Chemotherapy – wigs and hair replacement options
We understand that you may have many concerns about losing your hair. First take a look at the key points below specifically about wigs suitable for people losing hair during chemotherapy.
- Synthetic wigs are the most commonly used for chemotherapy wearers.
- Hair loss as a side effect to chemotherapy treatment is normally temporary meaning that the hair will grow back – therefore a wig for a chemotherapy wearer is termed as ‘short-term’.
- Some wigs, such as wigs needed to be secured to a completely bare scalp with a wig glue, are not suitable for chemotherapy wearers because as your new hair starts to grow the wig would not stay securely on your scalp.
- The NHS as well as some private health insurance companies and local cancer support organisations may be able to help with the financial costs towards a wig.
- Over the last three years the availability of wig choices has expanded immensely meaning that there really is a huge range on offer so you can find something just right for you.
- Hair replacements systems are not commonly used by chemotherapy patients because they often take between 2-3 months to be made are are expensive.
In our experience it can be really helpful to understand why some wigs may be more suitable then others for chemotherapy wig wearers. The most popular wig worn in this situation tends to be a synthetic hair wig. This is because synthetic wigs are readily available in every hair type with multiple colours and style options. They are easy to care for and can be washed then left to dry naturally and will return to their styled state without the need for additional effort. Generally speaking, except in particular circumstances, the NHS will only fund synthetic wigs (where funding is applicable).
There is nothing to stop you from choosing a human hair wig but in general they are more expensive then synthetic hair. Additionally a human hair wig will need the same amount of attention as natural hair so generally needs to be blow dried or set into a style. This makes them more complicated to care for.
When dealing with hair loss as a side effect to chemotherapy, hair will normally grow back after treatment. It is true to say that your new hair growth may be a different texture, colour and thickness than before. There are a few chemotherapy drugs that list the possibility of long-term hair thinning or hair loss but it is exceptionally rare meaning that the vast majority of people who lose their hair as a side effect to chemotherapy will experience their hair growing back.
With this in mind, when choosing a wig you will need a temporary or short-term wig option. In our experience the average time a wig is worn during chemotherapy and into new hair growth is around nine to 12 months. Of course some people wear their wig for a longer until their new hair is of a length that they feel comfortable with. We know that this may not seem temporary to you as nine months can feel like a long time, but from the point of view of a wig supplier they may use the term temporary or short-term hair loss.
Women have often told us that they were very cross to not have been offered “premium” wigs, however in many cases these wigs are deigned for long-term wig wearers (people who have other hair loss conditions). For example some wigs need to be secured to the scalp using a wig glue which must be applied to a completely bare scalp and this makes this type of wig unsuitable for temporary wig wearers as the wig would not securely attach when your hair grows back. This is the reason some wig suppliers may say to you that they will show you a range suitable for temporary hair loss. Whether a wig is synthetic or human hair the most common type worn by people having chemotherapy treatment is secured on the scalp by tightening the internal belt straps that are inside the wig. This makes it suitable to be worn during hair loss and over new hair growth after chemotherapy.
Ultimately the choice of wig is entirely up to you. There is nothing to stop you from looking at different wigs, hairpieces and hair replacement systems to find something that feels right for you. As long as your choice fits well and securely the choice is entirely yours. Take a look in our guide to understanding different wig types, hairpieces and hair systems to get an in-depth overview of what is available.
“I wish I had of known a bit more about wigs before I visited the wig supplier as I though the wig fitter wasn’t offering me the expensive options because she thought I couldn’t afford it. I felt really upset I didn’t realise that some wigs are not suited to chemo wearers because our hair will grow back.” Judith
Next planned review: February 2025