Before I even get into the ins and outs of how I cared for my hair during my cancer treatment, you should know this: My hair is REALLY important to me. If you need help taking care of your hair after a craniotomy then look no further. I put in the work and researched nonstop about how to keep my beautiful locks strong and healthy, and now I am passing what I learned along to you!
After a craniotomy you’ll have a big, nasty scar on your head and the doctors will explain how to keep the incision clean and avoid infection. Not surprisingly, hair care isn’t a huge priority for brain surgeons… I received a strict and disappointingly short list of instructions on how to care for my hair.
1) wash hair with baby shampoo only (no conditioner),
2) avoid all hair products and heating tools for a couple months
(adiós blow-dryers and curling irons – hello air dry and frizz)
Sounds simple enough, right? Not so much.
Have you ever washed long, thick, auburn Italian hair with baby shampoo? In South Florida? A total nightmare. The baby shampoo made my hair insanely knotted, frizzy and dull. Without a smoothing cream or blow-dryer, I was left with a lifeless frizzy mess and a giant ol’ scar as the cherry on top. Of course, I followed my doctor’s orders, but I also did some research of my own to give my tresses a little extra TLC. With a lot of consistency and dedication I got my hair looking healthy again. Here’s how I did it!
SLEEP every night in a silk hair wrap.
I slept every night in a mulberry silk hair wrap to protect my hair and prevent nighttime hair loss. This Slip Silk Turban is amazing because unlike other silk hair wraps, it is double lined with silk inside and out so your hair can enjoy the benefits.
Limit WASHING your hair to every seven days.
I washed my hair every SEVEN days using Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo (per the doctor’s instructions). I know this sounds disgusting, but your hair and scalp just went through a major trauma and your hair needs a chance to rebuild all its natural oils. Additionally, the baby shampoo is really drying so once a week was all I could manage. I started applying conditioner to the ends at six weeks post op.
Use COLD WATER.
I washed my hair with cold water only for an entire year. Awful, uncomfortable and yet, a total game changer. Hot water strips your scalp of essential natural oils, causing dryness, frizzy hair, and dandruff. Cold water, however, heals the frizzy parts of your hair shaft, providing a soft and smooth texture.
I didn’t use any heating tools at all for 2 months. I gave my hair a little wave using the no heat, silk scarf method (see below for instructions), or I simply braided my hair at night while it was still a little damp. Two months post op, I started using a curling iron to smooth out the ends. Three months post op, I started using a blow dryer on the cool setting. I didn’t start using the hot setting on my blow dryer until 6 months post op. You can see my hair progress below.
NO HEAT, SILK SCARF/BATHROBE BELT METHOD...
1. Grab a scarf and roll it up lengthwise, about one-inch thick. You could also use the belt of a bathrobe. Clip or bobby pin the scarf to the top of your head, placed close to your face.
2. Separate your hair into two equal sections, as you would for pigtails.
3. Starting with one side, wrap small sections of hair around the scarf, twisting away from your face. Keep taking hair and wrapping as you make your way down the scarf. Pro tip: The tighter your wrap your hair, the tighter the curl will be.
4. Secure with a hair tie at the end, and repeat on the other side.
5. Allow hair to dry completely. Overnight is optimal.
6. Once hair is dry, unravel both sides of hair from the scarf. Pro tip: Smooth out ends with your fingers and a bit of water, if they need it.
7. Gently move your fingers through your hair to help break up your curls for an effortless, natural look.
Check out this video for a great tutorial on how to do the No Heat Curls. Remember to use larger sections for softer waves!