How Long Does It Take for Hair to Grow Back After Chemotherapy?

by GregP_WN

Answer: In most cases, it takes about 3-10 months after the end of chemotherapy treatment for hair to grow back.

Young Girl Smiling

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In case you didn't know, Cancer itself isn’t responsible for hair loss (which is also called alopecia). Hair loss is actually caused by certain types of treatments—namely, chemotherapy. Chemo blasts healthy cells as well as cancer cells, including the cells that make hair follicles; however, not everyone with cancer loses their hair. It depends on the addition of chemotherapy, or radiation, and how you react to it. It’s worth remembering not all chemos cause hair loss, and hair loss can occur on any area of your body.

Hair loss is a side effect of chemotherapy or radiation, however, not all chemotherapy drugs will cause hair loss, and not everyone that has radiation will lose their hair. Hair loss occurs because some of the drugs that destroy cancer cells also damage hair follicles. Hair loss can occur all over the body, but it is most common on the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Hair will start to come out in clumps in the shower and shed on your pillow when you are sleeping. The breast cancer drug Cytoxan causes hair thinning, Adrucil rarely causes hair loss, Adriamycin thins hair over a few weeks and then falls out, and Taxol causes very sudden hair loss. It is up to you if you want to shave your head when you start to experience hair loss. Hair loss may depend on the patient and level of treatment of the chemotherapy.

Hair loss from radiation typically happens in the area that is being treated only. Sometimes this hair doesn't grow back. Several have reported that underarm hair or chest hair has never returned.

Hair Loss From Radiation 

If you are one of the patients that undergo chemotherapy and experiences hair loss, there are things you can do to feel confident about yourself. Some women wear headscarves, wigs, and pencil on eyebrows. There is nothing you can do to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy. However, hair loss is temporary and will start to grow back in a few months after chemotherapy treatment. Your hair may grow back with a different color, texture, or consistency. The best thing to do is let your hair grow out naturally and then think about dying, straightening, or perming it after you are completely finished with the treatment.

Other things that may help with hair loss:
  • Use wigs. Some insurance covers wigs, so be sure to get a prescription from your doctor.
  • Use head coverings. You can shop this catalog for cancer-friendly head coverings.
  • 30-50% of body heat is released through the head, so if you lose all your hair you must compensate with hats or head scarves.
  • Use mild and moisturizing shampoos.
  • Use soft hair brushes.
  • Avoid using heat on your hair. If you need to use a hair dryer, then use low heat.
  • It may be helpful to cut your hair short when you start to experience hair loss.
  • Consider wearing a sleep cap to bed.

PinkRibbons of WhatNext shared her experience with hair loss during chemotherapy, “I'll never forget the day my hair started to fall out, it was my son’s 17th birthday. First I started bawling in my bedroom for a good half hour, then I got it together and went in my10-year-old son’s room and said, “Wanna have some fun and play barber??”, I gave him scissors and said have at it! We were laughing, and I was trying my hardest not to break down. It was the best haircut I've ever gotten and a memory that I will cherish always.”

BuckeyeShelby said, "I completed chemo at the end of Jan 2013. I dumped the hats & scarves at the end of April 2013. First hair cut (basically to shape it as it started to grow) was in June 2013."

Phoenix76 said her hair started to regrow after about 2 weeks and problems. It has grown really slowly - it's now about 9 inches after two years. So, it was almost a year before I felt comfortable with it enough to go without my wig. I think it was about 3 inches or so. My wig was about shoulder length, so over a weekend I "got a haircut", and showed up to work with short hair!

It felt so great to feel the wind in my hair again, and to feel the sun on my scalp!

Other Hair Regrowth Issues

While most people will have no issues with their hair growing back in like it was, some have shared some strange things that happened when their hair grew back. Hair growing back in a "patchy pattern" has been reported. The hair doesn't grow back in evenly all over, and takes a few more months to eventually fill in. 

Growing back in a different color or texture has happened quite often. An older gentleman who had a gray head of hair said his grew back jet black. Another WhatNexter said his hair grew back in a very fine texture and straight when his hair used to be coarse and wavy. 

So the answer for you may vary. We all take treatment differently and we all have different side effects, and recovering from those side effects will also vary. Relax, and be patient, your hair will most likely, grow back eventually. 

Do you have any strange hair regrowth experiences? Please share them in the comments. 

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