Understanding Hair Loss: How to Choose a Wig After Chemotherapy

by Orlando Larks

Wigs helped me by giving me confidence and strength to get up and move. Like a tree is stripped of its leaves, some of us cancer patients are stripped of our hair but it's ok…. because wigs exist!!

-Ruby Cantu @heartsupforcancer

Comfort, Care & Chemo

The first installment of this series discussed six common causes for hair loss and dove in a little deeper into Alopecia. The words cancer and chemo can bring sadness when read, but through accurate information, personalized shopping help and inspirational women, my goal is for this blog to give comfort and care to those being affected. If you're embarking on a journey that involves chemotherapy, are a survivor, or have a loved one you want to support and understand, this blog is for you.

What is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a treatment used to prevent cancer cells from growing, dividing, and making more cells. It is formulated to target cells that grow and divide quickly and unlike radiation or surgery, that focus on a specific area, chemo works throughout the body. Side effects can include decreased blood cells, nausea and vomiting, mouth, and throat changes, and the most noticeable: hair loss. Chemotherapy often causes hair loss because hair follicles are made of rapidly dividing cells, therefore they are targeted by the treatment.

For tips on how to handle each side effect, click here.

Why Does Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss?

Approximately 65% of people who undergo treatments experience chemotherapy-induced hair loss. So this is why it's good to map out a plan. Having a plan will help you be emotionally prepared when the hair loss begins. If you're considering wigs, try purchasing before the treatments begin. This will alleviate the stress of last-minute shopping, plus help your stylist or wig consultant find a style that matches your current hair. Hair loss caused by chemotherapy can start anywhere on the body and typically takes two to three weeks to begin after chemo begins. Chemotherapy can also cause your scalp to become tender, so you'll want to take special care during treatments. There are some general recommendations that could help alleviate scalp tenderness: be gentle when you wash your hair, switch your pillowcase to a satin fabric and avoid chemical hair treatments such as hair dyes, perms and relaxers. If you are unsure if a hair service or hot tool should be used, consult with your doctor or nurse. Hair loss associated with chemo is caused by the treatments, so it's temporary and typically stops a few weeks after treatments do. Hair regrowth usually begins two to three months after chemotherapy has ended, although sometimes the regrowth is different from the original hair texture or color. A lot of women fall in love with wigs after wearing them through chemo and continue to wear them even after their own hair grows back.

Wigs & Where to Start

Wig buying can be an overwhelming experience especially when dealing with the process alongside many worries of cancer and chemo. The TWC team, from customer service representatives to me personally, are here to help you every step of the way.

How to Choose a Wig for Chemotherapy Hair Loss

Prepare for your wig

Whether you decide to shave your head or not, my recommendation would be to start by cutting it short. Seeing the rapid hair loss might add to the emotional distress you're currently experiencing.

Measure your head

It's important to measure your head to avoid pressure points and headaches when wearing a wig. The right size can make all the difference. For more information about this, read How to Measure Your Head For a Wig

Choose the correct Cap Construction

Since your scalp will be tender, I recommend a 100% hand-tied cap construction. This type of cap has less seams and will be softer on the scalp. Given the hand-made and intricate construction, these wigs are priced higher. Use a cap liner to serve as a barrier between your scalp and the wig cap if you choose a fully wefted wig. To learn more about cap construction, read Wig Cap Types and Constructions

  1. Find some tips and guides for buying a wig, and then shop TWC

    Tia Maria gives some great tips for first time (and longtime) wig buyers in a series of Guest Blogs she wrote on the subject: 4 Tips for Purchasing Your First Wig and The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your First Wig. Once you know what you want, TWC has a variety of wigs that may be just what you are looking for. Shop our TWC Exclusive Styles, Premium Styles, and Warehouse wigs - and everything in between

  2. Care for your new wig

    If you choose synthetic, be sure to purchase the care products needed to prolong the life of your wigs. The Hair Grip is a great product for wig wearers, as it keeps the wig from shifting on your head. This keeps your wig secure and prevents the cap from moving around which can irritate the scalp.

If you can, consider having more than one wig. There are a few approaches to this - you can purchase two of the same wig and alternate them when one is being washed or serviced. Or, if you purchased an expensive wig, try to have a less expensive backup that you can use around the house, at the gym, running errands or gardening. The ability to alternate your wig will help the products last longer.

Here are so additional products to pair with your wigs:

Support & Be Supported

I have met so many amazing women and wig wearers in our community through social media. I've listed some of my favorite accounts below and encourage you to follow them for daily doses of inspiration:

“I was so scared when I was first diagnosed and my most heart breaking news was knowing I was going to lose my hair. I know it sounds ridiculous but my hair as and is my main accessory. Its easy to drown in pity and not understand why this is happening to us, but if I can help one person by saying to wake up and CHOOSE life…it's what kept me going. 

“Trust me, days happen where we cry and kick and scream and we are allowed, but then we put our capes on and fight like the amazing beasts we are.”

-Ruby Cantu

Ruby is so inspiring and has such an amazing outlook on life. She started to raise money for women who dream of wigs but cannot afford them. Direct message her on Instagram @heartsupforcancer to learn more about how you can support her amazing cause.

“Take a deep breath and wait to see your oncologist before searching the web. There is so much information and sadly there is a lot of misinformation as well. I always get my advice from my MD for any medical questions.

“Wigs gave me back a piece of me that chemo took away. My hair was always one of my best assets. Watching it all fall out was heartbreaking. I felt liberated when I got my head shaved and putting wigs on helped my self-esteem.”

-Terri Lee Miller

Another account I follow and love: @carasapida 

Where to Donate

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