Some people find that using a cooling cap - or cold cap - can help to reduce or in some cases prevent hair loss during cancer treatment. However, it’s very important to look after your hair and scalp while you’re undergoing chemotherapy and scalp cooling.
We take a look at how cooling caps can help to reduce hair loss, and how to care for your hair during cooling treatment with the right shampoo and conditioner.
How can a cooling cap help with hair loss?
Chemotherapy can be a very effective treatment for cancer. It works by targeting cancer cells, which divide rapidly. However, it can also damage other rapidly-dividing cells in the body - including hair cells.
Wearing a cooling cap (or ‘cold cap’) can help to significantly reduce the amount of hair you lose, or even prevent it altogether.
A cooling cap is a special hat which straps tightly to your head, and contains a cooling gel which lowers the temperature of your head. This slows down the flow of blood to your scalp and hair follicles during chemotherapy, minimising the amount of treatment that reaches the hair cells.
The cooling cap is normally worn for at least 30 minutes before a chemotherapy session begins, and removed around 60-90 minutes after it has finished, although the exact times will vary according to your individual treatment.
It’s important to note that cooling caps are not suitable for all cancers and chemotherapies, and that you may still experience some thinning or patching. To find out whether using a cooling cap might be suitable for you, speak to your medical team.
How should I treat my hair during scalp cooling?
Chemotherapy treatment can make hair dry and brittle, and your hair and scalp are likely to be more fragile and prone to damage, breakage and irritation. It’s very important to look after your hair before, during and after chemotherapy and scalp cooling sessions.
Here are some general tips for helping to protect your hair while you’re going through chemo and scalp cooling:
- wash your hair at least 24 hours before each treatment
- avoid using very hot water, or hot stylers such as hair straighteners or heated rollers
- brush your hair gently, using a soft hairbrush or a wide-toothed comb
- towel-dry your hair lightly - taking care not to rub too hard
- avoid dying or perming your hair during treatment
When it comes to using your cooling cap, it’s important to prepare your hair beforehand. First, dampen the area of hair that will sit underneath the cooling cap, using warm water. This will help the cap to work more efficiently.
Gently combing in some mild conditioner to your dampened hair will help to protect it from the freezing effects of the cap, as well as making it easier to take the cap off afterwards.
When the time comes to remove your cooling cap, make sure this is done gently and without pulling your hair. It’s a good idea to have a beanie or warm hat ready, as your scalp is likely to feel cold after the treatment.
Which shampoo is the best for use with a cooling cap?
When you’re undergoing chemo and scalp cooling, it’s also very important to make sure you use only mild, natural products on your hair, and avoid anything that contains harsh chemicals, perfumes, sulphates or parabens.
There is a range of products which are extra gentle on delicate hair and sensitive scalps, and can help to promote regrowth, including FAST hair growth shampoo, which contains a unique blend of vitamins, amino acids and natural herbs to help fortify hair, and Tints of Nature sulphate free shampoo, which contains natural, organic ingredients including anti-inflammatory aloe and chamomile, to help restore and hydrate your hair without stripping it.
“I used the cooling caps and even though my hair got thinner I still got to keep it which made me very happy. I used a shampoo and a conditioner that are specially designed for use along with a cold cap.” LBW community member
When it comes to choosing a shampoo specifically for use with a cooling cap, the Live Better With community recommend Paxman hair and scalp care shampoo, which is specially designed for people undergoing chemotherapy.
Paxman are a leading manufacturer of cooling caps, and their hair care products are dermatologically tested and free from irritating chemicals and additives. The chemo shampoo will remove impurities while protecting and nourishing your hair, and soothing your scalp, and can be used with any cooling cap system, including the Elasto-Gel cold cap.
To get the very best results, it’s recommended that you use Paxman shampoo and conditioner together. The conditioner is gentle and non-irritating and can be left on your hair for long periods, making it ideal for wearing during cooling treatment. Paxman recommend gently washing your hair when you get home from your chemotherapy session, especially if you have conditioner remaining in your hair.
You can find a range of Live Better With recommended products to help with slowing hair loss here.
Do you have experience of using a cooling cap? Or are you looking for tips and advice? Why not visit the Live Better With community forum.