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Why Has My Hair Grown Back Differently After Cancer Treatment?

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 25 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Cancer Radiation Follicles Hair Curl


I underwent brain radiation and my last treatment was 12 months ago. Although my hair finally started growing back after nine months, the hair growing back in the centre of my head is of a total different texture and length (very slow growing).

Is this normal and will I always have this two-texture hair? Any remedies to stop the middle section from growing out so kinky and dry? I would be thrilled to see my question picked. I am sure there are other cancer survivors in my situation.

(D.S, 10 March 2009)


It is quite common for hair to grow back differently after cancer treatment, whether it's chemotherapy or radiotherapy, but this is something that is rarely discussed with patients. There are several reasons why it happens.

When hair is damaged by this sort of treatment, the weaker hair follicles are killed off completely while the stronger ones often recover. In most people, this means that hair on the top of the head thins more than hair at the sides – the same pattern you'll see when people go bald for other reasons.

Although it may look as if it's all one colour, most people's hair actually contains several different hair types. This is why real hair tends to have more depth of colour than Artificial Wigs. Everybody has some hair that's finer than the rest – this is the first to grow when we're babies, and it's often the last to go. Because some hair types are stronger than others, some people's hair will actually change shade after treatment. This doesn't mean that something has dyed it, but just that differently coloured strands have died out.

Hair is often kinky after Radiation Treatment because, when the body is irradiated, it's rare for the radiation to hit it equally on both sides. This means that follicles can be damaged at one side but healthy at the other. When they create hair, it's squeezed out at an angle, making it curl. While it could be straightened by pressing with hair straighteners, this is likely to damage fragile hair further.

What this means is that your hair is likely to stay the way it is, at least in terms of its thickness and shape. However, there's no reason why it needs to stay dry. What it needs is proper nourishment. Using a rich conditioner, especially one with a banana or coconut base, will help to soften the existing hair and will help the follicles to produce healthier hair in the future.

You can also help by looking after your body in general. Often hair suffers after illness simply because the body gets run down. Improving your circulation will help more nutrients to reach your hair follicles, so try to get more exercise and make sure you eat a healthy diet. You can also try gently Massaging Your Scalp with coconut or olive oil (avoid citrus oils, as they can dry the skin more).

Try not to wash your hair too often and never wash it without using conditioner. You may never be as happy with it as you were before your illness, but it's still worth bringing out the best in it.

A Healthy Diet For Your Hair

Discover how your hair can benefit from a diet rich in vitamins and minerals by reading our article Diet And Hair Loss.

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