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Is post chemo hair different?

Chemotherapy can cause significant hair loss during treatment. Many people wonder if their hair will be the same after chemo or if it will grow back differently. There are some key things to know about post-chemo hair regrowth.

Does hair change texture after chemo?

For many people, yes, hair texture and quality can change after chemotherapy. Chemotherapy targets all rapidly dividing cells, including hair follicles. This can damage the hair follicle structure, altering hair texture and thickness when it regrows.

It’s common for post-chemo hair to regrow with a different texture than before treatment. Some common texture changes include:

  • Coarser, drier hair
  • Thinner or finer hair
  • More frizzy or wavy hair
  • Straighter hair, if previously curly
  • Curlier hair, if previously straight

These changes are often temporary, and hair texture often returns to normal over time as the hair follicles recover from chemo damage. But for some, the hair texture changes may be permanent after chemotherapy.

Why does hair texture change after chemo?

Chemotherapy targets all rapidly dividing cells in the body, which includes the cells in hair follicles that are responsible for producing new hair. The high doses of chemo drugs can damage and miniaturize follicles, altering their structure and function.

Specific ways chemo can affect hair texture include:

  • Damaging the cortex, the inner structure that gives hair its strength and texture
  • Altering the cuticle, the outer layer that protects the cortex
  • Disrupting growth cycles, resulting in increased shedding and thinner regrowth
  • Changes in keratin levels, the protein that makes up most of the hair shaft
  • Damage to the hair’s color pigment, melanin

These changes to the follicles and shaft result in differences in post-chemo hair strength, elasticity, and structure. The good news is that with time, the follicles can fully recover and regain normal function.

Will my new hair look like my old hair?

In most cases, yes, your post-chemo hair will eventually look like your pre-chemo hair in terms of texture and thickness. However, it often takes time for hair to completely recover from chemotherapy damage.

Here’s a general timeline for post-chemo hair regrowth:

  • 0-3 months: Initial regrowth may be soft, thin and slightly different in texture.
  • 3-6 months: Hair continues growing in thicker but texture/color may be different.
  • 6-12 months: Hair is repopulated on the scalp but ends are still thin.
  • 12-24 months: Hair has mostly regained normal thickness, texture and color.

So while your newly growing hair may look different at first, as the follicles heal, your hair should eventually return to its pre-chemo state. But some types of chemo may cause permanent changes for some people.

Does hair get thicker after chemo?

Hair often initially regrows thinner after chemo. But over time, post-chemo hair can eventually regain its former thickness. The regrowth timeline is:

  • 1-3 months: Hair is soft, fine, and downy.
  • 3-6 months: Hair starts to regrow thicker but is still sparse.
  • 6-12 months: Thin hair has filled back in on most of the scalp.
  • 12-24+ months: Hair thickness returns close to pre-chemo levels.

So while your hair may initially be thinner after chemo, gradual thickening occurs over 1-2 years as the follicles repair. Proper nutrition and scalp care can also help optimize post-chemo thickness.

Does curly hair go straight after chemo?

It can, at least temporarily. Curly hair shape comes from the natural curl pattern built into the follicle structure. Chemotherapy can damage follicles and alter their shape, disrupting curl patterns. It’s common to lose natural curl during initial post-chemo regrowth.

However, as follicles recover over 1-2 years, they often regain their original structure and ability to produce curled hairs. So curly hair tends to regain its curl after chemo once the follicles have healed.

Why is my hair wavy after being straight before chemo?

There are a few possible reasons previously straight hair may regrow wavy after chemotherapy:

  • Chemo damaged the follicle structure responsible for straight hairs.
  • Curl pattern was altered due to changes in keratin levels.
  • Swollen or misshapen follicles now produce more curved hairs.
  • Hair is thinner, allowing more bend and wave shape.

In most cases, the newfound wave is temporary. As follicles recover over 1-2 years, they usually regain ability to produce straight hairs. But sometimes, a lasting texture change remains.

Is post-chemo hair more dry/damaged?

Yes, hair regrowth after chemotherapy is often dryer and more damaged than before. Reasons for increased dryness and damage include:

  • Follicle structure changes affect sebum oil production.
  • Lower keratin content reduces moisture retention.
  • Cuticle damage leads to dryness and frizz.
  • Harsher, drier texture feels less healthy.

Using deep conditioning treatments and avoid heat styling can help combat dryness as your hair recovers. Hair damage tends to diminish over time as follicles heal.


In summary, hair texture frequently changes after chemotherapy due to damage to follicle structure and function. It often initially regrows thinner, dryer, and with altered curl or wave patterns. But in most cases, as the follicles recover over 1-2 years, natural thickness, texture, and curl gradually return. With patience and proper care, post-chemo hair can regain its former healthy appearance.