Hair Growth After Chemo: What to Expect

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Sian Ferguson

Published 05/21/2024

Chemotherapy can be lifesaving — but it can also be extremely taxing on the body and mind. As you recover from the grueling effects of cancer treatment, it might be helpful to know what to expect when it comes to hair growth after chemo.

Chemo-related hair loss is a common side effect — one that many people dread. Losing your hair can affect your identity, self-esteem, and confidence.

If you’re nearing the end of treatment, you might be curious about when to expect your hair to grow back. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of chemo-related hair loss, including chemo hair loss stages, and give you an overview of post-chemo hair growth. We’ll also provide tips for stimulating hair growth after chemo.

Most people know chemotherapy causes hair loss, but not many understand why. Before we get into the details of hair growth after chemo, let’s touch on why chemo causes hair loss in the first place.

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment. Chemotherapy drugs, also called cytostatics, work by targeting rapidly dividing cancer cells. This helps slow down cancer progression.

Unfortunately, chemo drugs can’t tell the difference between fast-growing cancer cells and fast-growing healthy cells — including the cells in your hair follicles. So they might accidentally target and destroy hair cells, particularly ones currently growing.

At any given time, about 85 to 90 percent of your hairs are in the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle. This type of hair loss from chemotherapy is called anagen effluvium, as it targets hair in the anagen phase.

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Within two to four weeks of starting chemo, you might have noticeable hair loss. Chemotherapy-induced alopecia doesn’t only affect scalp hair but also hair across your body — including your beard, eyelashes, eyebrows, armpits, leg hair, pubic hair, and more.

Instead of losing all your hair during chemo, you might have patchy baldness. This is why some people choose to buzz or shave off the rest of their hair.

Chemotherapy might change your hair in other ways too. Around 65 percent of chemotherapy patients find that their hair takes on a different texture. For instance, your hair might be curlier, a phenomenon often called “chemo curls.”

Sometimes, new hair growth will appear gray in color. This happens when chemotherapy drugs affect the cells responsible for producing melanin, which gives your hair its pigment.

These changes in texture and color are usually temporary — and chemo hair loss is typically temporary too.

No. Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely to cause hair loss than others.

Also, the extent of your hair loss often depends on the dosage you’re given. For example, if you have a very low dosage of chemo drugs, you might have some thinning hair but not significant balding.

Not all people who do chemotherapy experience hair loss, although it’s not entirely clear why this is.

If you’re not sure what to expect when it comes to chemo-related hair loss, it’s a good idea to talk directly with your healthcare team. Although they can’t always predict how chemo will affect your hair, they can run you through the possibilities. 

When exactly does your hair grow back after chemo? This can vary from one person to the next, but usually, hair will start growing back a few weeks after your last chemotherapy treatment.

In the first few weeks, you might have soft “peach fuzz” hair on your scalp, but “real” hair regrowth will start after about a month.

Wondering how long for hair to grow back after chemo? It’s different for everyone, but here’s a rough timeline to help you set realistic expectations for recovery and regrowth.

  • Three to four weeks after your last treatment: Soft, downy, light hair forms on the scalp. You might have some regrowth on your eyebrows and the rest of your body. 

  • Four to six weeks: Thicker hair begins growing on your scalp and body.

  • Two to three months: You might have about an inch of new hair growth.  

  • Three to six months: Your hair might have grown to about two or three inches. This short hair may help cover bald patches.  

  • 12 months: Your hair may be about four to six inches — long enough to have a hairstyle.

It’s important to note that this timeline isn’t representative of everyone’s experience. In a study on 1,511 breast cancer patients, about four percent recovered less than 30 percent of their original hair — even two years after stopping chemo.

If you’re in this situation, certain treatments might help with hair regrowth. You could also consider head coverings.

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While there’s no fool-proof way to stop chemo hair loss, there are some steps you can take to prevent it. You can also try certain treatments to stimulate hair regrowth after chemo.

Minoxidil 

Also known by the brand name Rogaine®, minoxidil is an over-the-counter hair loss treatment. It’s FDA-approved to treat male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) and can also be used to treat chemotherapy-related hair loss.

After chemotherapy, you can apply minoxidil directly to your scalp to stimulate hair follicles and enhance hair regrowth. A recent review of studies found that minoxidil can speed up hair regrowth after chemo — but it noted that minoxidil should ideally be used after chemotherapy treatments, not during.

We offer minoxidil foam and minoxidil liquid solution online.

Healthy Hair Habits

Keeping your hair and scalp clean is a non-negotiable for growing strong, healthy hair. Here are some basic tips for hair care after chemotherapy:

  • Use gentle shampoos and conditioners. After chemo, try hair growth shampoos like our thickening shampoo with saw palmetto, which promotes growth but is still gentle on the hair and scalp.

  • Avoid harsh styling techniques. Don’t dry your hair roughly or brush it too frequently. Avoid high-heat styling techniques, like with a hair dryer or flat iron. 

  • Avoid harsh chemicals. It’s also a good idea to avoid hair dye, perms, and hair straightening treatments until your hair is strong and healthy. 

  • Protect your scalp from the sun. Use sunscreen or protective headwear (like hats or headscarves).

  • Try a satin pillowcase. Coarser fabrics can cause friction throughout the night, which can damage your hair. To reduce breakage, use a smooth pillowcase fabric like satin or silk.

Since your hair might grow back thinner and be more prone to breakage, avoid tight hairstyles (like restrictive ponies or tight braids) until your hair has had sufficient time to grow.

Supplements and Nutrition

Both chemotherapy and cancer itself can lead to nutrient deficiencies. This is partly because they affect your appetite, ability to eat, and how your body absorbs nutrients.

Sometimes, mineral and vitamin deficiencies cause hair loss. Your body needs nutrients to carry out all its functions — including growing healthy hair.

As you recover from chemotherapy treatment, try to eat a balanced, healthy diet rich in nutrients. This isn’t just essential for hair regrowth but for your overall health too. You might also consider taking a hair growth supplement, like biotin gummies.

Covering Your Hair

If you’re waiting for your hair to grow out, you might feel more confident when you use hair coverings like hats, scarves, or turbans.

Wigs and hairpieces are also an option. Your health insurance plan might cover (or partly cover) the cost of a wig or hairpiece, particularly if it’s prescribed as a “cranial prosthesis.” Try calling your insurance company to see what your options are.

Some NPOs (non-profit organizations) might also help cancer patients access hairpieces for free or at a discounted rate.

Scalp-Cooling Caps

Scalp-cooling caps cool the scalp drastically, which narrows blood vessels in the area. This means that less of the chemotherapy medication reaches your scalp through blood vessels, thus protecting your hair follicles.

According to a prospective study on breast cancer patients, cold caps can prevent chemotherapy hair loss and speed up the rate of hair recovery.

Your treatment team can advise you on how to use a scalp-cooling cap. Depending on your hair type, there may be specific recommendations to follow.

For instance, cancer patients with tightly coiled hair — especially people of color — may need to follow specific guidelines before using a cold cap to enhance its effect.

Scalp cooling doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a relatively low-risk treatment.  

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Many people associate their hair with their identity. For that reason, chemotherapy-related hair loss can be deeply upsetting. Fortunately, though, there are ways to speed up hair growth after chemo.

Here’s what to remember about chemo hair loss:

  • You can expect hair regrowth within a few weeks of ending chemo. But the hair regrowth process takes longer for some people than for others. For more details, scroll up and check out our hair growth after chemo timeline.

  • Your new hair might look different. After regrowth, your hair might initially have a different texture or color — for example, your dark, straight hair might grow back curly or gray. These changes are usually temporary.

  • Certain treatments can speed up hair growth after chemo. It’s worth looking into treatments like minoxidil, scalp-cooling caps, and supplements while taking good care of your hair and scalp.

If post-chemo hair growth is taking longer than expected, or if you’re about to end chemo and unsure of what to expect, reach out to your oncology team.

You can also use our portal to connect with a healthcare provider for advice on stimulating hair growth after chemo.

7 Sources

  1. Alfredo R, et al. (2021). Why Do Not All Chemotherapy Patients Lose Their Hair? Answering an Intriguing Question. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34307475/
  2. American Cancer Society. (2020). Coping with Hair Loss. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/managing-cancer/side-effects/hair-skin-nails/hair-loss/coping-with-hair-loss.html
  3. Araoye EF, et al. (2020.). Suggestions for patients of color with tightly curled hair undergoing scalp cooling. https://medilib.ir/uptodate/show/129959
  4. Cancer.Net. (2023). Hair Loss or Alopecia. https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/managing-physical-side-effects/hair-loss-or-alopecia
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2023). Hair loss in chemotherapy: Overview. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547552/
  6. Ohsumi S, et al. (2021). Prospective study of hair recovery after (neo)adjuvant chemotherapy with scalp cooling in Japanese breast cancer patients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8410694/
  7. Watanabe T, et al. (2019). A multicenter survey of temporal changes in chemotherapy-induced hair loss in breast cancer patients. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30625139/
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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!


This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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