New hair growth commonly asked Q&A
New hair growth commonly asked Questions & Answers
Let’s start with the commonly asked questions and answers that will give you an essential overview of new growth following chemotherapy treatment and scalp cooling, plus what to expect and how to plan. If you have experienced external beam radiotherapy to the scalp please read our specific guidance in our Radiotherapy guide.
- Understanding the hair loss and re-growth cycle
- At what speed does new hair grow?
- Does wearing a wig slow down new hair growth?
- Chemo curls – will my hair be a different texture than before?
- Will the colour be the same as before hair loss?
- When can I colour my new hair?
- Can I perm, straighten or relax my new hair?
- When can I have my first haircut?
- How will eyelashes and eyebrows regrow?
- What is minoxidil and will it help with my new hair growth?
- Having a conversation with a medical professional about the use of minoxidil
Understanding the hair loss and re-growth cycle
If you haven’t looked at our section that explains the hair loss and re-growth cycle, may we recommend that you glance through it and then come back to this section. This is because understanding the basic Hair growth cycle can help you to understand the choices that are available to you.
At what speed does new hair grow?
It’s important to know that following chemotherapy the hair nearly always grows back but it can take a while and be slower then before hair loss. Very rarely, after high does of chemotherapy treatment the hair may not grow back at all or produce very fine hair. If you do experience any problems or concerns with new hair growth we are here to support you.
The growth rate of hair can vary a great deal but the average hair on the scalp grows at approximately half and inch a month, which gives an average growth of six inches a year. However following chemotherapy treatment it often takes a while for the follicle to recover and in turn produce a visible replacement hair. Most of the time this results in slow growing hair at first.
In our experience, after three months we would expect to see a short covering of hair over the scalp. However it may be very short to begin with. Whilst hair would normally, on average grow approximately half and inch per month, resulting in one and a half inches over a three-months. However, in the three months after chemotherapy treatment, it would not be unusual to see only half an inch or less of new hair growth.
For most people, once treatment has finished the first new hairs can start to peek through at around three to six weeks after chemotherapy has finished. Some people even find that their hair grows before treatment has ended, especially those on combination chemotherapy regimes.
Following treatment, your body may be run down and depleted of nutrients. This can be part of the reason why it takes a little longer than normal for new hair to grow. The hair growth often returns to a quicker and more stable rate once the body has recovered and regenerated.
This may feel frustrating but there are plenty of ways to enhance your short hair until it reaches the length you like.
New hair growth may be a bit patchy and uneven to begin with. Often the slowest growing areas are around the hairline at the front of the head and the crown area.
Most people find it takes twelve weeks to establish around one to three centimeters of new hair and so a very short crop style will start to evolve. If your hair growth is only one centimeter this may be frustrating but is normal after chemotherapy. As long as you can see new growth coming it may be that your hair is growing at a slower rate whilst the follicle recovers and gains strength.
In our experience, on average, it takes around three to eight months before the hair is long enough to have a short textured style. But hair does grow at different rates and we have given people their first hair cut (a few snips) after just three months.
If after twelve weeks very little or no hair has appeared then we would recommend getting some specialist advice as this could indicate a hair growth issue.
We will talk you through lots of ways that you can support your new hair growth and give you styling ideas and tips in the sections that follow.
Does wearing a wig slow down new hair growth?
Generally speaking wearing a wig does not delay or prevent new hair from growing. The only exception to this is in the case of a silicon or suction type of wig that requires the scalp to be completely free of hair to ensure a secure fit.
People often worry that wearing a wig will delay growth but this is not true and there is no evidence to support this. Following chemotherapy treatment most people do say that their hair grows slower at first, and then returns to a more regular speed of growth once the Hair Growth Cycle has recovered. This is normal and to be expected.
You may need some tips about how to prevent your wig from slipping when wearing over new hair growth. We have lots of tips and ideas in our Wig guide – Getting a good fit.
Chemo curls – will my hair be a different texture then before?
Most people say that initially following chemotherapy treatment their new hair growth does seem different then before treatment. It can take a while for new hair to fully regenerate and so the first hairs can often be finer and a different texture then before.
Over time, once two to three inches of new hair growth has been established most people find that their hair starts to revert back to a more familiar or regular texture and feel. Our hair texture refers to the shape – straight, curly, afro hair etc. But generally speaking, people also talk about their hair texture in terms of it’s condition or how thick or thin it is.
The shape of the hair follicle determines whether or not a hair will be curly, wavy, afro or straight. The reason why hair texture can change is because the hair follicle can slightly collapse during hair loss. Therefore when it reforms the hair follicle can take on a new shape thus forming a different texture.
Some people report having ‘chemo curls’ – this often refers to new hair that is curly where as before chemotherapy treatment their hair was straighter. This can, in part, be explained because the shape of the hair follicle can alter during treatment and become twisted. A twisted follicle creates a curly hair shape whereas a tube (cylinder) shaped follicle produces a straight hair. Afro hair tends to grow back the same texture as before.
If your hair was straight before hair loss and grows back with a curl it is highly likely that as your hair establishes more length and weight, the curl will reduce.
Quite often after chemotherapy the body is depleted of key nutrients. Having treatment for cancer causes significant stress on the body and stress affects hair growth.
Once your body has had time to regenerate so too does the Hair growth cycle. Usually after a period of twelve to eighteen months the hair’s growth pattern is much more stable and thus the texture settles.
Our hair growth pattern, texture and colour is determined by a combination of factors – genetic make up (hereditary), nutritional intake, wellbeing, how we take care of our scalp and hair – and in your case the after-effects of treatment.
If you are aware of any hereditary or genetic hair growth patterns, for example a widow’s peak or double crown, then these tend to be the same as before.
When it comes to the density-amount of hair, how thick or fine your hair is and how much of it you have, this varies. Some people say their hair is similar to before treatment and for others it is completely different.
The average person has around 100,000 hairs on their head but amounts of hair vary from person to person.
Whatever your new texture, we will give you lots of ideas on how to manage it and create a style to suit you.
Will the colour be the same as before hair loss?
The colour of your new hair may be altered or it may be just the same as before, this is unpredictable. This can be the result of an alteration to your normal hair growth cycle and may adjust and change as your hair becomes more stable.
Generally speaking, as we get older the amount of hair colour (pigment) that is naturally produced reduces, thus hair appears grey or white. So if you already had grey or white hairs then it is highly likely that hair will come back the same shade.
It is quite common for people to say they notice more grey or white hairs within their new hair growth. This may be true but it’s fair to say that many women colour their hair and so weren’t really sure how much grey they had. Another factor to take into consideration is that when hair is short it tends to stick up and so any grey and white hairs can appear more prominent.
We will introduce you to a host of options if colouring your new hair is something you choose to do. Take a look in our section Colouring new hair growth.
When can I colour my new hair?
We have put together an advice section entirely about colouring new hair growth. Generally speaking, as long as your hair and scalp are healthy and you do a skin-sensitivity test prior to colour, there is no specific length required to apply all-over colour to the hair.
However we would recommend that you allow at least an inch of hair to grow before colouring it, so that you can be sure that the hair is of a good quality.
Colouring hair is a great way to add some individuality to shorter styles but many people are very nervous about any possible damage to the new hair. There are plenty of clever techniques and hair colours that contain natural and nourishing ingredients to use both at home and at the salon.
To find out if your hair is in a suitable condition to colour and for lots of helpful tips take a look at Colouring new hair growth.
Can I perm, straighten or relax my new hair?
Your new hair and scalp must be in a good enough condition to perm or straighten. Both of these techniques require at least a couple of inches of hair in length.
Technically speaking you would normally need at least three to four inches for a perm (using tiny rollers) and at least two inches for relaxing or a straightening. However, we recommend that you have at least four inches of very good quality hair growth before attempting these chemical processes.
Perms and relaxers use very strong chemicals that break down and reform the hair’s structure. Even when carried out with care, the process is aggressive to the hair and in our opinion, puts too much strain on the new hair.
Also remember to carry out a Sensitivity test prior to any application.
Whether you’re used to having curls or new to twists and coils, our guidance can help. We have lots of styling tips for curly hair to share with you.
When can I have my first haircut?
There is no rule as to when you can first cut your hair, it all depends on the condition of your hair and what style you are aiming for. It is an entirely personal decision.
Quite often hair grows at different rates so you may want to trim one area and not another. For example, many people find that there are longer sprouts of hairs that they want to snip at, in particular around the ears and hairline, that can feel untidy if they stick out. These areas commonly need a trim before the rest and it is fine to do so. Take a look in our section Cutting new hair
Some people snip at the odd long hair themselves, there are no rules here so feel free to snip at those annoying sprouts! But if you are at all worried, or don’t fancy giving it a go yourself, you are best advised to have a chat with a hairdresser who can help you plan your new style and pencil in a time for a trim.
It is a myth that cutting hair makes it grow quicker. It’s more the case that when some of the new fine ends are snipped off and the hair is in a more organised style it can give the hair the appearance of looking fuller. It doesn’t actually make the hair grow more quickly. The important thing is that you look after the condition of your new hair and feel that any cutting helps to improve the look and feel.
Some people decide they want to grow their hair as long as possible before cutting it. As long as your hair feels healthy then that is just fine. If your hair feels dry then we would recommend that after a few inches of hair appearing, you have the bare ends trimmed (even just a tiny bit) to take off those dry bits.
This is because it is best to avoid split ends that can run down the hair shaft and prevent further growth. Additionally, very dry ends can make hair difficult to style and appear unruly.
How will eyelashes and eyebrows regrow?
The vast majority of people see new hairs starting to regrow after chemotherapy treatment has finished. Some people find that the hair on their scalp grows back quicker then their brow and lash hairs.
For more in-depth information take a look in our dedicated section about Eyebrows and lashes – new hair growth
What is minoxidil and will it help with my new hair growth?
Minoxidil is the pharmaceutical name given to a topical treatment that has been developed to treat male and female pattern baldness (and can be found in other hair loss treatments). Minoxidil is commonly supplied in a topical lotion or mousse that is applied directly to the scalp containing between Minoxidil 2% to 5%.There are various brands to choose from.
At Cancer Hair Care people often ask us if minoxidil might be effective to help encourage new hair growth following cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. At the time of writing there isn’t enough evidence to make a clear recommendation. This is because this topical drug (applied to the scalp) has not been developed with cancer patients in mind. However some people who have had cancer treatments and used minoxidil have said that they have found it to be beneficial. In particular females who have reported having problematic new hair growth following chemotherapy or hormonal therapy and have tried minoxidil to improve growth. Hair loss professionals such as trichologists (a non medically trained hair and scalp specialist) and dermatologists (a doctor or medically trained skin specialist) sometimes recommend minoxidil as a solution to problematic new hair growth.
Whilst minoxidil can be purchased over the counter at pharmacies it is a drug and should be treated as such. We recommend that you discuss the use of minoxidil with your oncologist and/or GP. Additionally you can talk with a dermatologist or a trichologist to gain insights about the effectiveness of the drugs in your particular case. We also recommend that you read the list of possible side effects and contraindications.Minoxidil may not be recommended if you have certain medical conditions.
Generally speaking this type of approach is not recommended as an initial response to new hair growth. At Cancer Hair Care we recommend that people wait until at least 6 months post treatment to see how their natural hair recovers and returns. This is because there is no evidence to suggest that it will improve natural and normal new hair growth post cancer treatments. Additionally there is a financial commitment and health considerations when using this product.
In terms of the financial commitment products and brands vary but you can expect to pay at least £20 a month. If hair growth is successful as a result of using Minoxidil, then the product has to be continually used to maintain the hair growth. If you stop using minoxidil there is a high possibility that the hair may fall out.
Having a conversation with a medical professional about the use of minoxidil
At Cancer Hair Care we have had many conversations with people (in particular women) who are experiencing problematic, sparse or slow new hair growth and have had problems seeking helpful and clear guidance when approaching medical professionals. We always suggest waiting until at least 6 months post treatments before considering the use of minoxidil and to discuss with your cancer treatment team or GP. Below are some ideas about how to approach medical professionals:
Questions you may like to ask your medical team:
- I would like to know if you have any health concerns about me using this product?
- If yes please explain the risks?
- If this is important to me and I decide to try this product but have concerns, can I come and have a further conversation with you about it?
Next planned review: February 2025