I Hate My Hair! Tips on Post-Cancer-Treatment Care
You thought when you finished cancer treatments your hair would go back to its healthy, shiny, normal self. You waited, as patiently as you could, but 2 months, 4 months, even 6 months later you’re still dealing with dry, brittle, frizzy, unmanageable hair. What to do?
“I underwent brain radiation and my last treatment was 12 months ago,” says survivor D.S. “Although my hair finally started growing back after nine months, the hair growing back in the center of my head is of a total different texture and length.”
Cancer treatments are known to wreak havoc on the hair, and unfortunately, some of the side effects can last for a long time after treatment is over. “It’s quite common for hair to grow back differently after cancer treatment,” says the U.K. “Hair Loss Expert” web site. Weaker hair follicles are often killed off completely while stronger ones recover, which means, for many people, that the hair on the top of the head thins out more than the hair at the sides. Hair can seem to change color or tone, as different-colored hair strands die out. Hair may be kinky after radiation treatment because of uneven damage to the follicle, which means the hair grows at an angle, making it curl. (You can read about Britta’s personal experience with hair loss and re-growth at this post.)
However your hair reacts after treatment, you can count on one thing—it needs moisture, and nourishment. For moisture, you can find a lot of solutions right in your own kitchen. Natural-homeremedies.com suggests mixing honey with warm water and applying it after shampooing to create more shine. Egg yolks mixed in warm water can do the same. Or try mixing a mashed avocado with coconut oil and leaving on the hair for 10-15 minutes. You can also create your own conditioner by mixing olive oil, sandalwood, rosemary, and aloe vera gel. Leave on the hair for up to an hour, then wash off. Or simply apply jojoba oil to the hair and let sit before shampooing. Use these treatments frequently until your hair starts to recover, then back off to 1-2 times a week.
What about nourishment? Treated hair is often lacking the important vitamins and minerals it needs to look its best. Make sure you’re getting a good supply of B vitamins and omega-3s either through your diet or in supplements, and drink plenty of water. Then, try mashing up a ripe papaya and mixing it with half a cup of plain yogurt to help strengthen hair and reduce split ends. Massage can help encourage better circulation and hair growth, so try a scalp massage with a soothing essential oil like Brahma. To fortify weak, fragile hair, try simmering geranium leaves in water for about 15-30 minutes, then rinse with the water twice a week. Alfalfa juice can also help nourish hair roots and prevent hair thinning.
Now you know what to use to use on your hair to help it recover—what should you avoid? Skin-remedies.com suggests you stay away from potentially harmful and drying ingredients like mineral oil; DEA, MEA, and TEA (hormone-disruptors); fragrance, phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, and betaine. Instead, make your products at home, or choose organic hair formulas like those made by Avalon Organics (we love the volumizing formula) or Jason Natural Organic Hair. Be sure to change your habits, as well, to better care for your dry or damaged hair. Try not to wash it everyday if possible (so your scalp’s natural oils can moisturize the strands), avoid perms and other chemical processes (especially while your hair is recovering from treatment), wear a cap when swimming, blow-dry on the “cool” setting, cut back on the hot tools, use only a wide-toothed comb when coming through wet hair (as this is when hair breaks most), apply weekly overnight deep-conditioning and oil treatments, and eat protein-rich foods like chicken, fish, and nuts to give your hair the tools it needs to rebuild.
However you adapt to your new hair, try to look on the bright side. “Eleven years ago,” says survivor Janie M., “I had my breast removed and was told to have chemotherapy. Nine treatments later I had unruly hair. So I found a way to be happy with being alive even with unruly hair. I keep it rather short with lots of highlights. People tell me that I have beautiful hair that do not even know my story. Experiment with different styles, and most of all, enjoy life everyday. Don’t just smell the roses, look at the entire garden.”
Do you have natural solutions for stressed hair? Please share them with our other readers.
Photo courtesy Kitzzy via Flickr.com.