Scalp care guidance
Whether you are wearing a wig, head covering or beautifully bare it is important to take good care of your scalp. This will help improve both the way your scalp looks and feels and can help to promote a healthy situation to encourage new hair growth.
If you are missing your routine of washing and styling your hair why not take on a different ritual to cleanse and treat your scalp instead.
In this section we will offer lots of ideas of taking care of your scalp.
The advice in general is for everyone and any form of treatment with the exception of people who have had radiotherapy to the scalp area. Please read Radiotherapy guide for ideas and guidance.
- Getting used to a bare scalp
- Dealing with how you feel
- Daily scalp care tips – bare scalp
- Taking care of a sore/sensitive scalp
Other helpful subjects:
Getting used to a bare scalp
Everyone’s head shape and skin is different, so too is how you may feel about hair loss and the look of your head without hair. It is true to say that for most women the thought of a bare scalp fills them with fear. But now you are hair free you may find that your feelings have changed and you are beginning to get used to the look and feel of your scalp.
It can be tough to face up to but with a combination of tips on how to take care of your scalp, ideas for covering up and sharing how you feel about it all, you will find that these natural worries can be dealt with and that you won’t need to give up on looking good.
One thing we would recommend is to be open to suggestions and ideas. For example, you may have decided that a wig is for you but you are now thinking that perhaps there is something else better suited. By working through the various subjects on this web site you will soon see that there is a lot on offer.
Very few women like being hair free but before you know it you will be coping and dealing with everyday life in a way that you may not have thought possible. So let us help you look good and feel better knowing support is here for you.
Dealing with how you feel
We all deal with emotions differently and one important thing to remember when dealing with hair loss is that it is not vanity – it is for your sanity and self-esteem and that is quite a natural feeling.
Everyone cares about how they look (even those people who pretend they don’t!). It’s not just negative emotions either, some people talk about how much courage they felt or how proud they felt adapting to a new look.
It is entirely natural and normal to have strong emotions and feelings about hair loss. Many people say that however well prepared they are for hair loss, when it is actually happening it can be very upsetting. We will help you cope and look good throughout this time – when you have some ideas and suggestions it can help you to actively take control.
Whatever you are feeling there will be something that you can do to help bring the feelings out and let them pass so that you can move through your day.
It is important to deal with how you feel. Most cancer specialists agree that a positive outlook and the ability to cope with the rollercoaster of emotions can help to support your immune system. Now this doesn’t mean that you have to embrace hair loss with a big smile, but coping with your emotions about hair loss will help and support you.
We have developed an entire section dedicated to Your Feelings & inspiring stories. Here you can share in the wisdom, experiences, knowledge and individual ways of coping with others. When it comes to dealing with hair loss, talking about and sharing your problems, other people can shed a whole new light on the situation and really can offer some great support.
At Cancer Hair Care we have a free support service and helpline where you can speak with one of our advisors for tips and guidance.
Daily scalp care tips – bare scalp
Take good care of your scalp with these daily tips
Wash your scalp regularly – unless you have a specific scalp problem you are best advised to wash your scalp in the morning and at night. If you have some hair you may like to continue to use a shampoo. However, if you are hair free then a facial wash used on the scalp is ideal.
Hot flannel and essential oils to soothe a scalp after wearing a wig, scarf or hat – a hot steamy flannel and some facial wash on your scalp followed by a soothing and light moisturiser can really help to ease away the tension of the day and nurture your scalp. Simply rinse a flannel under very warm water, squeeze out the water and place the hot steamy flannel onto your scalp. You may like to add a few drops of essential oil such as lavender to calm and soothe or tea tree to help any irritation.
Massage your scalp – unless you have any scalp problems you may like to massage your scalp, try five massage rounds to keep the scalp healthy. Use the pad of your fingers in a circular motion to ease away tension and keep a good flow of blood to the skin.
Make-up wipes are handy helpers – keep some fresh wipes in your bag for freshening up your scalp when out all day.
Use a light natural oil or light moisturiser to seal in moisture – many facial oils are light and ideal for the scalp. Additionally aloe vera gels can offer a non sticky layer of moisture, ideal if you are wearing a wig or scarf. Light day moisturisers can also be ideal for the scalp. Essential oils such as lavender is a good all round ingredient that helps to nourish the scalp and soothe irritations. Allow your moisturiser to dry adequately before putting on a wig, scarf or hat to avoid stickiness.
Wash any head covering (wigs and head coverings) regularly – a good tip is to use a very warm damp flannel to wipe out the interior of any head coverings after wearing and allow to dry. This will keep your headwear clean and fresh for your scalp.
Washing your headwear and wigs on a regular basis helps to keep your scalp clear from unnecessary spots and irritation. This can occur if your headwear/wig has a build up of naturally occurring secretions such as grease, shed skin and perspiration. Take a look at care labels to ensure correct washing instructions are followed. For wigs it’s important to wash appropriately for synthetic hair or human hair. For headwear, it can be helpful to hand wash or pop your headwear into a pillowcase and wash on a delicates cycle.
Alternatively, wipe out wigs and headwear with a make-up or fresh wipe. This helps to lessen any build up of daily oils that can lead to spotty and irritable skin.
Ideas for protecting your scalp in the sun – sunlight can really help us to feel uplifted and is important in aiding our body’s healing process. If your scalp is bare then wear a minimum of factor SPF30 or higher, as appropriate. A good idea is to use sun lotions designed for the face as these tend to be less greasy and thus more comfortable on the scalp. Sports sun tan lotions also tend to be less shiny and sticky – look out for ones specifically designed for the scalp and face. You can also buy headwear (mainly hats and caps) that have a built in SPF in the fabric. Your medical team should give you any specific scalp care guidance as some cancer treatments result in a heightened sensitivity to the sun.
Keep your head cosy in cold weather – you can loose a lot of heat from your head, so in cold weather remember to cover your scalp to keep your skin protected.
Moisturiser – you may like to use a moisturiser on your scalp. For sensitive scalps try perfume-free, natural ingredients or moisturisers developed for sensitive skin.
If you are wearing a wig or headwear you may like to consider using moisturisers that are not too thick or oily. These might be called lotions. Lotions tend to be a thinner consistency. Lightweight facial moisturisers and oils are an ideal option for the scalp.
Pillow case – you may like to consider using a pillow case made from natural fibers such as cotton or linen. Man-made fibers, like nylon, can cause irritation to sensitive skin.
Wig wearers – if you are wearing a wig all day it can be helpful to allow your skin some time when you don’t wear your wig so that air can circulate on the scalp. Skin benefits from air. This is because even wigs that use human hair often have a base (cap) that is made from man-made synthetic fibres that can irritate the scalp.
Taking care of a sore/sensitive scalp
If you are concerned about your health in relation to your scalp we always recommend talking with your nurse or doctor.
To ease any discomfort you might like to try some of the following:
Sensitivity and irritation during hair fall (and re-growth) – some people say that their scalp feels more sensitive, sore or itchy especially just before and during the initial hair fall. Whilst it may not feel very pleasant, this is normal and usually subsides after a few days. Some people say that new hair growth can also be a bit painful.
Red spots – if you see small red spots appear that are intensely itchy this may be an inflammation of your hair follicle, called folliculitis, which may need to be medically treated. Always speak with your medical team if itchy and painful spots appear.
Folliculitis is an inflammation of your hair follicle, it does sometimes occur when hair falls out due to cancer treatments. If you have folliculitis, you will notice the formation of tiny little red spots called pustules at the affected follicle openings. It can cause intense itching and tenderness and be too sensitive to wear a wig. However, try not to scratch as this may further inflame your skin. Treatment options offered by your doctor may include antiseptic creams, lotions or antibiotics. It is always advised that you seek medical advice during cancer treatment at a time when your body is more susceptible to infections.
Lotions to soothe your scalp – you may like to use lotions developed to soothe and calm itchy skin. Ask your pharmacist or at a natural health shop. For example, many people tell us that lotions with the essential oil of tea tree are helpful. Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is known for its soothing qualities. Aloe Vera gels with tea tree oil (mixed) are reported to be very helpful in easing pain and discomfort.
Fresh headwear and wigs – keep headwear and wigs clean and fresh to avoid the build up of body oils that may irritate your scalp.
Wash your scalp on a daily basis – unless you have an underlying scalp condition whereby you have been advised to not wash your scalp, daily washing helps to remove skin oils and sweat that is naturally produced on the scalp. You can use some shampoo or may like to use a facial wash. If you have very sensitive skin you may like to try products that are perfume-free or a product specifically designed for sensitive skin.
Wig cap – if wearing a wig you may like to consider wearing a wig cap. Read more about how to ensure a wig is comfortable and secure in our Wig guide.
Pain relief – you may like to ask your medical team if pain-reliving medication may help.
Other helpful subjects:
Next planned review: February 2025