HAIR CARE DURING RADIATION



Exactly three weeks of radiation had passed and the laser beams of poison seemed to have no effect on my hair, so of course I was thrilled. But just as I was letting my guard down, the universe dealt me it's next blow. As I stood in my kitchen talking to Reinaldo I casually ran my fingers through my hair (if you know me, you know this is something I do allllll day). To my horror, chunks of hair just fell out and were wrapped around my fingers. It was the weirdest thing - they fell so gracefully, as if they were never actually attached to my head. I quickly tossed them in the garbage and decided to ignore what just transpired. I told myself that it was just a one time thing, and it didn't mean anything.. I’d still be left with a lot of hair.


As the days went by and more fell out, I panicked and decided I might need a wig. So of course, I called the wig company the Kardashians buy from, because if I had to wear a wig it better damn well be a nice one. I cut a chunk of my hair off, and sent it to NYC to have a custom wig made (which I never ended up using because my radiated skin was too sensitive). What I wasn’t prepared for, and what finally sent me over the edge, was when I lost my eyebrow. I spent days crying and explaining to Reinaldo that eyebrows never grow back! And even if some do, mine certainly never would. So now I’ll be bald with one eyebrow f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Desperate, I picked up my phone and emailed my radiology oncologist. My email read:


Dr. Mellon,


I noticed the skin of my eyebrow is turning red and the hair on my brow is thinning out/falling out. Is there a way to adjust the treatment so I don’t lose the rest of my eyebrow hair?

Happy late Thanksgiving 🦃

Lisa Marie



Dr. Mellon replied:


The fields are designed to treat your tumor. The tumor sat just on the other side of your skull. So I can modify the fields to get off your eyebrow, but I will be missing some of the area where the tumor used to sit on the other side of the skull. I could also try to be gentler on the skin by forcing the dose through the other side of your brain, but then there is no benefit to protons at all. Ultimately the choice is yours but my goal is the best chance of cancer control.


Obviously he was right, and his email gave me the reality check I needed. So I got it together, accepted defeat on the hair loss battle, and came up with a plan to take care of the hair I had left. I took such good care of it that my doctors can’t believe how much has grown back so soon. Throughout the past year it has been my mission to grow back my hair, and I’m sharing what worked for me in the hopes that it will help someone else.


Cut hair to manageable length. First, I cut my hair shoulder length to make it easier to care for and just overall healthier.


Wash hair using cold water only. During my 6 weeks of radiation, I washed my hair once every 7 days using cold water only – this helps retain the hair’s moisture. Waiting the whole seven days was awful but I think it made a big difference. After radiation I switched to every 3-4 days for an entire year (still using cold water!). One year after radiation I started using warm water again.


Brush using a wide-tooth comb. – never use brushes!


Blow-dry the ends only, using cool air for 6 months. After 6 months switch to heat. See my post on Hair Care After a Craniotomy to see a great tutorial on the no heat curls method.


Choose a high quality shampoo & conditioner. During my 6 weeks of radiation I used IGK Shampoo and Conditioner.


Sleep in a silk head wrap. I slept in a mulberry silk head wrap every night for a year and I still use a silk pillowcase.


After Radiation, use a high quality, gentle, and smoothing shampoo & conditioner, and change brands every few months. After radiation I switched to Kerastase Discipline Bain Fluidealiste Smooth-in-Motion Unruly Hair Set. This product is amazing! It tames all the new unruly hair that’s growing in and keeps the new baby hair healthy and strong. They say that after radiation your hair texture might change, but I found that this product got my hair right back to it's original strength and texture. I highly recommend it! Four months later, I switched back to IGK Hot Girl to change it up a bit. I am currently using ORIBE Serene Scalp Shampoo & Conditioner, which hydrates and smoothes all the new hair and calms the itching caused by constant new hair growth. I am really loving it.


Take Biotin supplements. My husband had special biotin supplements made just for me (he’s in the supplement business) that I still take. Biotin and a regular multivitamin are essential.


Don't forget your Diet. I modified my diet for over a year to make sure I was feeding my body all the good stuff to promote hair growth and healthy hair (think lots of protein!). I loaded up on eggs, salmon, avocado, shrimp and berries. I also try to have meat once a week.


Just in case you’re wondering, my eyebrow did grow back and my hair is almost completely filled in.