Is it Possible to Prevent Hair Loss During Chemotherapy

We might not think about how important our hair is until we face losing it. For cancer patients who need to undergo chemotherapy, this is a real concern. Research have shown that both men and women see hair loss as one of the side effects that they fear the most after being diagnosed with cancer. It may negatively impact the body image, sexuality and self-esteem. Up to 8% of patients decide to refuse chemotherapy due to the risk of losing their hair [1].

So, it is possible to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy? There is no simple answer to this as it is highly dependent on the chemotherapy recommended for your treatment. Some types of chemotherapy are more likely than others to cause hair loss. The table below indicates the common chemotherapy drugs that can cause hair loss [2].

Chemotherapy Class

Examples (Brand Name, Generic Name)

Hair Loss


Adriamycin(Doxorubicin), Ellence (Epirubicin)

Usually causescomplete hair loss on the head after the first few weeks of treatment. Somewomen also loss their eyelashes and eyebrows


Taxol (paclitaxel),Taxotere (Docetaxel), Abraxane (protein-bound paclitaxel)

Usually causescomplete hair loss, including head, brows, lashes, pubic area, legs and arms

Alkylating Agents


Causes hair thinningin most women


Adrucil (5-FU),Gemzar (Gemcitabine)

Causes hair thinningin most women

The key reason for this is because chemotherapy is a potent drug that attack your body’s rapidly growing cells. This includes the cancer cells, and unfortunately your hair roots as well. If this is a major concern to you, it is best for you to speak to your doctor to learn more about the chemotherapy prescribed for your treatment. 

While you may not be able to prevent hair loss entirely due to chemotherapy, the good news is there are new options available to increase your likelihood of hair retention and to promote a faster regrowth of your new baby hair. One of them is the scalp cooling technology where during the infusion of your chemotherapy, a closely fitted cold cap (cooled by chilled liquid) on your head can help to slow the blood flow to your scalp. This way, the chemotherapy drugs are less likely to impact your hair, protecting your hair follicle from being damaged. A myriad of studies has demonstrated that scalp cooling is effective to reduce the degree of hair loss and promote faster hair regrowth. Below is an illustration of how scalp cooling works [3]

Figure 1: The mechanism of scalp cooling to reduce the degree of hair loss due to chemotherapy

To find out more about scalp cooling and whether it is right for you, check out our article on “Is Scalp Cooling Right for Me?” or you can learn more from your doctor. 


1. Rossi A, Fortuna MC, Caro G, et al. Chemotherapy-induced alopecia management: clinical experience and practical advice. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2017. 1694): 537-541.

2. BreastCancer.Org. (2019). Why and How Hair Loss Happens. Retrieve from

3. Nangia J, Wang T, Osborne C, et al. Effect of a Scalp Cooling Device on Alopecia in Women Undergoing Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer: The SCALP Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of American Medical Association. 2017. 317(6): 596-605.

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