Best 6 Supplements To Prevent Hair Loss During Chemotherapy

Medically reviewedby Dr. Amy Revene M.B.B.S.
WrittenbyLuat Duong
Last updated

Chemotherapy, a powerful cancer treatment involving drugs to destroy cancer cells, has been a game-changer in the battle against this pervasive disease.

However, as with many potent treatments, it often has side effects, including hair loss or alopecia. 

This side effect and the related hair loss can be emotionally taxing for patients, significantly impacting their self-esteem and overall well-being.

The good news is that options are available to help manage hair loss during chemotherapy. 

A growing body of research suggests that certain supplements may support hair health and minimize hair loss during this critical period. 

In this article, we'll explore supplements that some research suggests may support hair health during chemotherapy. Always consult your healthcare team before starting any new supplements.

Why does chemotherapy cause hair loss?

supplements to prevent hair loss during chemo

Chemotherapy causes hair loss by targeting rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells and healthy cells, such as those found in hair follicles. As a result, hair growth is disrupted, leading to hair loss.

Hair follicles, responsible for hair growth, are among the fastest-growing cells and are, therefore, highly susceptible to the effects of chemotherapy. When chemotherapy drugs attack hair follicle cells, they disrupt the normal growth cycle of hair. 

This interference can lead to hair thinning or complete hair loss, known as alopecia. The extent and duration of hair loss vary depending on the specific chemotherapy drug, dosage, and individual response to treatment. 

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Do all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss?

hair falls during chemo

Not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss. The likelihood of hair loss depends on the specific drug, its dosage, the individual's response to the treatment, and its genetic makeup. Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely to cause hair loss than others, while some may only lead to hair thinning or no hair loss.

Genetic factors can influence how an individual's hair follicles react to chemotherapy drugs, making some people more susceptible to hair loss than others.

It's important to discuss the potential side effects, including hair loss, with your healthcare team before starting chemotherapy. 

They can provide more accurate information about the specific drugs in your treatment plan and their likelihood of causing hair loss.

In some cases, they may be able to adjust the treatment plan to minimize hair loss while effectively targeting cancer cells.

What are the best supplements to prevent hair loss during chemo?

Below, we've outlined a few supplements that improve scalp health to encourage new hair growth after chemotherapy.

Vitamins B9 (folic acid) and B12

Folic acid is essential for cell growth and can support hair health. Supplementation with folic acid may help promote hair growth and strength.

Vitamin B12 is crucial in maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails. This vitamin deficiency can lead to hair loss, so supplementation may help support hair health during chemo.

Biotin

Also known as vitamin H, biotin is a part of the B-vitamin family and plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails. Biotin supplements may help strengthen hair and promote growth.

Iron

Iron deficiency can lead to hair loss, and ensuring sufficient iron levels may promote hair growth. It increases blood flow and supplies oxygen to follicles to encourage development. 

However, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional before taking iron supplements, as excessive iron intake can be harmful.

Calcium

Calcium is essential in various bodily functions, including maintaining strong bones, teeth, muscle function, and nerve signaling.

Additionally, calcium can help keep the scalp from getting too dry and may reduce hair breakage, thus supporting healthy hair.

Zinc

Zinc plays an essential role in maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails. It contributes to protein synthesis, cell division, and overall hair growth. Zinc deficiency can lead to hair loss, so supplementing with zinc may help support hair health during chemo.

Horsetail

Horsetail, scientifically known as Equisetum arvense, is a perennial herb with a long history of medicinal use. Rich in silica, horsetail extract is known to promote healthy hair, skin, and nails.

Silica contributes to the strengthening of hair strands, improving their elasticity and reducing breakage. 

Horsetail extract is also believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can benefit the scalp and hair follicles, encouraging hair growth and overall hair health.

Scandinavian Biolabs Hair Nutrient Tablets contain horsetail extract as one of their active ingredients. In addition to horsetail extract, these tablets also contain zinc, which contributes to the maintenance of normal hair and plays a role in the cell division process.

Remember that these supplements' effectiveness may vary from person to person, and they may not prevent hair loss entirely.

Always consult your healthcare team before starting any new supplements during chemotherapy, as they may interfere with your cancer treatment or cause adverse effects.

Best treatments to prevent hair loss during chemo

Scandinavian Biolabs Hair Growth Routine

support healthy hair regrowth

The Scandinavian Biolabs Hair Growth Routine includes a 3-step system aimed at hair care. As always, consult your healthcare team before starting any new products during chemotherapy. 

This expertly formulated system contains a blend of natural ingredients, such as Curcuma longa stem cells, niacinamide, aloe vera, amino acids, vanillyl butyl ether, and zinc PCA. 

These components are formulated with the intent of hair care, including hydration and repair. Speak to your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

The Bio-Pilixin formula in the Hair Growth Serum is clinically tested for hair care, and the Hair Strength Shampoo and Hair Recovery Conditioner are formulated to nourish hair. Speak with your healthcare team for personalized recommendations.

This routine is designed for hair care and is considered by some to be used during chemotherapy. Consult your healthcare team for personalized advice.

Hair Growth Routine | For Women
Hair Growth Routine | For Women
Formulated to combat thinning hair & visible scalp

Hair Growth Routine | For Men
Hair Growth Routine | For Men
Formulated to combat shedding & signs of balding

Minoxidil

Minoxidil, an FDA-approved medication for hair loss, can be applied topically to the scalp to enhance blood flow and oxygen supply to hair follicles, helping prevent further loss and promoting regrowth. 

Studies indicate that cancer patients, particularly women with breast cancer, may benefit from minoxidil in accelerating hair regrowth after chemotherapy.

A 2% solution has been shown to reduce the duration of baldness.

Combining minoxidil and anti-androgen agents significantly improved hair regrowth for those with persistent chemotherapy-induced alopecia.

Finasteride

supplements for chemo

This medication, typically used to treat male pattern baldness, works by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), contributing to hair loss.

It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional before considering finasteride as a potential treatment during chemotherapy.

Scalp cooling

Also known as cold cap therapy, scalp cooling involves wearing a cap filled with cold gel or using a cooling system that circulates coolant around the scalp during chemotherapy sessions.

This treatment helps constrict blood vessels in the scalp, reducing the amount of chemotherapy drugs reaching hair follicles and potentially minimizing hair loss.

Platelet-rich plasma therapy

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is an emerging treatment for hair loss that involves extracting a small amount of the patient's blood, separating the plasma and platelets from the red blood cells, and then injecting the concentrated platelet-rich plasma into the scalp.

Rich in growth factors, PRP can stimulate hair follicles and promote regeneration, potentially leading to hair regrowth.

Studies suggest that PRP therapy may be beneficial for patients experiencing hair loss following chemotherapy, as it can accelerate the regrowth process and improve hair density.

Laser therapy

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) uses red or near-infrared light to stimulate hair growth by increasing blood flow and cellular activity in the scalp.

Though primarily used for androgenetic alopecia, LLLT may also help promote hair regrowth after chemotherapy in some patients.

Additional tips for your hair care routine

Taking care of your hair during and after chemotherapy is essential, as it can help minimize hair loss and promote regrowth.  

Here are some additional tips for maintaining healthy hair during this time:

  • Avoid using hot styling tools, such as curling irons and straighteners, as they can damage and exacerbate hair loss during chemotherapy.
  • Use a gentle hairbrush with soft bristles to prevent hair breakage and damage.
  • Protect your scalp from the sun by wearing a hat or scarf outdoors.
  • Avoid harsh chemical treatments, such as hair dye and bleach, as they can further damage weakened hair.
  • Maintain a healthy diet of protein, vitamins, and minerals to support overall hair health.
  • Talk to your healthcare professional about using a scalp massage tool to improve blood flow to the scalp and potentially promote hair growth.
  • Be gentle when shampooing and conditioning your hair, and avoid rubbing or pulling the hair to minimize hair loss. 

Does chemotherapy cause permanent hair loss?

Chemotherapy can cause temporary or permanent hair loss, depending on the type of chemotherapy drugs used and the dosage. Chemotherapy works by targeting and killing rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells. However, it can also affect other cells in the body, such as hair follicle cells. The degree of hair loss can vary from person to person, but it is typically more familiar with high-dose chemotherapy.

In some cases, hair loss may only be temporary, and hair may start to regrow once chemotherapy treatment is completed. 

However, in other cases, hair loss may be permanent. The likelihood of permanent hair loss may depend on factors such as the type and dosage of chemotherapy drugs used, the duration of treatment, and the individual's genetic predisposition to hair loss. 

When does hair grow back after chemotherapy?

chemotherapy hair loss

The timeline for hair regrowth after chemotherapy can vary significantly from person to person. It depends on several factors, such as the type and dosage of chemotherapy drugs, the individual's overall health, and their genetic makeup. 

However, here's a rough timetable for hair regrowth on the head:

  • 3–4 weeks after chemotherapy ends: Soft fuzz may appear on the scalp.
  • One month to 6 weeks after Real hair starts to grow, usually at a slow rate of about 1/2 inch per month.
  • 2–3 months after: About an inch of hair may have grown, and it may have a different color, texture, or volume than before.
  • 3–6 months after, about 2–3 inches of hair may have grown, and it may start to resemble the person's pre-chemotherapy hair.
  • Twelve months after, 4–6 inches of hair may have grown, which is close to most people's average hair growth rate.

It's important to note that the timeline and rate of hair regrowth can vary significantly, and some people may experience delays or changes in their hair growth patterns.

It's also common for the hair on other parts of the body, such as pubic hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows, to fall out during chemotherapy and grow back after treatment is complete.

Does radiation treatment cause hair loss?

Radiation therapy can cause hair loss, depending on the treated area. Hair loss may be temporary or permanent, depending on the radiation dosage and the individual's sensitivity. 

It may start during or several weeks after treatment, and regrowth typically starts several weeks to months after the radiation treatment. The hair may grow back thinner, coarser, or a different color or texture than before. 

Options for managing thinning hair and hair loss, such as wigs or hairpieces, can be discussed with a healthcare provider.

Conclusion

Hair loss can be a challenging side effect of chemotherapy that can impact a patient's emotional well-being.

While certain supplements and treatments may help prevent or manage hair loss during chemotherapy, the effectiveness may vary from person to person. 

It's important to discuss any new supplements or treatments with a healthcare professional before starting them.

The Scandinavian Biolabs Hair Growth Routine is a product some people consider for hair care during chemotherapy. Consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Additionally, practicing gentle hair care and maintaining a healthy diet also supports overall hair health during treatment.

Remember, every person's hair regrowth journey is unique, and being patient and kind to yourself is essential during this process.

With the right support and care, it's possible to find confidence and comfort during the challenging time of chemotherapy and hair loss.

FAQs

Will all chemotherapy patients lose their hair?

Not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss. The likelihood of hair loss depends on the specific drug, its dosage, the individual's response to the treatment, and their genetic makeup.

Can stress cause hair loss during chemotherapy?

Stress alone is unlikely to cause hair loss during chemotherapy, but it can exacerbate existing hair loss. It's important to manage stress through relaxation techniques or seeking support from a mental health professional.

Can wearing a wig cause additional hair loss during chemotherapy?

Wearing a wig during chemotherapy should not cause additional hair loss if it fits properly and is made of gentle materials. However, taking good care of the scalp and hair underneath the wig is essential to maintain overall hair health.

References: 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30547302 
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29742189 
  3. https://www.dermatologytimes.com/view/nutritional… 

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Luat Duong

Luat Duong is a Copenhagen-based writer and content strategist specializing in hair loss and health. His work has been featured in MyHealthGuide, The Right Hairstyles, and Woman's Era. He is a graduate of Vaasa University. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.