chemo curls
Self Care,  Fashion,  Lifestyle

Embracing Those Chemo Curls: Ellyn’s Styling Recommendations 

Most of us know that chemotherapy will leave you bald. This is because the drugs used to attack fast-growing cancer cells in your body don’t discern, and attack ALL fast-growing cells, including your hair roots.  It’s what happens when that hair grows back that gets extra fascinating. When your hair begins sprout (usually about three months after treatment ends) don’t be surprised if the texture of your hair — and even the color — is different. And yes, the whole concept of chemo curls is a very real thing. 

Before undergoing treatment I had shoulder-length wavy hair. In the curly-girl vernacular, it was probably a 2B curl characterized by a mild, s-curved wave. As my hair began to grown and fill in, I was happy to see that my curly locks were returning, but also perplexed that my previously wavy hair had transformed into very tight coiled 3C curls. This change has meant an entirely new morning hair routine incorporating some old and some new favorite products. 

While my hair was still fairly short, I discovered Lush Curl Power, a vegan formula offering deep hydration and a firm but soft hold. I would then augment it with a more firm hold gel to tame the sides and to play up my hairline to give me a short sexy pixie look. I don’t know about you, but I dislike crunchy crispy curls. Lush’s product is just the right amount of creamy, substantive hold. It’s also made of all-natural ingredients which appeals to me as a cancer survivor. Bonus, it smells like cookies! 

Now that my hair is a little longer, I’ve returned to my favorite curly hair line Lus Brands, using the kinky coily shampoo and conditioner and hair styling lotion. Formulated with natural ingredients and free from harsh chemicals, this made in Canada line founded by fellow woman entrepreneur cleanses and nourishes my curls without stripping away essential moisture. The sulfate-free formula ensures my delicate curls remain hydrated and healthy. 

Through trial and error and quite a few YouTube videos I’ve also discovered the clump technique to keep frizz at bay and to achieve the coiled style curls that work so well. Some recommend using a wide-tooth comb, but I use a bamboo hairbrush and it works terrific. 

As my hair grows out, I’m also embracing headbands as a styling accessory with liberal abandon. I find it gives me a bit more of a polished look and keeps my curls tamed. 

And finally, if I have forgotten and run my fingers through my hair causing my hair to frizz, or I have to go out for the evening, I’ll refresh things with some leave in curl spray to bring things back into a coily shape. 

Here are some other general tips for managing chemo curls:

  1. Hydration is Key: Chemotherapy can cause hair to become dry and brittle. Regular deep conditioning treatments and moisturizing products help keep chemo curls hydrated and healthy. See my blog on regrowing my hair for tips. 
  2. Gentle Handling: Treat chemo curls with care to minimize breakage and damage. I like to say it is brand new like a baby’s hair. Use a wide-tooth comb or fingers to detangle, and avoid harsh brushing or styling techniques.
  3. Protective Styling: Experiment with protective styles such as braids, twists, or buns to minimize manipulation and reduce stress on chemo-affected hair. For curls you may want to try a silk pillow or cap at night. 
  4. Listen to Your Hair: Pay attention to your hair’s changing needs and adjust your routine accordingly. What works for one person may not work for another, so be open to experimentation.
  5. Self-Care: Finally, prioritize self-care and self-love throughout your hair journey. Celebrate the uniqueness of your chemo curls and remember that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and textures. If you have never had curls before – embrace them and the new, beautiful you! 

Ellyn Winters-Robinson is a breast cancer survivor, entrepreneur, author, in-demand speaker, women’s health advocate, professional communicator and a globally recognized health rebel. Ellyn's best-selling book "Flat Please Hold the Shame," is a girlfriend’s companion guide for those on the breast cancer journey. She is also the co-creator of, the world’s first conversational AI companion for those on the breast cancer journey. With Dense Breasts Canada and award-winning photographer Hilary Gauld, Ellyn also co-produced I WANT YOU TO KNOW, a celebrated photo essay showing the diverse faces and stories of 31 individuals on the breast cancer journey. Ellyn’s story and have been featured in People Magazine, Chatelaine Magazine, the Globe and Mail, CTV National News and Your Morning, and Fast Company.

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