Radiation therapy and hair loss

Radiation therapy is used for the treatment of cancer. Although it is a great medical advancement and has saved countless lives, it may have certain side effects. These side effects also include hair thinning and hair loss. Most people who go through this therapy are concerned about their hair growing back. So how exactly does radiation therapy affect your hair? Let’s find out.

Will radiation therapy always lead to hair loss?

The short answer, Yes. Radiation therapy does cause hair loss however it usually just affects the body part that needs the radiation. For instance, if it’s your chest that is being treated for an anomaly, you will lose hair in that area. And if it’s the head and scalp that gets the radiation, your hair follicles will stop performing their function effectively. Although, it might be the case that you lose some hair in other areas (this might be because the radiation leaves your body from that area). The extent of hair loss will depend on the level and duration of the dosage.

Note- If you combine chemotherapy with radiation, then the hair loss could be permanent. It can reduce the chances of regrowth.

What exactly happens to your hair during radiation?

Your hair follicles get damaged and their performance is hindered. This can lead to thinning hair and hair loss. In most cases, hair loss starts roughly three weeks from the beginning of therapy. Depending on the level and duration, this hair loss and thinning can be temporary or permanent. If you receive the treatment temporarily (for a smaller duration), you will see hair regrowth in less than 6 months after treatment.

What happens to your scalp during radiation?

Your scalp tends to become inflamed and dry because of radiation. It might also become irritated and itchy. After you lose hair, your scalp starts to look reddish because of inflammation and irritation. It is hard to resist the urge to scratch, which ends up making your scalp even redder.

This is a temporary effect and your scalp will get back to normal once it is done. There are certain medicines that you can try to reduce this effect. It will give you relief.

Do’s and Don’ts during radiation

Your scalp and hair are usually in a sensitive condition owing to the radiation. So you have to take the right steps to care for them and to ensure that there is good hair regrowth once the process is over. But there are a few things you should remember.

-Make sure to wash your hair with warm water. Set the temperature at lukewarm, as using extremely cold or hot water can irritate your scalp.

-Don’t wash your scalp and hair too much. It can give temporary relief but only increase irritation.

-Use mild hair and scalp care products. Avoid those with too many chemicals or preservatives.

-Your hair is extremely vulnerable because of the treatment, so try to be gentle while drying your hair. Follow this tip also while combing, brushing your hair.

-Avoid using hair care products like serums, hairsprays, gels, mousses, and masks.

-Avoid using hair styling tools like blow dryers, hair straighteners, and curling irons

And, the most important thing you have to remember is – never lose hope!

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