difficult to handle their sudden loss of hair. In certain cases, this incredibly swift form of hair loss can cause a person to slip into chronic depression. This not only makes you emotionally unstable, but also lowers your chances of surviving cancer. There is evidence to suggest that a positive frame of mind can give an individual the edge in the battle against cancer. In simpler words, the loss of hair has the potential to make a cancer patient’s life extremely miserable.

Chemotherapy Attacks Rapidly Growing Hair Cells

Chemotherapy drugs are not like any other ordinary medication. They are extremely powerful and can have very strong effects on the human body. The chemotherapy medications are designed to rapidly attack growing cancer cells. In the process of doing that, they end up causing damage to other cells in the body, although the researchers are working hard to minimize that damage. The chemotherapy medication attacks rapidly growing cells in particular. If you have healthy hair, then the growth rate of your hair cells is supposed to be very high. Thus, hair cells are viciously attacked by chemotherapy medication.

Complete Hair Loss in the Body

Chemotherapy does not only cause hair loss in the scalp. It can lead to hair loss in every single part of your body. This hair loss condition is very similar to alopecia universalis. At the end of a few months of chemotherapy, you may be left with no hair on your head, limbs, face or your pubic regions. Some chemotherapy medications are more likely than others to lead to hair loss. The amount of hair you lose due to chemotherapy is also influenced by the kind of dosage that you have been prescribed. Different doses can cause anything from slight thinning of the hair to complete hair loss all over the body.

What Can You Expect?

Progression of Hair Loss

Cancer patients usually experience chemotherapy hair loss two to four weeks after they have begun treatment. In most cases, the hair falls out very quickly. Instead of seeing a few strands on your comb, pillow or washbasin, you will see clumps of fallen hair. This alone can be a heartbreaking sight for many cancer patients. The scalp of a cancer patient who is undergoing hair loss due to chemotherapy will feel a lot more tender than usual.


If you have high expectations of a speedy recovery, then we are sorry to inform you that it can take up to several weeks after the treatment has been stopped for your hair to start growing back again. Even after the hair grows back, it will not be the same as the hair you had before you underwent chemotherapy. The good news is that the difference in the hair texture is only temporary. It is often noticed that hair grown after chemotherapy is curlier than before. The newly grown hair could also be gray in colour since the cells that control the pigment in your hair remain inactive throughout this time.


Researchers have yet to come up with a way to prevent hair loss or stop hair loss during chemotherapy. Some cancer patients, especially young women in their 20s, prefer to sport a wig during their period of chemotherapy induced hair loss.