Location: the United States of America

Getting the most from scalp cooling

It is easy to think of scalp cooling as something that happens to you. To get the most from scalp cooling, it is important to think of the process as something you are proactively part of

How do I get the most from scalp cooling?

It is easy to think of scalp cooling as something that happens to you. To get the most from scalp cooling, it is important to think of the process as something you are proactively part of.
The more you can get involved, engage with the treatment, and trust the process, the more empowered you will feel about scalp cooling. You are already off to a flying start by engaging with this website.

There are lots of elements that come together throughout the scalp cooling process that can affect the amount of hair you may retain - some can be managed, and others will be out of your control.

Making sure that you do your best to follow guidance on the things you can control will give you the best possible outcome, but it is still important to remember that there are some things you won’t be able to influence.

Factors out of your control

Chemotherapy drug and regimen

Your doctor will prescribe the best treatment plan for your diagnosis 

Individual biological response

Each person’s body will respond differently to scalp cooling, as it does with any drug or medical intervention. Three people with the same diagnosis receiving the same drug will likely see different rates of hair retention. The person with the least retention didn’t do anything wrong, in the same way that the person with the most retention didn’t do things better

Factors that can be controlled

Using the right size of cap

A close and consistent fit of the cap across your scalp will ensure the best possible outcome. You will be fitted for your cap by your clinical team to ensure you have the right size. A cap that is too small or too large can result in areas of your scalp not being in contact with the cap effectively, which will lead to hair loss

Accurate cooling times

It is important that you receive the right amount of cooling both before and after the infusion of your chemotherapy drugs to get the most from scalp cooling. Your clinical team is responsible for these times. Pre-cooling of 30 minutes (45 minutes if your hair is thick) should occur before any chemotherapy drugs are infused. This ensures that your scalp is at the optimum temperature to prevent damage before the drugs reach your scalp. 
Once all alopecia-causing chemotherapy drugs are infused, the post-cooling time can begin. This varies a little depending on the drugs you are receiving but is generally 90 minutes. This ensures your scalp is protected while the drugs are at their most potent within your body.
Scalp cooling practice may vary from hospital to hospital due to decision making at each cancer center. Paxman pre- and post-cooling times are based on extensive quantities of published clinical data and are the times we would recommend complying with for optimum results.

Making sure that scalp cooling is as effective as possible

Hair preparation

Preparing your hair properly will help to make sure the cap is in consistent contact across your scalp, making it easier for the heat to travel away from your scalp

Putting the cap on properly

Making sure you have close and consistent contact between the cap and your scalp is the most important thing you can do to get the best possible outcomes. Putting the cap on properly doesn’t need to be a complicated process, our ‘How-To’ video will walk you through it. The more you can practice before your treatment the better. 

Some patients may have assistance from their clinical team in putting their cap on, but it is still really important to know what the cap should look and feel like when it is on properly. The more you can help and communicate with your clinician, or even take responsibility for it yourself, the more confident you will feel. Take your time with putting the cap on and don’t be afraid to speak up and start again if you feel the cap could be put on better.

Support while you’re scalp cooling

Having a support network in place while you are going through treatment is an important part of feeling comfortable and as resilient as possible when you are facing real challenges.

If possible, find someone who can come with you to your treatment, to keep you company and to take the responsibility for helping you with putting the cap on. They may be able to take more time over getting the cap on than a clinician would, though your clinical team will still be there to support the process. 

Whether a friend, a loved one or family member, share as much information with them as you can – the more they know the more they will be able to support you. Send them the link to this website and get them to watch the How-To videos. 

Don’t forget about the scalp cooling community too – the support of others all over the world who are also going through scalp cooling can be invaluable.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support.

Scalp cooling haircare

Looking after your hair well while scalp cooling won’t make a difference to the amount of hair you could retain, but it will have an impact on your day-to-day experience. Making some changes to your haircare routine will make it as easy as possible to look after your hair and will make sure that the hair you do retain is in the best possible condition at the end of your treatment.

We have all the guidance you will need on how to care for your hair

Things you might need

The only essentials for scalp cooling are the cap and cover, and some conditioner to help with hair preparation, all of which you will find in your Cap Kit if you are in the US. If you are based elsewhere, you may be required to bring conditioner and anything else you would use for hair preparation with you to your treatment.

In addition, there are a few things that you may want to consider that can make your day-to-day experience between chemotherapy and scalp cooling treatments a little easier. None of these are required, but we know those going through scalp cooling have found some of the following to have been helpful on the days between treatments.

Hypoallergenic shampoo and conditioner

Where possible, use hypoallergenic products, but always ensure that you avoid parabens and sulfates and look for products that are hydrating and designed for dry or damaged hair.

A detangling brush and/or a wide tooth comb

Brushing your hair regularly is an important part of looking after your hair while scalp cooling, no matter which hair type you have. It’s ok to use whatever kind of brush you think works best for your hair.

Conditioning products such as a hair mask, leave-in conditioner, and natural oils

Chemotherapy treatment will dry out your hair and scalp. Conditioning products will help to keep your hair in the best possible condition and will aid brushing, washing, and overall manageability.

A silk pillowcase or sleep cap

Your hair can become very prone to knotting and tangling due to friction between your hair and the pillowcase as you move in your sleep. Silk causes significantly less friction than a traditional cotton or linen pillowcase and can help to keep your hair more manageable.

Hair fibers or root touch-up spray

Not everyone needs this, but if you do experience some patchy hair loss, these products can make a significant difference when trying to disguise thinning.

A head covering, topper, or wig

Lots of people find comfort in having a wig or some kind of head covering before they start chemotherapy. There is no reason at all why you can’t wear a wig when you are scalp cooling, as long as it doesn’t cause tension or friction at the roots of your hair. It can be useful to get you through an occasion or a rough day. Wigs can be costly, so if you are uncertain, it may be worth waiting to see if you feel you need one, as not everyone does. Another option is a topper, similar to a wig but smaller, that can help to hide hair loss at the crown.
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The first 10 or so minutes with the cap on was brutal, it was so cold. But after 10/15 minutes I had gotten used to it and honestly forgot about it.

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