Hair loss during chemotherapy
Breast Cancer

What Does Hair Regrowth After Chemotherapy Look Like?

I knew I would lose my hair to chemo. I worried that it wouldn’t grow back. There is a small percentage of people for whom alopecia is a permanent thing and hair regrowth does not occur. I could deal with being temporarily bald, being permanently bald was another thing. My heart goes out to those women with that experience.

Losing my breasts was hard enough. Losing my shoulder-length curly hair cut deep. It began to fall out about 10 days after my first chemotherapy treatment. I remember debating when to cut it. Should I get a short cut first, then progress to a GI Jane look, or just wait? I wavered back and forth quite a bit. I remember vividly the day I knew it was time. I ran my fingers through my hair and pulled away a large handful. I knew I didn’t want to go through a patchy stage, so I summoned the troops. My son and now daughter-in-law offered to come and “do the deed.” We gathered upstairs in the bathroom. I took scissors to my hair first, hacking away the majority of it. My son then took over with the clippers giving me a proper brush cut. It is an emotional time for many women, but for me, we kept it lighthearted, helped by the fact my son shaved his head in sympathy and then tried all the wigs I had assembled (five of them in total named Suzette, Veronica, Julia, Mia and Agent 99) for sport. 

The remaining hair lasted just a few days and voila, I was bald. 

My chemotherapy took place from July until September, so I was able to get away with sun hats and cute scarves when I wasn’t wearing one of my wigs, which I’d change up based on the day and the outfit I was wearing. I have to confess, that once I adjusted to seeing the new bald Ellyn in the mirror, I didn’t mind being bald. My morning routine was quick. I was told I had a nicely shaped head. I played up my eye makeup and bought a host of new big earrings which I still wear. I like to think of it as my bad ass bald bitch phase of life. 

I read that essential oils and stimulating the scalp help with hair regrowth. Your skin also can become dry during chemotherapy, so every evening I slathered my face and scalp in a clean, fragrance-free castor oil-based infusion called Riciniol, gifted to me by a friend and the owner of the company. 

I also massaged my head daily using a hand massager during my morning shower to stimulate blood flow. 

Sure enough, my hair began to grow back in earnest about 2.5 months after I ended chemo. At this point, we were into the deep fall and heading into winter season in Canada, so I had swapped out my scarves and sunhats for some cute fedoras and a newspaper boy’s cap that was my father’s. Let me just say, the bald bean gets COLD! 

The hair that first returned to my scalp was very soft and downy, like a duck’s fluff. I loved running in my hand over it. It was also very silver grey. But as time went on, and my hair returned in earned, it darkened to a deep salt and pepper. I think the initial grey may have been a form of trauma response. I had wavy hair before chemo, prone to curly in humid weather — in curly girl lingo it was probably a 2B form of curl. The hair I got back, true to legend is full-on 3B chemo curls, forming spirals all over my head. Who knows if this stage of curls will last, but for now, I’m simply enjoying my full head of very thick, very curly hair.

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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