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Women who are faced with hair loss from chemotherapy or radiation treatment often choose at least one wig and then alternate wearing the wig(s) with hats and scarves. Remember, your hair will grow back, although its thickness, texture, and color may not be the same as it was before treatment.
Hair usually grows back about six months after chemotherapy ends. Your new hair may be curlier or straighter, thicker or finer—or even a new color. Usually this change is short term; with time your hair will very likely go back to the way it was before treatment.
Search your local area and phone book for wig stores. If you are worried about privacy, ask if the store has one-on-one service available for cancer patients who are choosing a wig. Some may even have a private area for trying on wigs.
If you have a cancer support group near you, you might want to ask others in the group about places to buy a wig. You can also ask your nurses or a social worker at your treatment center about wig buying options.
There are also online retailers like "tlc" that sell wigs and other head covering options.
Check the wig return policy and your insurance policy:
Talk to the nurses or a social worker at your treatment center if there are local organizations or churches that may have wigs that have been donated.
You have a number of choices of ways to replace your hair. You can go with a full wig, a hair topper, bang attachments or a halo. A hair topper or top piece can add coverage and volume to thinning hair on the top of your head. Halos are designed to wear with a hat or other head cover. They have hair on the sides, but are open on top to help keep your head cooler. You can also buy bangs that can be attached to hats, scarves or turbans.
Wigs can be made either of natural human hair, or of synthetic materials. When comparing a high quality synthetic wig, there is not a lot of difference in the look and feel of the hair. The main differences are in cost and maintenance, so choose the type that's right for your needs.
Synthetic wigs are cheaper, hold their style regardless of the weather, and don't fade over time. But they don't last as long as wigs made of natural hair, and don't have as much flexibility in styling.
Natural human hair wigs are more expensive and might come in fewer color options, but they can be cut, styled, and dyed just like your own hair. The drawback is that they'll also need more maintenance, will react to weather, and might need restyling or re-dying over time.
Also consider how long you expect to keep the wig, and whether you would rather have a single wig that lasts a long time, or whether you'd like to change up your look more often with two or more wigs.
The choice of color is a personal one, but be adventurous! Now is your chance to experiment without paying for a long, expensive salon dye job. You might decide to try a wig in a new color and be very pleased with the compliments you receive.
When choosing a wig, look for one that's adjustable; your head size may be up to a size smaller when you lose your hair.
Consider getting a cushioned wig grip band to hold the wig securely and comfortably, or a wig liner to make the wig more comfortable to wear. Chemo can make your scalp sensitive, and a wig liner can offer protection, as well as keeping you cooler and more comfortable.
Synthetic wigs cannot be dyed and should only be shampooed with a wig shampoo. To prevent the glue in the wig from melting, shampoo in cool water and avoid using a blow drier except on the cool setting. Be careful opening the doors of the oven and clothes drier and avoid getting the wig near the burners on the top of the stove.
While losing your hair may be frightening, many women may enjoy trying styles and colors in a wig that they would never have dared to try with their own hair. Some women buy more than one wig and change wigs to suit their mood, their outfit, or the occasion.
Wigs always look good; there are no more bad hair days. In fact, many women continue to wear their wig(s) after their hair grows back, especially when they don’t have time to get their hair done.
Give yourself permission to try new colors and styles. You may well bring a smile to your face and to the faces of those who love you. (And you might get some compliments, too!)
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Medicare.gov. Is my test, item, or service covered? Prosthetic devices. Accessed at https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/ prosthetic-devices on December 11, 2018.
Nail LM, Lee-Lin F. Alopecia. In Brown CG, ed. A Guide to Oncology Symptom Management. 2nd ed. Pittsburgh, PA. Oncology Nursing Society; 2015:21-33.
Last Revised: March 15, 2021
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