A cold cap (scalp cooling) is one of those things that until you are faced with the possibility of losing your hair you probably won’t have heard much about it
Every hair on the body grows out of a hair follicle. Small blood vessels in the scalp supply the cells of the hair follicles with food and oxygen, and carry away waste products. So the chemotherapy drug, which travels in to the bloodstream, will also be carried to the hair follicles.
When blood vessels in the scalp are cooled they become smaller, therefore restricting the blood circulating in that area and reaching the follicles. Cooling the scalp during chemotherapy means that less of the chemotherapy drug reaches the hair follicles, so the hair is less likely to fall out.
The cap is put on fifteen minutes before chemotherapy to start restricting blood flow, and kept on during and up to 1-2 hours after your chemotherapy. This does mean that your time in the unit is longer.
Not everyone can tolerate wearing the cold cap, as it can feel very cold and uncomfortable. This discomfort varies from patient to patient so it is not a failure if you can’t wear it and it has no influence on the outcome of your treatment.

If a cold cap is not available or suitable, then unfortunately there is currently no other way to prevent hair loss

How does the cold cap work?
Every hair on the body grows out of a hair follicle. Small blood vessels in the scalp supply the cells of the hair follicles with food and oxygen, and carry away waste products. So the chemotherapy drug, which travels in the bloodstream, will also be carried to the hair follicles.
When blood vessels in the scalp are cooled they become smaller, therefore restricting the blood circulating in that area and reaching the follicles. Cooling the scalp during chemotherapy means that less of the chemotherapy drug reaches the hair follicles, so the hair is less likely to fall out.
The cap is put on fifteen minutes before chemotherapy to start restricting blood flow, and kept on during and up to 1-2 hours after your chemotherapy. This does mean that your time in the unit is longer.
Not everyone can tolerate wearing the cold cap, as it can feel very cold and uncomfortable. This discomfort varies from patient to patient so it is not a failure if you can’t wear it and it has no influence on the outcome of your treatment.

How effective is it?
Scalp cooling can be very effective in preventing or reducing the loss of your hair, unfortunately, some people who have scalp cooling will find that their hair thins out.
Scalp cooling protects only the hair on your scalp. Body hair Ðincluding eyelashes, eyebrow-may be lost.

Can I colour my hair if I use the cold cap?
As professionals in hair care we get asked this question all the time and the answer to it is simply, NO you should not colour your hair if you use the cold cap.
There are several significant factors to why it is not advisable to colour the hair whilst using the cold cap:

Cancer treatments will cause damage to the physical hair itself by damaging the follicles, glands that produce natural oil made from the body (used to moisturise the skin and hair) and has an impact to synthesize proteins critical for providing growth, strength, and structure.

When undergoing treatment, the chemotherapy drug has still affected the hair that has not fallen out and will usually be porous and have uneven protein scale pattern in the cuticle. This uneven protein in the cuticle is what creates that kinky or sometimes unmanageable characteristic.

One particular protein that cancer treatments tend to effect is tyrosine. Tyrosine is a particular importance to human hair as it regulates the production of melanin. Melanin is the hair’s natural colour pigment and also enables hair to ‘hold’ onto artificial colours.

Without sufficient tyrosine protein, hair will have a difficult time sustaining artificial hair colour dyes and can turn the hair pink or orange. These include Organic semi-permanent colours, Henna, and vegetable dye.

These processes can be unhealthy while you’re body is battling cancer. The chemicals in common hair treatments like hair dyes or perm solutions can not only irritate fragile skin and hair, but also give off fumes that can cause nausea, eye irritation, and other problems. Since the scalp is covered with skin, which can absorb what is placed on it – particularly if the product is left on for a period of time, not only will dying or processing hair expose patients to additional chemicals, but these processes can also weaken the hair shaft or make the hair fall out.

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