Curls After Chemo Hair Loss

2014-08-21 12:30:29

Curls After Chemo Hair Loss

What causes you to start growing curly hair following chemo and how should you take care of your new texture?

It’s common for those undergoing cancer treatments to experience chemo hair loss throughout the course of their treatment. Near the end or after finishing treatment, patients usually start re-growing their hair, though they may be surprised when the new hair that comes in is a different texture altogether. Some straighties even start to grow back curly hair due to the damage done to your hair shaft from the chemo. Finishing chemo is a joyous time for both patients and their family members. Don’t let a new hair texture get you down if you’re ready to stop wearing wigs! Instead, stay flexible and adjust your hair care routine to accommodate your re-growth.

What Are “Chemo Curls”?

When formerly-straighties start growing in a mass of curls following chemo, they start referring to their new hair as “chemo curls.” Chemo curls can be new and exciting if you’ve always wanted curly hair. They can also be a big pain if you’ve never had curls, never wanted curls and are fighting the urge to press your hair between the plates of flat iron.

So what causes you to start growing curly hair following chemo? When chemotherapy enters the body, it attacks the cancer cells as it’s intended to do. It also attacks the cells responsible for hair growth. Since chemo damages the hair shaft, most chemo patients lose hair quickly. Due to the amount of chemo that’s still in your body when you finish treatment, it takes awhile for hair to grow back. When it does, it’s usually quite different from the hair you once had because of the damage (to the cells that determine hair texture) from the chemo. Many patients do find that hair eventually returns to normal or close to it. So if you’re dealing with a completely different hair texture, know that it’s more than likely not permanent.

Curly Basics

If you’re a new curly, we have some tips for you! Even though your curls may only be temporary, they can be enjoyable if you know how to care for them properly!

  • Moisturize them! One thing you may not realize after a life with straight hair is the need to keep your curly locks moist. This involves things such as deep conditioning, using leave-in conditioners and sometimes oil treatments or hair masks.
  • Avoid brushes. Straight hair, after being windblown, can usually tolerate a quick brush-through. Curly hair, on the other hand, despises brushing! Once your hair has air-dried, leave it alone. For this reason, many curlies opt to use a gel following leave-in conditioner. Choose a lightweight gel that won’t weigh your hair down, but that will still give you the control you need throughout the day.
  • Detangle. This is something you’ll probably carry over from caring for your straight hair. However, detangling is very important in curly hair. Failing to do so can lead to immediate frizz (that culminates in a huge rat’s nest) and breakage that will ultimately damage your hair’s curl pattern.

Curly Support

Back in the days before the Internet was so big, we curlies had very few options for commiseration! Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore. From blogs dedicated to caring for curly hair to forums that address any curly hair question you could have, there’s loads of support out there!

Dealing with curly hair after chemo doesn’t have to be a crisis! Chances are good that it’s only temporary anyway.

What are some ways you’ve learned to cope with curls that didn’t turn up until after chemotherapy?



Tasha Swearingen

Tasha Swearingen

My hair was straight until I hit puberty. Then the curls came. It took me almost 20 years to really learn how to care for them (and, as a result, love them). I think any woman finding herself with curly hair after chemo is ahead of the curve if she's already found I wish I'd had a resource like this when I was 12. :)