You know it’s true:
The long list of potential side effects from chemotherapy, including hair loss, is daunting.
While you may be worrying about the prospect of losing hair now, getting a chemo wig is a good step towards recovery that can help you to feel beautiful and confident again.
As many cancer patients may have never touched a wig before —
We have put together a guide with 15 tips and tricks on how to choose and wear chemotherapy wig, so that you can make better choices in dealing with hair loss during and after chemo treatment.
1. Why You Should Choose a Wig Before Chemotherapy
It’s best to get a wig before your first chemotherapy appointment, because hair loss can start about 10 days to 3 weeks after your first chemo treatment session.
Once you are in the middle of the treatment, you will not have the time and mood to go find your perfect match, especially when the chemo-induced side effects like nausea and fatigue kick in.
So, it is better to take the time and be prepared early.
Recommended Read: 17 Useful Items To Be Included In Your Chemo Bag and Survival Kit
Dr. David Margileth shares more on hair loss during chemotherapy in video below.
2. Consider Cut Your Hair Short or Shave Head Before Chemo Hair Loss
You can go to a wig salon near you to get a perfect wig for you. Most wig salons are specialists in cancer patients, and they have plenty of options and the sensibility to give you the best advice.
A wig salon can help you to try different wigs/styles and make the custom adjustments to your wig.
Many patients choose to cut their hair short or shave the head, because it makes them feel in control of the hair loss.
One of them is breast cancer patient Allison Bender, who shaved her head and put on a wig:
Most people feel it is better to cut their hair very short, instead of watching it falling down slowly.
There is nothing wrong with a bald head, and you can always adorn it with a hat or a wig. The important thing is your attitude and how you feel inside.
3. The Difference Between a Medical Wig vs a Fashion Wig
Eva Lucarelli of National Hair Centers discusses the differences between fashion wig and medical wig in this video.
4. The Various Styles of Chemo Wigs
Fighting cancer doesn’t mean you cannot look good (or better) in the process.
If you are not fond of significant change, then look for a wig that match your regular style and color. A picture will help your wig stylist create a similar wig.
However, if you always wanted to change your hair, this is a chance to have that hair that you could never have before.
Recommended Read: 93 Chemo Side Effects Remedies and Tips (including Hair Loss)
Check out this excellent video by a stylist at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, who shares several wig styles and options (even wig with ponytail) with useful tips on maintaining your new look.
You can try different wigs (it is like trying clothes) to find out which one fits you best. When the wig is perfect, people look gorgeous, as if it was their natural hair.
It is all right to try a new style. Don’t be afraid to try something different, and let your wig stylist make some suggestions. You might not know what you are missing if you don’t even try.
5. Best Wigs for Chemo Patients: Real Hair vs Synthetic Hair
As shown in the video below, generally there are 2 types of wigs:
- Synthetic hair wig: Man-made fibre produced to look and feel like real hair. Most synthetic wigs come ready to wear, with its textures are to be washed with special shampoo and conditioner. They usually last between 6 and 9 months, but you cannot use any heated appliance (such as hairdryer) because it will melt the wig.
- Real human hair wig: Made by collected hair that is treated and dyed into a range of colours. Real hair wigs normally can last 3 to 4 years, however they are much more expensive than synthetic wig, and needs more care than synthetic hair.
High quality synthetic monofilament wigs are popular, and they normally start at 100 dollars. The synthetic wigs are much cheaper than the custom-made human hair wig’s price that may vary from hundreds to over a thousand dollars (depending on the style and length).
6. Chemotherapy Wigs with Long Hair or Short Hair?
This is totally down to your personal choice.
Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma patient and broadcast meteorologist Crystal Harper shares her tips for picking out a wig during chemo, including her preference on wigs — synthetic hair vs real hair, short hair vs long hair:
7. Choosing Your Wig’s Color
If you don’t want significant changes, the best is to find a matching color to your original hair.
Considering you will look a bit pale during chemotherapy, you may search a wig a bit lighter than your regular hair color. That way you will look radiant even if you look pale.
To make the task easier, you can go while you still have your original hair. In case you chose to be bald before you go looking for a wig, take some of your original hair to match the color.
Erin Leigh shares her experience with Jon Renau Wig with color Shaded Praline (12FS8) and some other wigs in the video below.
8. How to Wear a Wig During Chemo or Radiation Therapy
Don’t be afraid to walk around with a wig:
There are people that say they look better with their wig. It is a combination of the perfect wig and the right attitude.
One of them is Boston’s WCVB TV Channel 5 reporter Kelley Tuthill, a breast cancer survivor treated at Dana Farber cancer institute. In the video below, she shares her tips on how to wear a wig and keep it in place with comfort cap:
And the following video shows additional useful tips on how to style a wig during chemotherapy:
9. How Many Wigs Do You Need During / After Cancer Treatment?
It’s recommended that you plan to wear your wig for about 6 months to a year.
You can consider to get 2 wigs of different styles (eg. stylish chemo hats with hair) or colors for rotation, or your wig wardrobe can include a wig with other headwear like chemo scarves or turbans —
so that you don’t have to wear the same thing every single day.
Recommended Read: 11 Tips on Chemo Scarves, Head Wraps, Turbans & Chemo Headwear.
If you don’t like your wig, or if you got tired of it, it is OK to change it.
Think of your wig as your hair. You can go to a stylist to make a change. They can also make adjustments on the elastic bands to make it fit perfectly on your head. It may not be a matter of the wig’s style, but about how it fits on your head. With a little help, your wig will fit perfectly.
Triple Negative breast cancer Nikki Kimbell lost her hair during chemotherapy treatment, and she has chosen to use over 4 different wigs in a variety of colors to embrace the hair loss. In the video below, Nikki shares her fashion wigs that all were purchased from Amazon.
10. What are the Wig Accessories for Cancer Patients?
Besides wig comfort cap / band or wig net that can help to give your wig a more secure fit and prevent movement —
the other helpful accessories include wig care shampoo and conditioner, wig brush, and wig stand.
11. How Much Work Is It to Maintain a Medical Wig?
Breast cancer survivor Lisa Schneider-Cipriano discuses how to maintain and upkeep a medical wig in video below.
12. Chemo Wig for Men?
Trevor Sorbie MBE, a British celebrity hairstylist, received this question from a cancer patient:
“Do you have a lot of men come to you who are interested in getting a wig?”
Find out his answer in the brief video below:
Men wigs are relatively less popular compared to women wigs.
If you find it difficult to get a man wig that meets the expectation, then male cancer patient can consider alternative solutions like toupee or chemotherapy hat and beanie for men.
13. How to Get a Free Wig During Cancer Treatment
You can look for help there if you cannot afford a new wig on your own.
Some associations offer free wigs. For example, American Cancer Society has program like Pantene Beautiful Lengths Wig Campaign to provide free wigs for patients in active cancer-related treatment. The contact number is (407) 843-8680.
Another example is the free Wig Bank at Nebraska Cancer Center at Village Pointe:
14. Insurance and Medicare Coverage
Does medicare or insurance cover wigs for cancer patients?
Some insurance companies cover wigs when people are facing cancer. You will be asked for the prescription from your specialized doctor (oncologist).
Start paperwork early, because you will need the wig within the first 2 weeks after chemo starts.
Recommended Read: 121 Thoughtful Cancer Care Package Ideas for Chemotherapy Patient
15. Your Chemo Wig is Temporal – What To Do After Your Hair Grows Back
The chemo-induced thinned hair and sudden hair loss is just a temporal symptom while you are under a chemotherapy treatment. Once it is over and your defenses recover, you will get your hair back.
Typically you can expect to regrow your hair in 3 to 6 months after your final chemo treatment ends.
In the meantime, enjoy your wig-time, and take note on these tips for chemo hair loss.
Eventually, you will not need your wig anymore after your hair grows back. A good recommendation is to donate it so that other people who are fighting cancer can use it to look and feel as good as you did with it. It already served its purpose with you, and it deserves a new life with someone else. You can help somebody else by donating it, and you will feel much better knowing it has been put to good use.