Location: the United States of America

Committing to scalp cooling

Committing to scalp cooling is the best way for you to get the most from the treatment. The patients who are most content with their outcomes are often those who were most engaged capping

Committing to Scalp Cooling

Committing to scalp cooling is the best way for you to get the most from the treatment. The patients who are most content with their outcomes are often those who were most engaged capping

Is scalp cooling hard work?

Scalp cooling doesn’t need to be hard work, but it is a choice that will require commitment. It is important to think of scalp cooling as something you are proactively a part of, rather than something that happens to you. The more you can get involved and engage with the treatment, the better the experience will be.
There are some things you need to be aware of to get the most from scalp cooling:
Prepare ahead of your first chemotherapy treatment by getting to know your Cap Kit
Practice preparing your hair and understand putting the cap on using our How-To videos to guide you through this. The more familiar you are with the process, the easier it will be on the day itself.
Scalp cooling will add some time to your treatment day
On average this is around 2 hours in addition to the infusion time, to factor in pre- and post-infusion cooling times
Your normal haircare routine will need to be adapted
Scalp cooling haircare isn’t complicated, but daily gentle care of your hair can make a big difference to your experience.   

Scalp cooling haircare

Scalp cooling haircare doesn’t need to be complicated, but it will likely be different from the way you have cared for your hair before chemotherapy. There are a few core things that you will need to either include or remove from your day-to-day haircare approach:
  • Wash your hair less frequently – no more than twice a week
  • Don’t use heated styling tools – though its ok to use a hair dryer on a low and cool setting
  • Brush your hair carefully twice daily – it is important to remove any shedding hairs to prevent knotting and tangling
  • Use hypoallergenic, sulfate and paraben-free shampoo and conditioner
  • Use lots of conditioning products – chemotherapy dries out your hair and scalp, so lots of conditioner is important to help keep your hair manageable
Find out more in our haircare section

Pros and cons of scalp cooling

Scalp cooling isn’t an easy choice for everyone. The following may help you with decision making.
Scalp cooling pros
  • I will be able to retain some level of privacy and normalcy through treatment
  • Hair loss will be slowed down and reduced
  • Regrowth will be faster with scalp cooling, even if I lose a significant amount of hair
  • I will know I tried everything I could to save my hair
  • Scalp cooling is something I have control over as an addition to my treatment
  • Scalp cooling mitigates the risk of persistent hair loss with high dosage docetaxel/taxotere regimens
Scalp cooling cons
  • Scalp cooling will add time onto my treatment days
  • There are no guarantees about rates of hair retention
  • The first 15 minutes will be uncomfortable before I acclimatize
  • I will have to change my haircare routine, including not using heated styling tools
  • Hair shedding will happen at some level throughout chemotherapy treatment and for some time afterwards
There are also a series of questions you can ask yourself that may help you to identify how you feel.

Are you prepared to do research and follow guidance and advice?

We know that an informed patient is likely to have a better outcome. The more you are prepared to find out about the scalp cooling process and stick to that information, the more likely you are to feel comfortable with what is happening to you. This makes continuing with scalp cooling to the end of treatment easier and you are likely to be more content with your hair retention.

Do you expect your hair to look the same at the beginning and end of chemo?

If the answer to this is yes, you will need to reconsider. Scalp cooling will help you to retain your hair, but it cannot save every strand. Even for those receiving drug regimens that see the highest retention levels, there will be some amount of hair shedding through treatment. Other people may not notice, but it is highly likely that you will notice a change in your hair.

How would you feel about noticeable hair loss?

While noticeable hair loss doesn’t happen to everyone, it is a real possibility. Whether that is consistent thinning or patchy hair loss, it is possible that those who know you well may notice if you sustain significant hair loss. However, many patients who have used scalp cooling were happy that they could go about their daily lives without people really noticing their hair being different to before chemo. Even if others don’t notice a change in your hair, it is likely that you will. You may feel like you have an extended bad hair day, but as one patient said, ‘I would rather have a year of bad hair days than no hair at all’.

Are you scalp cooling for hair retention or for fast regrowth too?

Hair retention is understandably most people’s priority when it comes to scalp cooling, but it is important to remember that scalp cooling will also promote stronger, healthier, and faster regrowth. This can make the difference between a bob or a pixie cut a couple of months post-chemotherapy, rather than a completely bald head - even if you retain less hair than you would have liked. It can give you some choices you otherwise might not have had.

Are you aware that hair shedding is an inevitable part of scalp cooling?

Hair shedding can be scary. It’s the bit people really want to avoid, but unfortunately it is an inevitable part of scalp cooling. It varies from person to person and from drug to drug, but you need to expect shedding at some level throughout your treatment. Even those who retain the most hair will see some shedding.

Do you think you can be positive about the scalp cooling experience?

Positivity can be your greatest ally during scalp cooling. There will be challenges, but identifying the positives can make a real difference to the way you experience treatment. Focusing on the hair you still have on your head rather than the hair that you lose is key. Think about regrowth and remember that this will not go on for ever. If everything is a bonus, then you are setting yourself up for a great outcome.

How do you feel about changing your haircare routine?

Scalp cooling haircare isn’t complicated, but it will mean being very gentle with your hair during, and for a little while after treatment. This means no dyeing your hair, washing your hair less frequently than normal, no heated styling products like curling tongs or flat irons, and only using hair products that are hypoallergenic. You can find out more about scalp cooling haircare here

Have you looked at the outcomes of other patients going through scalp cooling?

The honest experiences of others who have been through the process can be really helpful to give you an idea of what scalp cooling is really like. You can find these in our Patient case studies, and also in our Facebook Group. We’d recommend looking for those who had a similar drug regimen to you, so that you have a realistic idea of what has been possible for others.

How would you feel about wearing a wig or a hair topper for a while during or
after chemo?

The honest experiences of others who have been through the process can be really helpful to give you an idea of what scalp cooling is really like. You can find these in our Patient case studies, and also in our Facebook Group. We’d recommend looking for those who had a similar drug regimen to you, so that you have a realistic idea of what has been possible for others.

Do you feel equipped to cope with uncertainty around hair retention?

A cancer diagnosis and resulting treatment can be one of the most stressful experiences a person can go through. Scalp cooling can bring an additional element of uncertainty to this experience. For a lot of patients this is worth it and gives them a feeling of having control over something, but for some it is too much to deal with on top of everything else.

Do you think you will see your scalp cooling outcome as a success or a
compromise?

If you would consider every retained hair a win then scalp cooling is definitely for you. If every lost hair is unbearable, then scalp cooling may not be an appropriate choice for you.
On this page

I spent a lot of time watching the videos that Paxman produced and I found the Facebook group which was so unbelievably helpful. It was comforting to see all the tips and tricks the women there shared.

Stephanie
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Scalp cooling haircare