What Stylists Should Know About Using Hair Extensions After Chemotherapy

Woman with buzzcut in front of lake

Hair loss is an emotional ordeal that most never anticipate. It’s especially distressful when it occurs as a side effect of cancer - which is already physically and mentally exhausting. For most women, their hair is a huge part of their self-identity and the loss of it can be devastating. Studies have shown that individuals who experience severe hair loss at a higher risk of suffering from anxiety or depression

For this reason, hairstylists have the potential to make an incredible and meaningful difference in the lives of women who have undergone chemotherapy. Hair extensions are a small change that can have a huge impact on one’s outer appearance. The most important impact that hair extensions after chemotherapy can have, however, is restoring a sense of normalcy. 

What Causes Hair Loss During Chemo

Hair loss occurs during chemotherapy because the radiation targets rapidly dividing cells. This includes healthy cells as well as cancer cells. Hair follicles, the structures in the skin filled with tiny blood vessels that make hair, are extremely fast-growing cells that divide every 23 to 72 hours. 

For those undergoing chemotherapy, hair loss can be gradual or rapid. From clumps in a hairbrush or handfuls in the bathtub or on a pillow, regardless of how it happens, it can be shocking and depressing. 

After treatment, it may take several weeks for the hair to begin growing again. Once the hair begins to grow again, it will most likely be different than the hair that was originally lost. It may have a different texture or color than before, but this change is usually temporary. The hair may be curlier than before, or it could be gray until the hair cells start functioning normally. 

Post-Chemotherapy Hair Extensions: How soon is it possible?

Hair extensions are a great solution to post-chemotherapy hair loss that can only be used after treatment has concluded. While there is no set timeline (as everyone’s hair growth rate will vary), it is widely recommended that hair needs to be at least 3 inches long before hair extensions can be installed. The minimum length for hair extensions will vary, however, based on how fine the client’s hair is and the type of hair extensions used. 

The average recommended time frame for getting hair extensions after chemotherapy is 6 months. Before the six-month mark, recovering cells may not grow hair as quickly as they used to. This may cause hair to take longer than usual to grow to its previous length or return to its normal color and texture. Because of the fragility of hair after chemotherapy, certain types of hair extensions may not be suitable. 

Which Hair Extensions to Use After Chemotherapy 

Stylists should opt for hair extensions that require the least amount of manipulation and will cause the least amount of tension. For this reason, Tape In extensions are considered to be the best option for women who want hair extensions after cancer treatment. Aqua’s transparent, medical-grade tape is easily disguisable even in thin hair, put minimal tension on their hair, won’t damage the natural hair during removal, and are extremely customizable. 

Clip Ins are another popular type of extension used after chemotherapy. Because of the heft of the clips themselves, it’s recommended that hair be a bit longer and fuller before using (at least 4 inches long). Otherwise, it may prove difficult to fully hide the attachments. 

Installing & Styling Hair Extensions After Chemotherapy

It’s typically recommended that the client’s hair should be treated and dyed to match the texture and color of the hair extensions - not the other way around. However, heat and chemical-based hair treatments are not recommended until at least 6 months after chemotherapy. This means that stylists cannot texturize or process the client’s natural hair as they normally would. Instead, look for extensions that already closely match the client’s current texture in color. 

Are all dyes off-limits? No, certain dyes (like henna or vegetable-based) may be okay, but this decision should be left to the stylists’ discretion. Permanent and semi-permanent colors, on the other hand, should be avoided at all costs. 

Protecting this delicate new growth may limit post-chemo clients’ options, however, Aqua offers over 40 super-blendable colors that make it easy to find a perfect match with minimal adjustments needed. In the instance that the desired shade isn’t necessary, it’s recommended to buy the lightest blonde extensions available and toning or dying that shade as needed. 

The Benefits of Hair Extensions for Cancer Survivors 

There are currently an estimated 3.8 million women with a history of breast cancer and 1 in 8 women are expected to develop it in their lifetime. Of those women, more than half will undergo chemotherapy. Hairstylists are in a unique position to provide cancer survivors with a renewed self-identity and return to normalcy. It’s crucial to remember that this delicate new growth can not be treated like your average head of hair and must be treated with extra care and consideration. 

Dislcaimer: This content is not intended to serve as professional medical advice. If your have a medical condition, always consult your doctor before applying hair extensions. 

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