Managing Treatments

Proper Bald Head Maintenance to Protect Your Scalp During Cancer Treatment

You'll want to be careful with your hairless head when getting cancer treatment. These bald head maintenance tips can help protect your scalp.

It seems like a cruel twist of fate — you lose your hair to cancer treatment and then you have bald head maintenance to worry about. Just going for a walk, a swim, or even making a cake can come with extra steps now to protect your head. The sun and heat can damage your skin especially if it’s being exposed to the elements for the first time. Here are some ways you can protect your bare head during treatment.

Practice Sun Protection

Exposed skin should always be covered with sunblock, cancer or no cancer. Some chemotherapy regimens make your skin even more susceptible to burning. When putting sunblock on your body, make sure to put it on your head as well. Use a sunblock with UVA and UVB protection and reapply it every two hours especially if you’re in the water. Better yet, try to a swim cap so you don’t have to worry about your scalp burning (though make sure you sunblock the rest of your face and any exposed areas). If rubbing the lotion on your scalp is uncomfortable, another option is a spray sunblock which often has a cool feel. And remember, sunblock is a year-round thing not just for the summer.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Chemotherapy can cause your skin to be dry and irritated. This can lead to it getting inflamed or infected. When going through chemo, try to keep your skin in the best shape possible by applying moisturizer. Opt for an ointment or cream as they’re usually thicker than lotion. Apply it soon after getting out of the shower so your scalp doesn’t have a chance to dry out. Put it on before bedtime as well so your head will be moisturized all night. If you can’t find products that work well for you, ask your doctor for a recommendation.

Change up Your Shower

Though long, hot baths and showers feel good, they can dry out your skin. Keep your showers short and not too hot. As for soaps, stick to ones without fragrance, that are hypoallergenic, and gentle on your skin. You might think that with bald head maintenance you don’t need shampoo, but think again! Oil and dirt can build up on your scalp and using a gentle shampoo can do the trick. Baby shampoo comes highly recommended, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. You may find that Moroccan oil is a good scalp moisturizer after a shower. While you can use soap on your head, some people find it too drying and prefer a small dab of shampoo.

Watch That Oven

This may sound strange, but watch your head when using the oven. Just as you want to avoid letting your hands and arms touch the hot surface, your exposed head gives you something else to worry about. The heat coming from the oven could burn your scalp which is normally protected by your hair. Either put a head covering on when using the oven or open the oven and give it a moment for the heat to escape before you put something in or take it out.

For your bald head maintenance, consider keeping your head covered when outdoors to protect it from the sun, wind, and cold in winter. Make sure your hat or scarf provides good protection as lightly woven fabrics might let in harmful rays. If your head is not normally hairless, you may have an adjustment period where you figure out what works for you and what’s comfortable. Just protect your head and treat it well.

Finding ways to boost your confidence and feel your best can make cancer treatment easier. UVA's Flourish Boutique has options available to help you do just that.

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Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Deborah Abrams Kaplan