There are a lot of ways to cover your head if you do lose your hair. A wig is the most obvious choice. But not everyone fancies this. Wigs can be a bit hot, obviously more so in the summer. Some people often prefer hats, scarves or baseball caps, or go natural.

There are three types of wigs:

  • Man made (synthetic) hair, for example acrylic
  • Real (human) hair
  • Wigs that are made of both.

Synthetic wigs are a lot cheaper than real hair wigs. You can find most synthetic wigs in a wide variety of styles, lengths and colours. You don’t have to style them and they won’t get damaged in the rain. If you lose all your hair you can get adhesive pads with your wig to stop it slipping. Some people say wearing these pads makes the wig feel more secure and helps them feel more confident. The downside to synthetic wigs is that they are not very good with direct heat on them. It can melt the fibers. You can’t use a hair dryer or curling wand and you’ll need to wash your wig in cold water.

Real hair wigs are much more expensive than synthetic ones. The cost will depend on where you buy the wig and its style and length. Real hair wigs last much longer than synthetic ones, but they are harder to look after. If you decide to have a real hair wig you need to start fitting soon after your treatment, so it will be ready in time for when your hair begins to fall out. Unlike a synthetic wig you can’t wash a real hair wig and you must protect it from the rain.

Eyebrows and eyelashes

If you lose your eyebrows or find that they are thinner you can redraw them with an eyebrow pencil that matches your normal hair colour. Eyebrow pencils are available from any chemist or beauty shop. Beauty counters in department stores can show you how to redraw your eyebrows as it can be daunting to try this at first if you are not used to it.

To make the eyebrows as realistic and natural looking as possible follow the natural eyebrow arch and draw in short feathery strokes to look like the normal eyebrow hair. Make the brow thicker on the inner end of the eyebrow (nearest to the nose) and thinner at the outer edge.

You can also use false eyebrows. They need to be fixed with special adhesive, which is available from the false eyebrow suppliers. Special solvent is used to dissolve the adhesive and remove the eyebrows.

False eyelashes can be used to give a natural appearance. These are available from many beauty departments along with the adhesive that is used to attach them. Many department stores have private rooms where staff can show you how to apply the eyelashes.

Skin and nails

Impacts of chemotherapy on your skin
Chemotherapy will make skin drier because the drugs interfere with oil and sweat glands. Keeping skin as moist as possible during treatment is important to keep it looking young and healthy. Moisture can also prevent cracking and chapping, which can lead to infection, due to the fact that the immune system is suppressed. During the day, use a product that protects your skin from the sun, blocking UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to use a moisturizing soap and avoid stronger soaps.

Skin changes after radiation
For people of all races, the skin colour will change. Lighter skin will turn red, dark skin will get darker or become ashen. Usually the affected areas are limited to small patches. There can be some itching, burning, and tenderness of the skin. You may have some dry peeling, like old sunburn, as the skin rubs off.

The skin generally heals quickly and completely. The red reaction goes away the fastest. The changeover to tan shading, if you have light skin, can take a few weeks to go away. In women of colour, the darkening of the skin can be more significant and may also take longer to disappear.

Ordinary freckles and moles can become much darker within the treatment field. These spots are almost always benign, but they will darken because of the treatment. After you finish radiation, they usually return to their normal color, and some eventually disappear.

Skin that receives radiation treatment has an increased risk of developing skin cancer in the future. This is why it is important to take extra precautions to protect the skin within the radiation treatment field from the sun. The part of your breast near your cleavage will probably be in the treatment field, and that’s also the area exposed to the sun when you wear a bathing suit or tank top. So make sure you use a moisturiser or body lotion with sun protection factor (SPF).

Chemotherapy may also affect nails, retarding their growth and, in many cases, causing them to become thin and brittle and develop horizontal grooves. It’s not a good idea to cover the nails with acrylics or other types of wraps because these materials can trap bacteria that may cause infection. Instead, the nails can be clipped short and moisturised with lotions. A light-colour nail polish will camouflage any nail imperfections. But to prevent nails from drying out, only non-acetone-based nail polish remover should be used. Cancer patients who have professional manicures should bring their own implements to guard against infection. Cuticles should be pushed back rather than cut.

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