Going through any illness or disease can be a challenging experience. Cancer, especially, can feel overwhelming and frightening. Thankfully, medical advancements have provided us with some excellent treatments. A dry and itchy scalp after chemotherapy is a common side effect.
Those who have experienced it can understand that even mild symptoms don’t often feel so small. One such annoyance is an itchy and dry scalp after getting chemotherapy. You may not think of an itchy scalp as such a big deal. But, on top of everything else a chemo patient has to go through, it’s a ‘minor’ frustration that can make life even more uncomfortable.
If you, or someone you know, has gone through chemotherapy, there are things that you need to know about an itchy scalp. First, it’s more common than you may think. Second, it’s treatable – or, at the very least, it can be soothed.
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An itchy and dry scalp following chemotherapy is usually due to specific medical reasons. While just about anyone can experience an itchy scalp, even when they’re healthy, the reasons for chemo patients are typically different. It doesn’t often have much to do with dry air or cold weather. Or, what brand of shampoo or hair products they’re using.
Instead, an itchy scalp for a person who has just gone through chemo likely has to do with that treatment itself. So, what points are there to consider about chemotherapy and an itchy scalp?
Chemotherapy affects the cells of your body, so it kills off the ones that are cancerous. However, as touched on above, it also can cause harm to healthy cells. Cancer may sometimes be localized in the body, but chemo cannot be. Once treatment starts, it goes throughout the whole body. This is to kill off any potential spreading. Or, if cancer has already moved, the chemotherapy can work everywhere.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder chemotherapy affects your skin cells, as well. And, of course, this includes the skin cells on your scalp. Some people will experience a type of ‘burning’ sensation along with the itch. It can turn from uncomfortable to painful quickly. Your scalp is definitely more sensitive while you’re receiving treatment.
If you do experience scalp pain from chemo and notice itching and flaking that wasn’t there previously, it might be worth discussing the matter with your doctor. The pain and discomfort can be minimized.
Many people who go through chemotherapy lose their hair. This is a direct result of damage to the cells in your body. Skin cells, nerve cells, and even hair follicles are affected by the treatment. While losing your hair isn’t necessarily a painful experience, it can cause some irritations.
Hair falling out suddenly can contribute to an itchy scalp. It leaves your skin exposed in a way it wasn’t before. And, the damaged cells could be causing that ‘irritated’ feeling.
If hair does fall out after chemotherapy, your skin’s exposure could also be a factor. The skin on top of our scalp isn’t always used to experiencing changes in weather, temperature, sunlight, etc. It could be extremely sensitive so that any subtle changes could lead to itching and irritation.
Because hair loss is a common symptom of chemotherapy, many people choose to take matters into their own hands. If your hair begins to fall out, it will likely do so in clumps, over time. So, a lot of people choose to shave their heads. However, if you’ve never shaved your head before, taking care of it correctly can feel like a foreign concept.
Shaving your head can sometimes lead to hair stubble, or even ingrown hairs if the chemo hasn’t caused it to all fall out naturally. If you’ve ever experienced this kind of stubble elsewhere on your body, you know it can be itchy/irritation. It’s no different on your head. Try to practice proper shaving techniques for your hair. This will lessen the risk of irritation, razor burn, stubble, and itching.
Just as an itchy scalp from chemotherapy is caused by different reasons, the treatment options are slightly different, too. It’s important to be aware of how you treat any discomfort or irritation when you have an illness. So, if you feel as though you may want to use a product or treatment that could be ‘harmful’ to your treatment process, consult your doctor first.
However, there are a few things you can do to alleviate an itchy scalp. First, it’s important to differentiate itching and flaking from pain. Some people experience such pain after chemo, that they aren’t even able to wash their hair, or lay on a pillow. Since your scalp is more sensitive, and more exposed than ever, taking the proper precautions to protect it can be a great first step in treatment.
If you shave your head after chemo, or you’re losing your hair, start by protecting your scalp. Wear hats as often as possible, especially in sunlight. Even with a hat, protect yourself by using a powerful sunscreen on your scalp before you go outside. Other subtle changes can also help.
Anything you can do to protect your scalp from an abrasive material, or elements, is a great place to start. These are small changes that can make a big difference in your comfort level.
If shampooing your hair/scalp is becoming painful, there are a few things you can do. First, try skipping a day or two between shampooing. It’s not usually advised to stop altogether. But, making alterations to fit your needs is okay. If frequency doesn’t seem to make a difference, there are other options to consider.
Try using a non-irritating shampoo, such as Christina Moss Naturals Organic Shampoo. The right formula will typically be labeled for sensitive skin/scalp. Non-irritating shampoos are usually all-natural and free of harmful chemicals. Even if you aren’t experiencing an itchy scalp, switching to an organic shampoo can be great for your skin. And, you can feel good about the ingredients.
Additionally, you can try using a healing cream on the scalp, such as Puriya Mother of-All-Creams. Just be sure to read the ingredients, and understand how they might affect your skin. The more natural the ingredients, the better, as they are less likely to irritate.
There are dozens of effective home remedies for a dry and itchy scalp, such as aloe vera gel. Most of them use natural ingredients you can find in your pantry at any time. So, in most aspects, they are entirely safe for use. Don’t be afraid to look up a few to try yourself. As long as you are comfortable with the ingredients and different processes, they could be beneficial.
Having an itchy scalp after chemo might seem like a small annoyance. But, comfort levels are critical when going through something so invasive. So, being able to heal and restore that comfort is a small way to make things a bit better. Chemotherapy affects the body in many different ways. This results in plenty of symptoms that most people would rather not have to handle.
But, once you realize how it can affect your scalp, you can start to take the right precautions, and seek out convenient treatment options to deal with the itching. It may be a small relief, but it will be one less thing to ‘deal with’ after chemotherapy. With the right resources for treating an itchy scalp, you can get through chemo and focus on wellness, instead of an annoying, irritating itch.