We all know that hair loss is a common side effect when undergoing cancer treatment, and something that effects thousands of people every year.
Our hair is a very important part of our identity and losing it can be a distressing experience in an already challenging time. But what happens post-treatment when the hair starts to grow back? It may have changed colour and texture. It may have grown back unevenly and at varying speeds.
Following treatment, our very lovely, long-term client Sarah Howden experienced just that and asked us for help and advice. And, to support others in a similar position, she has kindly offered to share her journey in a series of post-chemotherapy hair blogs, this being the first.
Throughout the process, we will be publishing updates from Sarah, as well as sharing advice and recommendations from her stylists Roz and Casey. Along with other stylists across the company, Roz has a wealth of experience in helping clients deal with hair loss during cancer treatment and giving guidance on how best to encourage growth and optimise the health of the hair.
The First Cut
I have been having my hair cut at Charlie Miller Salons for over 30 years, originally sitting on a booster cushion as I was so young, and having Charlie himself trim my long, thick hair. I absolutely loved the whole experience, always left feeling so special and it is why, as I enter my 40s, I wouldn’t consider anywhere else.
The team have styled and transformed me through every big moment of my life. My graduation. My first red carpet movie premier (for work, sadly!). My wedding. The birth of my three children. And my cancer diagnosis last year. My stylist counselled me through wig choices and took the time to look at my selection, guiding me to the best one. She cut into my selected wig to ensure it looked as natural as possible and chopped my own hair short in preparation for it falling out. The team made me feel normal and gave me the confidence to enter this new terrifying stage with my head held high – hair or no hair.
My hair did fall out, just two weeks after my first IV chemotherapy. I was so unwell with the cocktail of drugs and the extreme effect it had on my body that I actually didn’t care. Losing your hair does strip you of your femininity and it was hard to look at myself in the mirror. However, I was prepared, and my wig looked great on the days I was well enough to put it on.
Now, more than a year later, after six rounds of chemotherapy and a gruelling stem cell transplant, I have new hair. It is dark (I used to be blonde), it is messy, it’s different lengths and textures but it’s back. And so, my first cut was a big deal to me. It was symbolic. I had made it to remission and my new stem cells had grown me a new mane.
I was only ever returning to Charlie Miller Salons and, as ever, I felt instantly at home. And special. First up was a bit of an education on scalp and hair health to stimulate cell turnover and maximise my regrowth. I invested in their eponymous haircare range as all are sulphate and paraben-free, formulated with jasmine extract, organic calendula flower extract and organic sage oil to lock in moisture, sooth scalps and encourage new hair growth. Post cancer, you become extremely aware of what you put on and in your body.
I also picked up a Manta hairbrush, a super gentle and anti-breakage innovative brush that also hugs the contours of your head, massaging the scalp to encourage hair growth. Funnily enough, it was developed by a professional hairdresser who created this brush for his wife who’d lost her hair after cancer.
Then it was haircut time. My consultation had revealed that the ends of my hair where almost chalky with the effects of chemotherapy and needed to be cut away to promote healthier growth. After a wash, head massage (oh how I’d missed the Charlie Miller massages!) and hydrating treatment, my stylist trimmed and tidied my hair, expertly working it into the choppy pixie look I was hoping to achieve down the line. I was then shown how to style it and the best products to use to add depth and texture.
The result was perfection, a masterclass in transformation. Friends and family loved it, strangers in the street complimented me. I no longer looked like a cancer patient and, importantly, for the first time in a long time, I felt good. Pretty, even.
In the next post, Sarah will share an update on her progress with her hair: how it is growing and feeling, and how she has felt getting to grips with her new products and routine. Roz will also be sharing the wisdom behind the products she is recommending, as well as other advice for promoting hair health.
Products mentioned in this post: