Encourage Hair Growth After Chemotherapy

Edited by Nerissa Avisado, Eng, Lynn, Alma and 19 others

Most cancer patients want to grow their hair back as soon as possible. Cancer is a dreadful thing. It changes a person inside and out. You go through physical and emotional pain, and battle mental anguish as cancer cells try to overpower your defenses. But you are a survivor! You live for the day your oncologist pronounces you cancer free at last. Now that your battle with cancer is won it, or at least you are in remission, is time to reclaim yourself. A glance in the mirror tells you it is time to start nurturing yourself back to health after your seemingly endless chemo treatments. It is time to regain your confidence. This article is focused on helping you to re-grow your hair.



Understanding Chemotherapy and its Effect on Hair

Chemotherapy refers to the use of drugs that are powerful medications intended to rapidly destroy proliferating cancer cells. Unfortunately, these drugs cannot distinguish the good, healthy cells from the bad ones. They target all fast dividing cells, not only the cancer cells. Thus, cells in the digestive tract, bone marrow, and hair follicles are just as vulnerable. This typically leads to the so called "side effects" of chemotherapy - mucositis or the inflammation of the digestive tract lining, myelosuppression or diminished blood cell formation, and alopecia or balding.

Hair loss due to chemotherapy happens in the scalp, as well as in your eyelashes, armpits, eyebrows, and other body parts. The degree of hair loss goes from thinning, to complete baldness. It depends on the dose or strength of the drugs used and on the kind of drug being administered. For instance:

  • Cytoxan or cyclophosphamide - This chemotherapy drug for breast cancer can trigger hair thinning, but not complete hair loss.
  • Adriamycin or odoxorubicin - This chemotherapy medication is known to cause hair to fall out in the first three weeks of the therapy, then all the hair falls out, often nearly all at once.
  • Adrucil or fluorouracil - This is one drug that does not cause any hair loss.
  • Taxol or paclitaxel - This drug can cause sudden, massive hair loss.

What to Expect After Chemotherapy

Who does not want to see their hair grow back faster after chemotherapy? If there is welcome news about chemotherapy and hair loss, it is the fact that usually hair loss due to chemotherapy is temporary. In about 99 percent of the cases, hair indeed grows back after the therapy is over. How much time are you looking at and what expectations are reasonable regarding the re-growth of you hair?

  1. 1
    Ten to fifteen days after chemotherapy
    Hair loss begins. You will notice clumps of hair fall out quite quickly, so that about 50 percent of your hair will fall out after only a week. This continues until the effect of the chemotherapy drugs wanes.
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  2. 2
    Two weeks after cessation of chemotherapy sessions
    Hair may begin re-growing even during chemotherapy. The fresh growth appears as a soft fuzzy hair. The hair continues to grow in the coming four to five weeks. It is reasonable to expect a quarter to half-inch growth per month in the months following chemotherapy.
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  3. 3
    Four to six weeks after cessation of chemotherapy sessions
    In most cases, hair is already growing at this time. Yet, for some cancer survivors, it takes longer for hair to grow back. Just remember that if hair is still growing slowly around this time, it is attributed to individual differences due to overall health and other variables.
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  4. 4
    Two to twenty months after
    Your hair will have grown already, but expect changes in the hair's texture or shade. Remember, these changes are temporary. People with straight hair may initially grow back hair that is curly or wavy. You may also notice hair to be thicker or thinner than it was before. The growth may not be uniform; it can be patchy, or thicker or thinner at the top. The color of the new hair may have a lighter or darker shade. In a year's time, it is reasonable to expect that the original texture, color and thickness of your hair will return.
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Boosting Faster Natural Hair Re-growth

If you want the process to proceed at a faster rate, here are some things you must know.

  1. 1
    The growth rate of hair
    Hair naturally grows at a rate of about half an inch per month.
    There are suggestions that there is nothing that anyone can do to make it grow any faster. There are many commercial products sold in the market that promise faster hair growth. If you buy these products, be realistic, because it may not deliver the results as promised.
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  • 2
    Boost your healthy hair from within
    If you want to grow healthy hair, then live a healthy lifestyle so that you may have a robust immune system. This means eating a healthy and balanced diet, doing regular exercise, and avoiding vices that can put your health at risk, like smoking, drinking alcohol, and addictive drugs.
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  • 3
    Nourish hair
    Always remember that your hair is like a dead appendage by the time it leaves the follicle beneath the scalp. This is why it cannot grow as fast you may want it to. Still, you can keep it healthy looking with the right care and nourishment. Cancer survivors can adopt a regimen of taking vitamins to help nourish the hair.  
    1. Vitamin B Complex can encourage blood flow to the scalp that can stimulate hair growth.
    2. Vitamin E can aid in capillary development, while Vitamin C can boost the health of the follicles.
    3. Biotin is another vitamin that is said to help hair grow faster and thicker. It is a water-soluble B vitamin that helps the cells to optimize metabolic processes.
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  • 4
    Add inositol to your diet
    Inositol is a simple carbohydrate that is a vitamin of the B group. It is a nutrient that is necessary in promoting normal cellular functions in the scalp to generate hair cells. It can be taken in the form of food, or as a supplement. Get inositol from navy and lima beans, brown rice, wheat germ, whole grain bread, liver, citrus fruits (except lemons), cantaloupe, molasses, nuts, and green leafy vegetables. It is also found in cereals mixed with phosphorus, and referred to as phytic acid.
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  • 5
    Load up on fatty acids
    Re-growth of hair is said to be encouraged by omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids supplements. You can get these from black currant oil or evening primrose oil (GLA, or gamma-linolenic acid) as capsule supplements. The best and most delicious way to get these is from fish - mackerel, salmon, herring, or sardines. Cancer survivors can also get their dose from freshly ground flax seeds.
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  • 6
    Stimulating essential oils
    Rubbing essential oils into the scalp is said to be effective in promoting faster and thicker hair growth. Some cancer survivors testify to the blend's effectiveness and it can be used regularly after chemotherapy. It also has a nice smell. Certain commercial products to grow hair have also mixed essential oils such as rosemary, ylang-ylang, bergamot, and lavender. Rosemary oil is a stimulant and regulates hair-loss. Ylang-Ylang and Bergamot nourish the scalp to strengthen hair-shaft and hair. The lavender oil helps beat dandruff and fortifies hair roots.
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  • 7
    Use herbal products at your own risk
    Remember that herbal products for hair growth must be approached with caution because they are not FDA tested. Most of these are advertised as supplements, with no therapeutic claims. The technique is to seek medical advice from your doctor so that it will not have any medical interactions with your medications.
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  • 8
    Care for your hair and scalp gently
    Even cancer experts like the Cancer Research UK advise using gentle hair care products. So, use a baby shampoo that will be gentle for you. Sulfite-free shampoo can also encourage hair re=growth. When your scalp is itching, there are oils and moisturizers that you can use or apply to the scalp rather than using strong dandruff shampoos. Organic products are always more mild as they don't contain the chemicals regular hair products contain.
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  • 9
    Heard of Cold Caps
    This is also referred to as "scalp hypothermia." It's not really a new concept. It's been around for about three decades already, yet it only became popular recently. The benefits of cold caps have not been medically established, but it is believed that the freezing temperature can slow down the blood flow, which then narrows down the blood vessels. This makes it difficult for the chemotherapy drugs to travel up the hair roots. There are observations that use of cold caps can diminish massive hair loss by up to 70 percent. If you are interested, talk to your oncologist about this process. How are they used?  
    1. Fill the Cold Caps with silicon gel. Chill to -22 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Chemotherapy patients can wear the cap every 30 minutes for 7 hours the same day they receive chemotherapy.
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  • Boosting Hair Re-growth with Products

    Encourage Hair Growth After Chemotherapy 91553.jpg

    Aside from natural solutions, there are products on the market that try to stimulate hair growth following hair loss due to chemotherapy. The most recommended types of products are:

    1. 1
      Encourage Hair Growth After Chemotherapy 35766.jpg
      This falls under a class of hair growth stimulants that work on the hair follicles. It expands the follicles to make the hair thicker when it grows. It also works on extending the stage when the hair is in active hair growth. You can choose between two strengths or formulations - the 2 percent strength and the 5 percent strength. The former is recommended for both men and women, while the latter is recommended only for men. A drop applied twice a day. Sometimes, it might take up to four months before results are noticeable.
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    2. 2
      Ketoconazole Shampoo
      Encourage Hair Growth After Chemotherapy 76669.jpg
      Ketoconazole is an antifungal treatment that blocks the action of DHT (dihydrotestosterone), an androgen or hormone that prevents the hair follicles from getting necessary nutrients to grow healthy. Added in an anti-dandruff shampoo, it helps clear the hair follicles so that the hair can grow healthily.
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    3. 3
      Encourage Hair Growth After Chemotherapy 66919.jpg
      This is a hair growth stimulant that is used as an important ingredient of shampoos, conditioners, and follicle therapy sprays. It can be used along with Minoxidil to foster hair growth. Tricomin is among the few stimulants for hair that is backed by solid medical studies and FDA trials. It contains copper peptides that work on shortening the resting phase period of the hair follicle. In practical terms, this means prolonging the active growth phase of the hair.
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    Tips, Tricks and Warnings

    • Hair loss is part and parcel of the struggle against cancer. Unfortunately, all chemotherapy drugs that effectively target and kill fast proliferating malignant cells, can also cause chemotherapy patients to lose hair.
    • Manage the growth of your hair.
      • At the onset, and as your hair is growing back, keep applying moisturizer. This can help ease the itch that comes when growing back your hair.
      • Your scalp will be very sensitive at this stage. Make sure to protect it when you go outdoors, using head-coverings such as scarves, wigs, hats, etc.
      • Trimming is a good way to keep your growing hair well groomed. As the hair grows, it will pass the awkward stage, and an adept hairstylist can help you pass those stages fashionably. Meanwhile, it's best to stay away from chemicals used in dyeing, coloring, bleaching, perming and straightening hair.
      • Cover your hair with a satin cloth to protect your hair at night. This can minimize the friction against the pillowcase. Also, using pillow cases with a slippery fabric will cut down on the friction between your hair, and your pillow.
      • If you can, shave your head or wear it short. These can let you get away from a having hair patches that can be unsightly. It will also let your hair grow evenly. The alternative is to cut your hair short. This way your hair will look thicker.
      • Go for a soft-bristled brush. To untangle your hair, use a wide-tooth comb and detangle from the bottom first - if the hair is longer. This will prevent damaging your hair and scalp, which, at this time, are delicate.
      • Use a wig. It is nice if you have a wig that matches your natural tresses. If you want one, get it customized to make more natural-looking. You can do this before you start chemotherapy when your hair is still there. You can also save a lock of your hair to match the wig if you will opt to do it later. Wigs can be expensive, but there are lot of agencies there for you, to provide a wig for you, if you can't afford it.

    [1] The American Cancer Society has a wig program.

    Losing one's beautiful tresses is difficult, but it is something that you can live with. What matters most is that the chemotherapy has successfully overcome the spreading malignant cells. Focus on fighting and getting well. Hair loss is not permanent. With some natural remedies, commercial products, and a great attitude, you can encourage hair growth after chemotherapy.

    Questions and Answers

    What products stimulate hair growth after chemotherapy?

    You can use Aloe Vera gel. Just apply it directly onto your scalp and leave it on for a few minutes or leave it overnight. You will have to do it for a few weeks before you see results. Once your hair starts to grow, you will notice that the strands are stronger.

    You can also try applying those mint rubs that people normally use for muscle pain. Many people have tried it and they start to notice small hairs begin to grow. It is said to stimulate the roots of your hair, that's why it stimulatea hair growth.

    Hair growth after chemo. I underwent 17 cycles of chemo. Help please?

    Its almost 3 months and my hair is growing very slowly. It is soft & fuzzy. I underwent 17 cycles of chemo. When will my hair be back to normal?

    Chemotherapy is a chemical intervention primarily used to kill or slow down the growth of cancer cells in the body. It can either be in the form of oral chemotherapy (Tablet or capsules to be taken orally) or intravenous chemotherapy (injected into the vein). The course of chemotherapy solely depends on the type and severity of the cancer (one day treatment or several treatments). One notable side effect of chemotherapy is alopecia or hair loss because it depresses the immune system of the body resulting in less production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets (blood components). Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen needed by the hair follicles and cells of the scalp. If the blood has limited nutrients and oxygen, the hair follicles will not function properly, resulting in thinning of the hair and slower hair growth. Hair loss is not permanent and usually grows back after chemotherapy (after a few weeks or months). Regarding your query, you underwent seventeen courses of chemotherapy and for about three months your hair is growing very slowly. This is because your body is not yet fully recovered from the numerous chemotherapy treatments you had. Based on this wiki, the normal human hair growth rate is about half an inch in a month. However, if the person's immune system is suppressed or compromised, the growth rate of human hair is also compromised, and the hair's physical characteristic is altered showing a weak and fuzzy hair. Normal growth will resume in a few more months, up to a year or two, until your body's physiologic functions normalizes.

    How can I increase hair growth after radio therapy?

    I am suffering from a malignant brain tumor and surgical resection was done last Feb 6th, followed by radiotherapy (1.8 gy *33 sittings was done). Now I am having hair loss. How can I manage my hair loss? Please reply soon.

    There are several tips in the VisiHow article on this page and in the QnA section. Once you have fully completed your treatment, you can begin the recovery of your hair in about 6 months, but by the 9th month, there should be a dramatic improvement.

    The radiation targeted directly to the head could have caused follicles to die, but you will not know until after the 9th month, if no further treatment is pending, to see what you are dealing with. For now, speak to your oncologist about hair re-growth serums. You can use Castor Oil to see if that helps stimulate your scalp.

    Hi. My mother had chemotherapy, and now she completely lost her hair. Can you help?

    Can you please guide me? She wants her hair back as soon as possible.

    After 3 months following her final round of chemotherapy, she should begin seeing new hair growth. There is not much you can do during chemotherapy but afterwards, she can start applying over the counter hair growth medicine or even Castor oil to her scalp. One thing she can do now is to use clarifying facemasks on her scalp to keep her hair follicles open. Because her scalp is exposed, the follicles can become clogged, inhibiting future hair growth. Look for ones that say they help with pores and blackheads. Have her put the mask on her scalp and then rinse it off using a gentle shampoo.

    I'm not sure what shampoo or conditioner I should use. I have peach fuzz and I am excited to have my hair grow back. I'm just seeing white hair.

    What shampoo or conditioner should I use to help with re-growth?

    There are quite a few product lines that have created specific shampoo and conditioners to help stimulate hair growth. For optimum results it is best to use both the shampoo and conditioner, and any other nourishing serums or oils in the product line in conjunction with each other. In fact, the product lines below may not sell the shampoo or conditioner as a stand-alone product.

    Here is a list of the top three recommended hair cleansing and conditioning products to encourage hair growth -

    Keranique Hair-Re-growth Treatment is specifically formulated premium shampoo and conditioner for women that widens shrunken hair follicles and is clinically proven to increase the hair shaft diameter.

    Phytoworx Organic Hair Loss Shampoo deploys plant stem cells and essential oils to combat the over-production of testosterone that can close hair follicles.

    Ultra Lax Labs Growth Stimulating Shampoo is a thickening shampoo that contains ketoconazole,, an antifungal agent that clarifies the pores of the scalp and aids hair growth.

    One year later, and my hair is still not growing properly I'm 43 years old. What is your advice in this case?

    Hello. I had breast cancer. My chemo finished in May 2014. One year later, and I still have a problem with my hair. It's thick, but I don't have hair on the top and sides. I had some hormone tests. Is it normal or not? It's been 14 months and it's still not growing properly.

    This can happen with breast cancer chemotherapy treatment. Depending on the chemo treatment you received, there is a risk, with certain people, that the hair loss is permanent. You said you were getting your hormones checked, so I hope they did a test for hypothyroidism.

    For now, make a mixture of coconut oil and castor oil and apply to your scalp nightly, before bed. This may help in the production of new hair. You can also try the Rogaine and Minoxidil routes, but if you do have a hormonal imbalance, it may not help your hormones are balanced again.

    77 year old woman. Thinning brittle hair, and I am concerned. Will supplements help?

    What supplements would assist in hair re-growth?

    Silica supplements will help. Look for pure actual silica and not biotin. This will also help in the production of collagen for your skin and joints. Use Argan oil on your hair as a topical application daily. The oil is a dry oil, so it will not make your hair limp and greasy.

    Will using coconut oil be helpful for hair re-growth. I also have Nioxin.?

    I am 13 almost 14 weeks post my second stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma. I had a 30-minute drip of melflan (not sure of spelling) and my hair fell out about 2 weeks later. It started growing back 8 weeks after the transplant. My skin is still itchy from the chemo so I hesitated using the Nioxin, but was wondering if the coconut oil has any nourishing benefits. Usually my hair would grow very fast in the summer but of course this summer will be the exception. Thank you.

    Coconut oil can help in hair production by reducing fungus associated with the scalp. Castor Oil can help aid hair production and these oils will also help with the itchiness you are experiencing. You can certainly begin the Nioxin now that you are 3 months post chemotherapy.

    What is out there that is safe, that will help with my very thin spots of hair, without having to use it forever?

    After Chemo, I am sort of gun-shy, and there are so many products. I'm confused.

    There are so many products because people are different, and not every product works for every person. You will have to test each product for 3 months each to determine which one gives you the best results. Something to try out right away, is Castor Oil. You leave it on your scalp overnight. For the thin hair, consider using Nioxin and washing your hair twice a week with baking soda added to your shampoo. This will thicken your hair and treat your scalp.

    What do I need to buy for number 6? Thank you.

    I had chemo so now my hair is very thin...probably 1 inch long. Some of it came in, and then fell out again. I don't know what to do.

    Read all the information in the VisiHow article and the QnA section. One essential oil you should get is Rosemary Oil. This oil can stimulate hair growth when applied daily to the scalp. Castor Oil can be mixed with the Rosemary Essential Oil and applied nightly to your scalp.

    Can hair follicles that aren't producing hair, begin producing hair again? Can hair follicles become permanently killed or destroyed?

    Two years from the four rounds of chemo for breast cancer that I received which was Taxotere, Herceptin and Perjeta, I have very sparse hair with about 80 percent of my scalp still bald. Then one year of Herceptin and 14 months of Anastrozole, an aromatase inhibitor. The hair I do have is very weak and slow growing. No balding in my family history from either parent and originally my hair was considered much thicker than average. Thank you for your response. Any help you might be able to offer.. I have tried: All kinds of external and internal DHT prohibitors, vitamins, minerals, herbs, massage, so many things.. I think it was caused by: The chemo medicines.

    Taxotere sadly can cause permanent hair loss in 3 to 8% of people. There is an Taxotears Support Group online that you should consider joining. The good news is that your hair is slowly growing which means you do have a chance of recovering your hair - eventually. Has your hormonal panel checked to see if you have hypothyroidism or other deficiencies which can cause hair loss?

    How can I be sure that my husband does not get cancer knowing that his grandmother died of the same disease and his mother now suffers from lung cancer?

    My mother in law suffers from lung cancer which is prevalent in more than one place in the body and in the final stages

    I think your husband might try to have the Blood Marker Tests /tumor markers to detect cancer activity in the body. Proteins and circulating tumor cells are two types of markers that can be measured. A cancer tumor often produces a specific protein in the blood that serves as a marker for the cancer. Circulating tumor cells are cells that break off from the cancer and move into the blood stream. Protein markers and circulating tumor cells can be measured with simple blood tests.

    Thank you! I finished 2 rounds of chemo 4 months ago and 33 radiations almost 3 months ago, I noticed in the last two weeks that my hair is growing back under the hair left on my head, and I'm so happy..Will it continue grow back or shall I use a supplement to help?

    Like I said above, my hair is growing back after almost 3 months I did radiations and 4 months I did chimios..its about one inch long and I'm happy, will it continue to grow his way or shall I take a supplement, like oil, serum or vitamins?

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    What supplement can I take or what can I put on my hair?

    I had chemotherapy 5 years ago and my hair is still thinner and bridal

    VisiHow QnA. This section is not written yet. Want to join in? Click EDIT to write this answer.

    If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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