Chemo Hair and Hair Care for Chronic Illness
Chemo Hair is strange. You hear stories about people going through chemotherapy. All different types for all different reasons. But many people who go through it, not all, but many, say they have the same side effects. There are few and varied. But common ones include hair colour changes, hair texture, density, thickness and behaviour. I doubt you would be born with straight blonde hair and end up with dark thick curly hair.
That seems a bit cray cray.
My guess? Chemo hair is likely going to change in only one way. But I am not able to say too much. I am not qualified to say much. What research I have done indicates hair is a common change that occurs. I can attest it is real. It happened to me.
Before I had Rituximab my hair was generally straight. It had some wave, sure. It was fine. I had a lot of it until an incident in high school that resulted in a large scar of melted skin on my scalp. Hair does not grow through that part. That is where they drilled. Into my scar melted skin scar.
I'm sharing my surgical site as a celebration of the news that I'm definitely getting the #chemotherapy! I got the call today, now I'm just waiting for a time and day for the first infusion. It will be in the next two weeks and they are pushing for it to be 'ASAP'. I'm excited to not be in limbo any longer. Not excited about the treatment as such, but more the knowledge that I will be treated in general. The doctor said, 'This will knock the #lesion on the head'. Seriously. Those were her words. #funtimes #sle #SystemicLupusErythematosus #Lupus #vasculitis #CerebralVasculitis #cerebritis #brain
I have been sulking wickedly this year. I feel like a sheep or a poodle. My chemo hair has eventuated into the ultimate bomb of ringlets. Tight, as if they developed by being wrapped around my little finger. Or a pencil.
It sounds cute and once upon a time I actually wanted that. But it is ridiculous to manage. It is dry and brittle, unlike pre-chemo when it was oily and strong. I lost a few hundred strands every few days. My hands would be close to full every time I ran them down my hair. I was close to hysterics every time it happened. My will grew shakier as time went on but my pain stayed locked inside. I didn’t want people to know the pain my chemo hair brought me. I knew my hair mess was everywhere. I knew it probably disgusted my housemate.
It disgusted me.
I knew I had to do something about what was happening to me. My hair, once so luscious and wavy and slightly oily, now dry and brittle and falling out. I decided I needed to tackle the hair care issue inside and out, on all fronts. I changed my diet.
Nutrients that help with hair care, strength and growth:
- Vitamins A, B, C, D & E
- Copper – for colour and lustre
The best food sources for these:
- Salmon, trout, herring and mackerel
- Poultry and lean beef
- Spinach, Kale, Broccoli and dark leafy greens
- Greek yoghurt
- Blueberries and strawberries
With some of these foods you need to ensure you are not overdoing it, for health reasons. Walnuts for example can be fatty and may cause some to break out in large doses. Lentils give some people indigestion (and gas) so may make things uncomfortable…Just saying.
Admittedly, I also tried two supplements. Because I need to do everything, cover all bases. One is basic and is from the health food shop. Typically they offer a range and you can select whichever one is most appropriate for you based on the advice of salespeople, the prices and availability. The other is my Willowmade™ supplement.
To manage your hair care from outside, you need to revisit what chemicals are being used on the surface. As a rule you must accept that hair is lifeless and so once it is damaged that is it. Hair care is putting off damage as long as possible and harsh chemicals will damage it quicker. As will things such as blow drying, straightening and curling it. I discussed this matter at length with many hair dressers, whom for private reasons I cannot name. I also therefore do not have links to the sites where the information came from, however I have tried to find some supporting links, listed below.
I was informed it is a chemical in and on hair that causes the curling. The more expensive hair styling electronics and chemicals heat quickly or can work at cooler temperatures, thus cause less damage and frizz. They also use different materials on ‘plates’ so as to reduce damage in heat transmission. They utilise an ‘ionising technique’.
Whatever that means.
When shampoos, serums and conditioners are made they all say they do a particular thing. These things all require products that will add weight to your hair, causing it to pull at the roots.
To avoid heavy chemicals and the like these are some good rules to follow:
- Wash with a baby shampoo, I used Johnson’s and my hair was very soft. BUT it has the next two chemicals…
- Avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). They are toxic.
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
- Brush your hair with wide toothed combs
- Never brush your hair wet
- Avoid brushes with ‘nodules’ on the end of bristles
- Shampoo the roots twice. With a SMALL amount of the cream. Massage the scalp.
- Condition the ends once. With a SMALL amount. Leave it in for only a few minutes.
- When you hair is half wet/half dry run ONE DROP of Oil over the hair evenly, more to the ends than the roots. Comb out tangles. Leave it to dry.
Admittedly I do not know too much about some of these chemicals and I find it hard to look for them when shopping. But what I found was they are in all the typical big brands on the shelves. I already knew they were bad and so I haven’t bought those in years. In health shops and the end, lower and higher ends of the shelves in big supermarkets, where their marketing thinks you won’t look, you find these. They are by brands you haven’t heard of. The bottles say ‘No SLS or SLES’ and ‘No Parabens’. They make easy. Even if the shop doesn’t.
I was always dubious about the cost of those hair dryers and straighteners. You know what I am talking about. I mean $200 upwards? Really? I have never been that vain so my two electronics have come from a large chain store, costing between $20 and $40. But when I tried to do my hair nicely for a recent funeral, only to find in the 20 minute drive to the cemetery I had gone from Morticia Adams to Little Bo Peep?
Enough was enough.
I did buy one. It is good. I won’t say more. I did also buy a special hair brush. A ‘detangler’. I will say it is by Michael Mercier and they are in all the Priceline stores. It is good. Nuff said.
I alternate the oil I use between the following four:
- Moroccan Oil
- Argan Oil
- Coconut oil, melted
- Rosehip oil
So you can see I have spent a fair bit of time working on changing my hair care regime. It may seem excessive but you needn’t go toe the lengths I did. And admittedly I didn’t even go to these lengths for one simple reason: I already was eating the foods I listed because they are foods we need regularly anyway. Nuff said. The oils can be expensive, but my Moroccan oil has lasted years and the coconut oil is a good cheap alternative, it works because it is very similar is molecular structure to hair oil apparently. The easy and lazy (no judging!) way out is just to take supplements for hair strength and growth.
My hair is strong, thick, not falling out and not brittle. Yes it is still so curly that drives me crazy. But apparently chemo hair only lasts for a year or two.
The information I provided was sourced from the following:
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This is such a great post! I’m so sorry about your hair but it is good you are getting treatment. You seem really knowledgeable on this subject so congrats on learning all this valuable information! I recently got off Prednisone after being on it for 7 months (I’m lucky and am hoping to stay off it but we are still testing things on that front). While weaning off Prednisone and since being off it, my hair has been coming out more and more. I cut a couple inches off of it to help with weight but several of your tricks are ones I hadn’t heard of! I can’t wait to try them out! I’m a performer so I would prefer to keep my hair as healthy as possible. Thanks for sharing and best wishes! I’ll be praying for you and sending healthy vibes!