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Scalp cooling haircare guide

Here is guidance on haircare during scalp cooling which will help to ensure your hair is as easy as possible to manage and in the best possible condition, so that you can move forward when your chemo is done.

Scalp cooling haircare guide

Here is some guidance on haircare during scalp cooling which will help to ensure your hair is as easy as possible to manage and in the best possible condition, so that you can move forward when your chemotherapy is done.

Choose your hair type below

It is really important to tailor your haircare while you are scalp cooling to ensure that your hair is as easy as possible to manage, but also to keep retained hair in the best possible condition, so that you can move forward when your chemo is done.

This is why we have developed two haircare guides - one for those with type 1 and 2 (straight and wavy hair) and one for those with type 3 and 4 (curly and coily hair).

These guides will give you some simple advice on how to look after your hair and make the most of the hair you have during the scalp cooling experience. While there are lots of similarities when caring for all hair types, there are some specific differences, so get to know the right guide and approaches for you.


Type 1 & 2
Type 3 & 4

Type 1 & 2 - straight and wavy hair

Don’t wash your hair more than twice a week or less than once every 10 days

Keep in mind that a common side effect of chemo is a drying effect on your hair and scalp skin. Washing very frequently will strip the natural oils from your hair and contribute to and exacerbate dryness. For some people washing your hair less frequently may feel daunting, particularly if you are a daily washer. Your scalp adapts quickly, even if you are a daily washer and you shouldn’t find your hair to be too greasy once your treatment is in full swing.

It is however important to keep washing your hair regularly, even if it’s once a week and especially if you are shedding heavily - keeping your hair and scalp clean and manageable is crucial, so do try to wash your hair at least once every 10 days.

Washing also has the benefit of liberating hairs that are in the process of shedding. This can be scary, particularly if you are shedding quite a lot, but it’s really important to remember that washing will not cause hairs to fall out that weren’t already in the process of shedding.

In conclusion, you know your hair best - be open minded and follow your instincts, you’ll find out what works for you.

Use hypoallergenic and sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner

It doesn’t matter which brand you use if it fits these criteria. Color and perfume are ingredients that can act as irritants, even if you were perfectly fine with them before you started treatment. Chemotherapy will most likely cause your scalp to become very sensitive and sometimes itchy, and your hair to become dry, so these ingredients are best avoided. Also avoid baby shampoo as it is very alkaline, and not gentle enough for a sensitive scalp. It’s often suggested as an option, but we know that it has caused people problems in the past. Try to avoid parabens too, as they are believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking estrogen.

Smooth shampoo and conditioner into your hair, don’t rub

Piling hair on top of your head and massaging in shampoo is all very well and good in commercials, but it’s a one-way street to tangled, matted hair while cold capping. Smooth shampoo and conditioner in and run your fingers through your hair but avoid the circular rubbing motions you may be used to.

Brush your hair everyday

This may seem counterintuitive, especially if you are experiencing heavy shedding, but it is SO important to liberate any shedding hairs. Brushing gently morning and night will not pull out any hairs that weren’t already shed, but will ensure that loose strands, and hairs that are in the process of falling out will be removed, making it significantly less likely to tangle and even become matted. If you brush before you wash your hair, it can make washing easier too.

Avoid heated styling tools

Using straighteners, flat irons, curling wands or air wraps, can have a further drying effect on already dry hair, not to mention the tension that it can put on the roots of your hair. Heatless curls can also cause problems. It is fine to use your hairdryer on a cool setting but use your hands and fingers rather than a brush, again to avoid tension at the roots.

Feel free to use headbands, clips, hats, and scarves

Accessorize to your heart’s content! You can be creative to hide patchy baldness or thinning with whatever works for you, just avoid tension at the roots, so no tight ponytails, etc. For those with long hair, a braid or low bun can be a good solution, for those with shorter hair, pin back front sections of hair, or a soft headband can be great.

Dry shampoo and colored root sprays are fine

Always patch test first to be sure of no scalp sensitivity but using dry shampoo on type 1 or 2 hair if you are having a bad hair day, or colored fibers or root spray to cover patchy hair loss is completely fine. Use sparingly though to avoid build-up which can make your hair hard to wash.
Download the Type 1&2 Scalp Cooling Haircare Guide

Type 3 & 4 - curly and coily hair

Wash your hair less frequently than normal

Chemotherapy has a drying effect on your hair, scalp, and skin - you will probably quickly notice that your hair doesn’t require washing as often. Washing too frequently will strip your hair of the natural oils it needs. It is important to keep washing your hair regularly though, especially if you are shedding heavily - keeping your hair and scalp clean and manageable is important. Washing has the added benefit of liberating hairs that are in the process of shedding, which can be scary. But it’s really important to remember that washing will not cause hairs to fall out that weren’t already in the process of shedding. You know your hair best - be open minded and follow your instincts, you’ll find out what works for you.

Use hypoallergenic shampoo and conditioner

It doesn’t matter which brand you use if it fits these criteria. Color and perfume are ingredients that can act as irritants, even if you were perfectly fine with them before you started treatment. Chemo will most likely cause your scalp to become very sensitive and sometimes itchy, and your hair to become dry, so these ingredients are best avoided. Try to avoid parabens too, as they are believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking estrogen.

Smooth shampoo and conditioner into your hair, don’t rub

Piling hair on top of your head and massaging in shampoo is all very well and good in commercials, but it’s a one-way street to tangled, matted hair while cold capping. Smooth on shampoo and conditioner and run your fingers or a wide tooth comb through your hair to work the products in, or alternatively mix some shampoo with a little water and pour over your hair to get right into the scalp. Avoid the circular rubbing motions you may be used to at all costs.

Use plenty of conditioner and natural oils

Chemo is going to really dry your hair out, so use plenty of conditioning products to keep your hair as manageable and healthy as possible.

Use lots of conditioner when washing, and leave in/spray in conditioner whenever you feel you need it along with natural oils such as vitamin E, grape seed, or argan oil. Just avoid oils the day before your treatment as it will make it harder to wet your hair in preparation for the cap.

Make sure your hair is wet before putting on your cold cap

If you have high porosity hair, it can be difficult to keep it wet. You may need some help from a friend or assistant to prepare your hair for scalp cooling and to make sure that it hasn’t dried before the cap goes on. It may be that you need to use more water than someone with lower porosity hair, or that once you have conditioner in your hair, you keep topping up the water with a spray bottle before the cap goes on.

Curls and brushing don’t usually mix, but it is really important while scalp cooling

The thought of brushing curly hair can be pretty horrible for anyone with a practised curly haircare method, but it is an essential part of looking after your hair while scalp cooling. Make sure that every day, ideally morning and night you are finger combing through your hair to remove shed hair. Not removing these hairs can cause, sometimes irreversible, tangling and matting. When you wash your hair, make sure that when you are at the conditioner stage you give it a thorough but gentle brushing with a wide tooth comb or wet detangling brush suitable for curls and coils. It’s also advisable every couple of days, to dampen your hair with an appropriate detangling or conditioning product and brush your hair.

Brushing or finger combing gently but thoroughly will not pull out any hairs that weren’t already shed, but will ensure that loose strands, and hairs that are in the process of falling out will be removed.

Avoid heated styling tools

Using straighteners, flat irons, blow dryers, curling wands or air wraps can have a further drying effect on already dry hair, not to mention the tension that it can put on the roots of your hair. You can use a hairdryer with a diffuser on a low and cool setting.

Use a scarf, loose headband or hat if you want to keep your hair away from your face

They will keep your hair back without adding tension to your roots. A soft fabric headband or combs can also be great. Avoid clips, pins or tight ponytail bands as your hair is likely to tangle around them.

Don’t use dry shampoo on type 3 and 4 hair, but colored root sprays are fine

Dry shampoo will clog your follicles but colored root sprays are fine and can be a really simple way to hide roots or cover patchy hair loss. Always patch test first in case it causes problems with scalp sensitivity and use sparingly to avoid build-up which can make your hair hard to wash.

No weaves or protective styling that cause root tension

The additional tension on the roots of the hair caused by these styles can be detrimental to hair retention. Similarly, hair relaxing should be avoided too, firstly because the chemicals on a sensitive scalp should be completely avoided, but also because it will cause further drying to your hair. It is no problem to wear a wig if it makes you feel more comfortable, but make sure you use a method that will avoid additional tension or friction on the roots of your hair.
Download the Type 3&4 Scalp Cooling Haircare Guide
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Do not give up. Your hair grows back faster. No-one can believe I ever had treatment and I’m only one year out.

Jessica
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Scalp cooling haircare