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Hair loss during Cancer Treatment

Hair loss during Cancer Treatment

This leaflet provides information for people who may lose their hair as a result of their cancer treatment.  The leaflet explains how to care for your hair during your treatment and how chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapies may affect your hair.  It gives information about headwear options such as scarves, turbans and hats.  It also mentions wigs and tells you how to choose, purchase and care for your wig.  Websites for further information and local wig suppliers are listed in the back of the leaflet.  

Will my treatment cause hair loss?

Some chemotherapy treatments and radiotherapy to the scalp area will cause hair loss.  This may vary from hair thinning to complete hair loss.  Your doctor, nurse or radiographer will advise you if your treatment is likely to cause hair loss.

Looking after your hair

Even if your hair does not fall out, treatment can make it dry and brittle.  There are some simple steps you can take to help look after your hair:

  • Use a mild shampoo (not baby shampoo)
  • Use lukewarm not hot water to wash your hair
  • Try not to wash your hair too often
  • Pat your hair dry gently with a soft towel
  • Be gentle when combing or brushing your hair
  • Avoid hot hairdryers, heated rollers and hair tongs
  • Avoid using chemicals such as perms or colours
  • Avoid tying your hair back tightly, use soft hair bobbles 

Preparing for hair loss

If you have been told you may lose your hair, you may find it helpful to have your hair cut short before your treatment starts.  This will reduce the weight of hair pulling on your scalp so it may minimise hair loss.  

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapies affect your hair in different ways:  

Hair loss with chemotherapy

You may experience hair thinning or complete hair loss. Occasionally the treatments may also affect eyebrows, eyelashes, nasal hair, beard, moustache and body hair.  We will discuss with you what hair loss is usual with your treatment.  However, the amount of hair loss varies for each person. 

Scalp cooling can be used for some chemotherapy treatments to prevent or minimise hair loss.  If scalp cooling can be used with your treatment we will discuss this with you.  We also have a leaflet that tells you more about scalp cooling. 

Hair loss usually starts 2 – 4 weeks after your first treatment.  Occasionally it may be sooner, and for some people it will be later.  Your hair will grow back after you have finished treatment. You may even notice some new growth during your treatment.  Hair may grow back a slightly different colour and texture.  

You should minimise exposure to the sun, and wear a hat and sunscreen if you go out in the sun.  Use a mild moisturiser if your head becomes dry or tender.

Hair loss with radiotherapy

You will only lose hair in the area being treated.  For example if you have treatment to your breast or chest you may lose some underarm or chest hair; if your head is being treated you will only lose hair on your head.  The amount of hair loss depends on the strength of treatment. 

Hair loss usually starts after 2 -3 weeks of treatment.  Sometimes hair loss can be permanent, this will depend of the strength of the treatment.  Your doctor, nurse or radiographer will discuss this with you.

If your hair does grow back it can take 2 - 3 months, and the re-growth may be patchy.  Your hair may not be as thick as it was before your treatment. 

You should not expose the treated area to the sun during your treatment and for a year afterwards.  Please wear a hat and use SPF 30 sunscreen on the treated area.

Hair loss with other cancer treatment

Some other cancer treatments such as hormones may cause hair thinning, or make your hair dry and brittle.  Your hair should start to thicken within a few weeks of finishing treatment. 

How will my hair fall out?

You will notice an increase in hair loss when you brush or wash your hair.  You will also notice hair on your pillow.  If you have been told to expect complete hair loss, once this process has started the hair loss usually occurs quickly over a few days to weeks.

Will losing my hair be painful?

Some patients having chemotherapy experience tingling of the scalp or discomfort when the hair starts to fall out.  Mild pain killers can help (whatever you normally take for a headache).

However with radiotherapy, tingling, discomfort and reddening of the scalp could be a side effect of treatment.

Hair loss and body image

Losing your hair can change how you think and feel about yourself (body image), and may affect your self-confidence.  You can speak to your doctor, nurse or radiographers if this has affected you. Macmillan and Breast Cancer Care produce leaflets that you may find helpful.  These are available from the Patient Information Centre or see page 8 for their website details and helpline numbers. 

Head coverings

If you want to cover your head, there are lots of options available.  Scarves, turbans and hats come in a variety of styles and colours and are widely available from department stores.  The Velindre gift shop stocks a selection of turbans.  


Velindre Cancer Centre run HeadStrong sessions which offer practical information and support around hair loss.  You will be given a private appointment with a trained advisor.  They will show you how to make the most of scarves, hats and hairpieces.  This service is available to anyone who is likely to lose their hair through treatment for cancer.

This service is currently unavailable due to covid restrictions.  If you visit there are helpful advice and tips about headscarves.

HeadStrong is available at Chemotherapy Out-Patients every Wednesday between 10am – 3pm.  Please phone 029 2019 6132 for more information or to book an appointment.  

Eyebrows and eyelashes

Losing your eyebrows and eyelashes can change your appearance.  You can use an eyebrow pencil to redraw your eyebrows.  Beauty counters in department stores can show you how to do this.  Some cosmetic salons tattoo new eyebrows.  You can also buy false eyebrows and false eyelashes.

The Maggie’s Centre run the Look Good Feel Better sessions which give expert advice on make up and skin care.  They are free and you will receive a gift bag of products.  This can boost your morale as well as allowing you to spend an enjoyable afternoon with other women who have either had or are having treatment.  Please contact 029 2240 8024 for more information or to book a place.


You may want to wear a wig or hairpiece.  Wigs are available in many different styles and colours.  

We usually talk about wigs during your out-patient appointment when first discussing your treatment. You will be given a leaflet with wig suppliers on page 9 of the leaflet. You can choose any wig supplier from the list.

Velindre Cancer Centre can, if needed, subsidise the cost of your wig up to £100.00.  This covers the cost of most wigs.  If the wig you choose costs more than £100 you will need to pay the difference.  If you would like a wig referral request form please contact Leigh Porter on 029 2019 6132, this telephone has an answerphone so if unavailable, please leave a message.

How do I choose a wig?

Your wig supplier will show you a catalogue of styles and colours to help you choose.  You can try them on to find the one that you feel most comfortable and happy with.  

Your wig supplier will give you specific advice on caring for your wig.  It can be cut and styled to your personal requirements.  Some wig suppliers may charge for this.  Or your usual hairdresser should be able to do this for you.

When your hair grows back

Your hair will grow back at the same rate as normal hair growth, which is about half an inch per month. It will be very fine at first but will become thicker.  Your scalp may become scaly as your hair grows back.  When it is very short you can use aqueous cream to wash your hair.  It produces lather and will moisturise your scalp at the same time.  As your hair becomes longer you should use a very mild shampoo for frequent use.  These do not contain chemicals that dry the scalp and hair.

You should avoid perms, colouring and chemical straightening for at least 3 months after treatment. After this time your hairdresser will be able to assess the condition of your hair and advise you further.

Websites and helplines
Breast Cancer Care -
0808 800 6000

Look Good … Feel Better - 

Macmillan -
0808 808 0000

Tenovus - 0808 808 1010

Macmillan freephone Helpline - 0808 808 0000

Trevor Sorbie’s my new hair - 

Wigbank - 
07840 937 574 Dawn 

You can recycle your wig when you no longer need it by donating it to Wig Bank or Velindre Cancer Centre.  We sell donated wigs with proceeds benefitting the Velindre Cancer Centre charity.

Please note: The wig referral can only be used with the following suppliers.Please telephone the suppliers of your choice to make an appointment

Alternative Look @ Salon Wills
11-13 Castle Arcade Balcony, Cardiff, CF10 2BY 
Phone: 029 2022 4475
Cutting / alteration is available on all wigs. 

Inspirations (covers South Wales and South West Wales)
6A Penybont Road, Pencoed, Bridgend CF35 5RA
Phone: 01656 859528 
Home visits available.  Cutting/alteration is available on all wigs
Finalist Specialist Retailer, Bridgend Retail Awards 2014
Also hats and head scarves available.


Phillip Mungeam, Holly House, Llancayo Court, Usk NP15 1HY Phone: 01291 672749 or 07768848926.


Awarded the prestigious ‘Welsh Hall of Fame’ for our outstanding work in the hair loss industry for cancer patients

Parking at the office

Disabled facilities

Choice of 500+wigs in over 200 colours

Free cuts on hair regrowth after treatments

Home visits available if eligible

The Wig & Beauty Company
Mobile wig fitting service covering all areas
Abi & Kerry

The Wig & Beauty Company 

Allure Aesthetics 

Commercial House 

Commercial Street 



NP12 2JY


This leaflet was written by health professionals.  It has been approved by doctors, nurses and patients.  It is reviewed and updated every 2 years.
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