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Coping with hair loss and thinning during cancer treatment

Catriona Sheehan was my great friend, business partner and inspiration. She was funny, occasionally fierce, highly creative and intelligent, brave and loved life. Tragically, cancer took all that away from her, Catriona’s family and of course, us her friends and colleagues.

Catriona’s passing is still very raw. However, she would not want us to wallow in self-pity, instead urging us to live life to the full and make whatever contribution we can to combatting this terrible, dreadful disease.

Working in a salon makes you realise that getting your haircut or styled is a feel good experience, but if you’re coping with hair loss caused by chemotherapy, well, that can be very challenging. Especially as many women regard their hair as their ‘crowning glory’.

If you are about to undergo or have recently started treatment for cancer, it is possible that you may experience some hair loss. Understanding this beforehand can help you to prepare to create a new ‘look’ for yourself during the course of your therapy. You may decide that a wig is the best choice. If so, my advice would be to get one before you start your treatment. This way, you can match it to your current or natural colour and style.

Alternatively, a hat, scarf or stylish turban will not only keep your head warm on chillier days but also protect your scalp from burning on hot, sunny days.

Of course, cutting your hair short is another option. You may find it easier to do this in stages, to lessen the effect a shock transformation, especially if you have long hair to begin with.

Although you may lose your hair during your treatment, it is important to look after it, during and after therapy. This means washing it regularly, using gentle, non-medicated products. Apply conditioner only to the ends of your hair, change your comb or brush to one with soft, wide-spaced teeth or prongs and wear something on your head at night.

Avoid using heating products, such as a dryer or straighteners and styling products, such as colours, perms and relaxers.

After cancer treatment, your hair will start to grow back and your stylist will be able to help you decide on what look will best suit you. They can also advise you about what shampoo and styling products will look after your hair and scalp during this time.

It is also an exciting time, as you can plan what possible new tints or colours you are going to treat yourself to.

In memory of Catriona, we are raising money for Cancer Research UK and if you need advice or support, visit their website.

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