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Side Effects

Choosing a Hat When You've Lost Your Hair

Hats can be a safe, comfortable and attractive alternative to wigs and scarves if you have lost your hair due to chemotherapy or other cancer treatment. But choosing the right hat can be daunting. Here are some tips to help.

Know the facts

Some people believe that wearing a hat every day may cause hair loss. There is no study that has shown this to be true in cancer patients who have thinning of their hair due to cancer treatments.

Practical concerns...comfort comes first

  • Sometimes scalps are itchy or sensitive when hair is lost because of treatment. Scratchy hats may be uncomfortable, so look for ones with soft cotton linings.
  • For hats with liners, wear the liner with the seams facing out, so that only the soft, seamless side touches your scalp.
  • For unlined hats (and wigs), adding a soft cap liner will help to make a hat more comfortable, and will help quickly absorb perspiration and wick it away to keep you cool.

Get the right size

  • Look for hats with an adjustable size feature.
  • If your head is small, consider adding a padded cap liner under your hats. The liner will provide desirable fullness and a snug fit. It will also provide a seamless lining under hats.
  • An adhesive hat sizer is another option. This is a band that sticks to the inside of a hat to make the hat fit tighter. For maximum size reduction, 2 sizers can be added to fit all the way around the inside circumference of the hat.

Hats must be deep enough to give adequate coverage

  • A deeper cut and a snug fit will prevent gaping at the sides of the hat.
  • To best keep a hat in place and to add variety, you might want to wear a headband or scarfband under your hat. A scarfband tied around the crown of a hat is also a pretty touch.

A little bit of hair can make a big difference

  • Many women who lose their hair worry about the lack of hair in front of their ears. This bare spot may be especially obvious when wearing glasses. Look for hair accents that can attach with peel-and-stick adhesive backing. These are often made of real hair that can be cut and styled the way you want it.
  • Halos are another easy, inexpensive way to get the look of hair while enjoying the comfort of a nice, soft hat. These are wigs that are designed to be worn with hats - they are open at the top to keep you cool all day.

Choose a hat that works with your face and body type.

  • Caps and medium brim hats look good on many people.
  • If you have a round face, try to avoid rounded crowns. Wear a headband or scarf under your hat so you can angle it, which will add length to your face. Longer earrings and halos also help.
  • If your face is longer, wider brims will be more flattering.
  • If your jaw line is too strong, emphasize your eyes to draw attention away from it.
  • Larger women should avoid small hats that look out of proportion to the shape of their bodies.
  • Small women should avoid very large hats that overpower them.
  • Don't wear your hat perched on the top of your head. This may look like as though you’re having second thoughts about wearing it at all. It's best to pull it down low on your forehead.

Fly your "style" flag

  • Wear your hat with confidence.
  • Wear something terrific on your hat. Find a fabulous accessory like a scarf or a feather or treat yourself to an inexpensive new pin. Costume jewelry can often be found without spending a lot of time or money.

Losing your hair and getting chemo is not pleasant, no matter how you look at it. But hats can add a bit of fun and glamour. You might even find yourself reaching for a hat long after your hair has grown back.

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 editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Gatherwright J, Liu MT, Amirlak B, Gliniak C, Totonchi A, Guyuron B. The contribution of endogenous and exogenous factors to male alopecia: A study of identical twins. Plast Reconst Surg. 2013; 131(5):794e-801e.

Gatherwright J, Liu MT, Gliniak C, Totonchi A, Guyuron B. The contribution of endogenous and exogenous factors to female alopecia: A study of identical twins. Plast Reconst Surg. 2012; 130(6):1219-26.

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: November 21, 2020

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