Cutting hair before hair loss
We understand that it can be a big decision to cut hair prior to hair loss. It is your personal choice whether or not to cut your hair short.
One of the most important things is to be clear on your time scale of hair loss and if scalp cooling (that can sometimes lessen hair loss) is available to you. So that you can make a well-informed choice of when may be the best time to cut your hair. Take a look through our commonly asked Q&A to help aid your decision.
Cutting hair before hair loss - commonly asked Q&A
- Shall I cut my hair short?
- What length should I cut my hair to?
- What type of cutting technique is best - scissor cut or clipper?
- Does a hairdresser need to cut my hair short?
- Will cutting my hair off in advance affect the new hair growth?
- What do other people say helped them to decide whether or not to cut hair short?
Shall I cut my hair short?
It is entirely up to you if and when you cut your hair short but for most people cutting hair short is about taking control (if you are having scalp cooling it is a good idea to read the dedicated section about cuttng hair and scalp cooling). Whilst different brands of chemotherapy treatment will vary, the vast majority of people will find that hair loss starts around 10 -14 days after your first chemotherapy treatment. For many people this waiting time can be anxious and distressing and so cutting hair short can help to alleviate anxiety.
Some people many not want to cut their hair for cultural or religious reasons. There are many types of Scarves, hats and headwear available to cover the head and maintain your own style.
Two things to consider:
You may like to visit a wig shop before cutting hair so that the wig fitter can see your hair in your current style. Alternatively, you could take a photograph along.
If you are having the cold cap (scalp cooling) then you should talk to your nurse (or rea our guide) about what length you may or may not need to cut your hair. One of the main considerations for scalp cooling is that your hair is in the best condition possible. You will not normally need to cut your hair, as the whole point of the cold cap is to try and prevent hair loss so that you can maintain your hairstyle. Take a look at the section Scalp cooling for a more detailed understanding.
What length should I cut my hair to?
There is no set length that hair should be cut to. This is a personal choice. Some people prefer to cut longer hair shorter in stages. For example from shoulder length to a short bob and then when they are ready cut their hair shorter.
For others they wish to cut hair as short as possible so that they have taken full control and do not have to wait until the hair falls to experience the change of look. The length that you cut your hair to is entirely up to you, but please note that it really is not recommended that you completely shave your hair off bare using a razor directly onto the scalp because it is very easy to cut yourself and without experience it really is quite tricky to do. Any cuts could cause problems with possible infection, which may lead to complications during treatment. You can use a clipper and get as close to bare as possible but ensure that you don’t cause any cuts or infections.
The benefit of cutting hair short is that you take control of where and when you take this action. Also the scalp can feel sore and tender during hair loss and so it can feel very uncomfortable to cut hair at the actual time of hair fall.
This is not to say that you can't cut hair at the time it is falling but to be aware that the scalp can be tender. Many people tell us that they wish they had known that the scalp can be tender, as they would have made the choice to cut their hair prior to hair loss starting.
What type of cutting technique is best - scissor cut or clipper?
It really comes down to how short you feel you can let your hair be cut to and whether or not you prefer a scissor or clipper cut. We do not recommend shaving with a bare blade – this is to avoid possible cuts and infections.
A clipper cut will normally be one of the quickest ways to cut hair very short. Longer lengths are best cut down shorter first so that the clipper can glide through the hair. Often when hair is actually falling out people opt for a quick clipper cut so that the hair cut takes as little time as possible. Read Our guide to clipper cutting hair short.
Generally speaking a scissor cut allows more interaction with the varying lengths and look of a shorter style. For example with a scissor cut you can create short layers, different textures and leave the edges of the hair soft, unlike a clipper cut that gives a more blunt look. Some people don't like the sound and the feel of a clipper and prefer a scissor cut.
The only thing that we do not recommend is using a bare blade or razor to shave hair completely off. This is to avoid cuts and infections and for no other reason.
Does a hairdresser need to cut my hair short?
You don't have to have a hairdresser cut your hair. Many people cut their hair themselves by using a clipper or get a friend to help. However, it can be helpful to ask a hairdresser to help. Most hairdressers have experience of cutting hair prior to chemotherapy treatment, as it is a common form of cancer treatment. You may prefer to ask your hairdresser to come to your home so that you can have your hair cut in private. Additionally many wig fitting services offer hair cutting as well.
If you do decide to clipper your hair read Our guide to clipper cutting hair short
What do other people say helped them to decide whether or not to cut hair short?
Apart from people trying scalp cooling, many people tell us that if there was one tip they could share with other people it would be to cut hair short in your own time and before hair loss starts. Many women in-particular tell us that they found their scalp tender and sore and so when it came to cutting their hair not only did they feel emotionally drained and messy with patches of hair loss, but it was very uncomfortable. Cutting hair, in your own time and before hair loss, means you take control.
Other people say that they preferred to let the hair shed in it's own time.
"I really do wish I had cut my hair off before I started treatment. I waited until I couldn't bare it any more but I didn't plan for a hairdresser to help me and so ended up shaving my hair off alone in my bathroom whilst my mum looked after my little girl - it was not a nice experience" - Natalie
"I decided to let my hair fall out bit by bit, it was my way and it worked for me" Paulette
Will cutting my hair off in advance affect the new hair growth?
The short answer is no, you cannot affect the hair growth cycle by shaving or cutting hair prior to or after hair loss. This question is one that causes a lot of concern and miss- understanding.
At Cancer Hair Care we often have people contact us who are really worried about causing a problem to future hair growth. This is understandable, as everyone wants to be sure they are doing the best they can.
At our charity we have seen thousands of people who have chosen to cut their hair prior to or during hair fall - it has not affected how their hair has grown back. Let's go into more detail about hair cutting so that you can feel well informed to make choices.
Cutting hair off prior to or during hair loss due to chemotherapy
Deciding to cut hair short prior to or during hair loss is a personal decision and does not affect the hair growth system.
Take a look in the section Hair growth cycle, from here we understand that the hair root sits underneath the skin surface. This is where the three phases of the growth cycle occur with each and every individual hair. Therefore cutting hair short prior to or during hair loss cannot affect the hair growth function that takes place underneath the skin. If cutting hair short is something you decide to do it will not affect your new hair growth.
Read more in-depth information in our New hair growth section.
Next planned review: February 2020