Does Radiation Therapy Always Cause Hair Loss?

Specialty: Dermatologist ,Hair, Skin, and Nail Disorders

Dr. Shruti Chavan is a consulting dermatologist at Dr.Sheth's Skin and Hair Clinic since 6 years. She is a co-committee member of CDSI (Cosmetic dermatologist Society of India). She is highly skilled in non-surgical facial skin rejuvenation... more

  • Does Radiation Cause Hair Loss?
  • How Does Radiation Therapy Affect The Hair?
  • How Will Radiation Therapy Affect My Scalp?
  • Caring For Your Hair During And After Radiation
  • Conclusion

Does Radiation Cause Hair Loss?

Yes, radiation therapy causes hair loss. However, it affects only the body part that is being treated with radiation. If your head and scalp are exposed to radiation (usually after a brain tumor surgery), it can affect the hair follicles and cause hair loss while the rest of the body may be unaffected. The degree of hair loss depends on the dose and duration of radiation.

How Does Radiation Therapy Affect The Hair?

Radiation therapy may disturb the growth of the hair follicles, causing hair thinning and hair loss. You may notice hair loss after three weeks of starting radiation therapy. However, the hair loss may be temporary or permanent depending on the dosage. If the dosage is low, hair loss is temporary and it may regrow within 3-6 months after the treatment ends (1).

The texture and volume of the new hair may be different than the pre-treatment hair. Often, the hair grows back thinner and curlier.

If the dose of radiation is high or combined with other treatments, such as chemotherapy, it may severely affect the scalp and hair follicles, minimizing hair regrowth chances. In some cases, hair loss may become permanent. Keep reading to find out what happens to your scalp during radiation.

How Will Radiation Therapy Affect My Scalp?

During radiation, your scalp may become dry, irritated, or inflamed. Initially, the area exposed to radiation will lose hair, and the scalp may look like it is severely sunburned. It may turn red or pinkish due to inflammation and will feel tender to the touch.

After two weeks of radiation therapy, the scalp can get dry and itchy. This is a temporary condition, and the scalp will recover once the radiation therapy is over. During this time, the doctor may prescribe medicines to relieve inflammation and scalp discomfort.

Apart from medication, you may take precautions to reduce scalp sensitivity during radiation.

Caring For Your Hair During And After Radiation

You can cut your hair short or shave your head before starting radiation therapy. You may also use wigs with similar hair texture and color to cover up hair loss.

Here are a few tips to prevent discomfort and scalp sensitivity:

Avoid:

Hair care products like serums, hairsprays, gels, mousses, and masks Hair styling tools like blow dryers, hair straighteners, and curling irons Hair treatments like coloring, perming, relaxing, and keratin

Tip: Follow these precautions for 3-6 months after the treatment. Avoid using any home remedies as they may interfere with treatment.

Conclusion

Radiation causes local hair loss. Often, it is temporary, and the hair may regrow after you recover from the treatment. However, it depends on the time and intensity of radiation exposure and the effect of other medications. While there is no guarantee of hair regrowth, you can take a few pre- and post-therapy precautions to improve the chances of hair growth. These simple steps can give you a feeling of control and a sense of self-care during your treatment.

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