The Salon Solved It – help my hair recover after chemo

Losing your hair to chemotherapy is devastating – but what happens when things don’t go back to usual afterwards? Layered Online reader Colette is on a mission in remission with the help of KH Hair

When I first had my diagnosis of breast cancer two years ago I had lots of questions regarding treatment and side effects. My nurse warned me that I would probably lose my hair, but that didn’t seem to be a big issue at the time.

I lost my hair early on, after the first chemo session. In preparation I had been having it cut gradually shorter. I remember vividly when it happened. I was sitting in bed watching the news on my laptop, ran my fingers through my hair and it came away in my hand. I was initially feeling sad, not as upset as it was expected, but turned it around by making it a positive – here was proof that the drugs were doing their job!

What I didn’t expect was that two years after my treatment finished I would still be so dissatisfied with my hair. I naïvely expected it to eventually return to what it was before, but sadly not. The back is generally okay but the sides are extremely dry and the top is incredibly thin. I have tried various styles and colours without success. Another important issue for me is dealing with my hair myself at home. I needed a style that was low maintenance, as my hair styling skills are sadly lacking!

I desperately needed:

a) a style that made the hair on the top of my head look thicker
b) the sides to behave themselves
c) a new colour/highlights, as I had previously chosen poorly
d) advice on how to maintain it by myself at home

I knew that this was a huge challenge! Over time I have met and become friends with a lot of women who have shared this experience with their hair and have just ‘gotten on with it’. But my message is that there are solutions and you can be proactive given guidance.

Having been impressed with the website of KH Hair in Arnold, Nottingham, I was equally impressed with the salon itself with its busy, professional atmosphere. I’d booked in for a consultation with the salon director Dawn, with a full appointment set for the following Monday after she’d assessed my hair. I was welcomed as soon as I entered and offered refreshments – so far, so good.

Would Dawn be able to give me
the solutions I sought?

When Dawn introduced herself she took me upstairs so that we could have a proper, open chat. She had a good look at my hair… and then delivered a huge shock! I have, in fact, female pattern baldness. Dawn was very knowledgeable and explained that it was quite common post-menopause, and that it could be either hereditary or due to a lack of oestrogen. At this point a penny dropped – I am taking medication that is an oestrogen suppressant. Suddenly it all made sense; I was blaming the chemo, when in fact it could be connected to my medication or maybe would have happened anyway. So what to do next?

Dawn suggested that I start to use Nioxin. I’d heard of it before, and had in fact tried some in the early days when I had unreal expectations and didn’t really know what I was doing. Now I understand that I needed some help with what each product does in order to use it effectively and I have a new daily routine. I start with the Cleanser Shampoo and Revitalising Conditioner, followed by a foam to treat my scalp.  Then, before drying, put on the Therm Activ Protector heat protectant and 3D Styling Thickening Gel. It all sounded like a hassle but really hasn’t lengthened my morning routine.

The next step was a cut. I was expecting to have a consultation then return later, but Dawn had time to reshape there and then. I really liked the cut, the top and sides in particular.  I could now blow dry it easily and the thinning on top was much less noticeable. It’s amazing what a good cut can do! I then had a quick patch test for the colour in my next appointment.

When I returned the following week I was handed over to the lovely colourist Izzy. After my first visit I had full confidence in the salon and happily agreed with the colours she thought were suitable. Sometime between the two appointments my thoughts had shifted to trying to gradually stick closer to my natural colour, which was exactly what Izzy had in mind.

I am so pleased with the colour. Dawn then gave me another quick trim, as I felt that more could come off to make it even easier to style at home. She also checked in on my use of Nioxin, and at her suggestion switched to the Bodifying Foam rather than the Gel each time. Think I may use the Foam midweek before work then the Gel at the weekend.

I went into this wanting to understand what was happening to my hair and how to move forward. I now understand that it will not regrow and return to how it was, but that there are strategies to deal with it. It is what it is! I have, sadly, many friends and colleagues in the same situation, and I want to share this experience and the knowledge I now have to enable others to come to terms with post-chemo hair.

As for Dawn, well, she is a woman on a mission! She is passionate about what she does and is eager to share her knowledge and expertise. To this end we are looking at running sessions with cancer support groups in the future as a team.

For now, I’m continuing with my Nioxin routine and am set to return to the salon in a few weeks.

Finally, I would like to thank Dawn, Izzy and their assistant Eilidh for sharing their skills. I had a wonderful experience and have learnt so much.  It was such a comfortable, welcoming salon and I could happily sit there and watch how the whole team transform their clients before my eyes.

You can book in with Dawn or the rest of the KH Hair Arnold team here.