Just about everyone knows one or more people that have been treated with cancer. Many cancer patients and survivors are disappointed with the way their hair recovers after cancer treatments. Even after several months, their hair seems dry, brittle, frizzy, and unmanageable. The overall condition of the hair seems to have been comprised by varying textures, different rates of growth, and overall thinning. Although some of the side effects of cancer treatments that impact the health of a person’s hair can last for a long time, there are measures that can be taken to accelerate the hair’s recovery and restore beautiful, youthful, and healthy looking hair with more certainty in a shorter period of time.
Side Effects of Cancer Treatment to Human Hair Health
Cancer treatments are harsh on hair follicles. Stronger hair follicles will recover first and begin to generate hair. Some other hair follicles will begin to generate hair months after the last cancer treatment has ended, while the weaker hair follicles may have gone dormant. Because hair on the top of the head tends to grow from weaker follicles, many patients may notice that they experience more thinning at the top of the head rather than the sides where hair follicles tend to be stronger.
Many cancer patients complain that their hair begins to lack color or tone after cancer treatments. Actually, this is not usually the case. What does often happen is that the blended, or overall, color or tone of the hair may begin to change because the follicles of different colored hair strands die or go dormant.
After cancer treatment, hair may be kinky primarily because of uneven damage to the follicle, which means the hair grows at an angle, which will cause it to curl.
Cancer treatments will often cause severe damage to the sebaceous glands found in the scalp. These glands produce a light oily liquid known as sebum which naturally progresses up the outer cuticle of the hair fiber. This sebaceous system is what provides hair its natural moisture. With damaged sebum, it is difficult to cultivate healthy looking beautiful hair after cancer treatments unless it is properly cared for.
Brittle or Weak Hair:
Cancer treatments can leave the body with a debilitated capacity to regulate the distribution of different proteins. Hair is made of a delicate balance between protein and moisture. If hair is brittle and prone to breakage, or unmanageable because it seems almost too firm, then this is an indication that the hair is lacking moisture and has a high percentage of protein. If hair is weak and pulls apart, or is unmanageable because it seems almost too soft or gooey, then this is an indication that the hair is lacking protein and has a high percentage of moisture.
Caring for Hair After Cancer
Caring for clients that have been treated for cancer requires a basic sensitivity to the ingredients contained in the products that are used and recommend for them. It is important to carefully consider their medical situation of having many of their body’s natural defenses impaired by the cancer treatments that they received.
While most people, and definitely most cancer patients, are conscious and sensitive to the foods that they eat; they are less sensitive to the ingredients contained in the products they apply to their hair or skin. This is a horrifying mistake. Research has continually found that any chemicals applied to the hair or skin are immediately absorbed into the blood stream and can be found in urine tests within 30 minutes of application. This demonstrates a simple fact of the human digestive system that is often ignored by cosmologists and estheticians. Ingredients that are eaten are filtered through the bodies most fierce and relentless barrier found in the human body, which is the acids found in the stomach and the enzymes in the large and small intestines. Unfortunately, the ingredients that are applied to your hair or skin lack this natural super-filtration system and instead are absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the pores and follicles.
While most cosmetologists and estheticians understand that there are roughly 6,000 times more follicles and pores on the human scalp than any other part of the skin, it seems that pharmaceutical companies have only recently begun to understand this. This is best demonstrated by the recent surge in topical medication prescribed to be applied to the nape of the neck or the scalp itself. While more and more drugs are being applied to the scalp because of its direct access to the bloodstream, few practitioners, including beauty professionals, have been considering what the implications may be to toxic chemicals in hair products being applied directly to the scalp. While almost all knowledgeable professionals would never eat or drink their hair color or straightening products, they somehow do not question or hesitate applying it to their scalp! This is a consideration that must be taken into account when caring for clients who have been treated for cancer.
First, Do No Harm
Cancer treatments have a tendency to not only weaken a person’s hair, but also their immune system and vital organs. Because of this, a salon professional specializing in treating clients who have been treated for cancer must be more cautious of the ingredients contained in products. The delicate balance of performance and healthy ingredients must be carefully weighted toward harmless and healthy ingredients. Here are some of the recommendations from trained professionals well versed on this balance and how they can be applied to specific deficiencies cause by cancer treatments.
Avoid Ammonia At All Costs:
The liver is among the many organs that can be affected by cancer treatments. One primary function of the liver is to detoxify proteins of poisonous ammonia. This critical function can be burdened even more when introducing additional sources of ammonia into the blood stream through products like permanent hair color. To avoid elevated levels of ammonia in the body, and an overburdened liver that is already debilitated from cancer treatments, use Organic Color Systems which is the most natural and organic hair color product that does not sacrifice professional performance or exceptional results. Unfortunately, this hair color product is only available through licensed salon professionals and not sold to the general public.
Treating Thinning Hair:
Avoiding ammonia will also help restore thinning hair. Remember that hair follicles in men can die off but hair follicles in women most often are just dormant. Follicles can become dormant as a result of damage or clogging. The two most common sources of damage to hair follicles are ammonia and cancer treatment therapies. Another reason why hair follicles can go dormant is because they are clogged and unable to grow hair. This is most commonly due to plastics found in hair styling products. To clarify the scalp of plastics and other clogging impurities, use a product like Soothe Plus shampoo, conditioner, and treatments. Soothe Plus is a product is made with only 100% certified organic ingredients and is highly effective at gently removing plastics and other impurities from the scalp while enhancing blood circulation in the scalp without risk at damaging the hair follicles.
While any damage to the hair cuticle is bad, uneven damage caused by cancer treatments will affect the porosity and coarseness of hair, which will result in an unusual texture. To treat this unusual texture, consider a natural and organic protein treatment designed to even out porous hair with nourishing natural proteins. One such ideal product is Revamp, which fills and fortifies the cuticle with organic, plant derived proteins, which naturally bond with the hair and cultivate inner hair repair.
Dry, Brittle, or Weak Hair:
The delicate balance between protein and moisture in hair is critical to having healthy and lustrous hair. Ideally, healthy hair contains 87% moisture and 3% protein. To illustrate how delicate this balance is, consider that the only difference in substance between human hair and human fingernails is that human fingernails contain 3% more protein and almost no moisture. Because protein synthesis is jeopardized from cancer treatments, special care and consideration should be taken when dealing with clients who have been treated for cancer. When hair is deficient in protein, it is weak an can pull apart easily. This type of hair should be treated with Power Build Shampoo, Reconstructor, and Conditioner as well as Revamp treatment. When hair is deficient in moisture, it is brittle and should be treated with Aqua Boost Shampoo, Conditioner, and Reconstructor. When hair is weak and brittle, it is deficient in both protein and moisture and should be treated with Revamp and Aqua Boost Reconstructor as well as Status Quo Shampoo and Conditioner.
At Organic Envy Salon we use all the Organic Color Systems products mentioned in this article.
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