To shave or not to shave before chemo?

When you are about to start chemotherapy, people will often tell you: “Just shave your head, it’s much easier”. If you find this a terrifying prospect, read on. You don’t have to shave your head if you don’t want to, but it does have several benefits. Once you know what they are, you might find the transition to a shorter hairstyle less scary.

When should you shave your head if you’re having chemo?

If you do choose to shave your head completely, there is no need to do it weeks in advance. Depending on the type of chemotherapy you are having, hair loss will usually begin after your first chemo session. “Ten to twelve days after the first chemo”, people often say, but it varies a lot from person to person. Don’t expect all of it to fall out in one go, either. Hair loss occurs gradually and irregularly. Here’s a tip: as soon as you’ve had your first chemo session, start thinking about what you want to do with your hair when you notice that it’s falling out. Are you going to shave your head? The time to start is as soon as you notice the first hair loss.

 chemo hair loss when to shave

If you have long hair, you might find it too difficult to part with it all at once. Why not add an intermediary step? Visit your hairdresser two weeks before your first chemo session for a shorter style. This is a good way of getting used to having ‘less hair’. You can still shave your head when you start losing the first tufts of hair if you want to.


What are the advantages of a buzz cut?

1/ Sense of control: A cancer diagnosis comes like a bolt from the blue for many patients. You feel as if you have lost control of your life, as if the ground has been cut from under your feet. By choosing when to shave you head (or have it shaved), you regain a certain amount of control. You don’t have to grit your teeth and wait for all your hair to fall out bit by bit. You decide when to take this major step. Many people have said that this sense of control empowers and comforts them.

2/ The hair loss is less confrontational: If you have already shaved your head, you don’t have to face up to long hanks of hair coming loose. The last bits of stubble usually just rinse away in the shower. That means no tufts of hair in your comb, on your clothes, in your hat. And you won’t be left trying to style dry, lifeless hair, with bald spots here and there, when your hair is actually too brittle to style because of the chemo.

chemo hair loss shave or not 

3/ Easy to care for: You don’t need to put much effort into looking after a buzz cut. Once the chemo starts to affect your hair, it will become dull and fragile anyway. If you do decide to keep it long, it is not a good idea to blow-dry it very often or to use a hot setting. Combing your hair frequently is a no-no, as are styling products. So prepare yourself for a lot of bad hair days. You won’t have to worry about any of those things with a shaven head. Your hair is dry in no time at all, giving you more time to pamper your hands or feet with a hydrating cream.


4/ Getting used to your wig or chemo scarf: Women who shave their heads usually opt for head coverings from the outset, or as soon as they find the first bald spots. It’s a great way of getting used to your wig or your chemo scarves or hats. Wearing them is also much easier when you have short hair. You don’t have to worry about locks of dry hair suddenly slipping out from underneath.

how to shave hair off during chemo

5/ A special occasion: If you choose for yourself when you are going to lose your hair, you can also choose the occasion. Do you want to shave it off yourself or will you ask someone else to do it for you? Do you want go to the hairdresser on your own or turn it into a quiet moment with your partner at home? Will you ask your children to help as part of their acceptance process? Or will you invite your best friends over and crack open a bottle of bubbly? You can do it any way you want: there are no rules. You’re the boss.


So what did our customers do? Did they shave their heads or not?

We asked the Rosette la Vedette fans on our Facebook page and this is what they told us about losing their hair:

Evelyne: “Two days after my second chemo, my hair really started to fall out. I gave myself a buzz cut that very day, and a week later, it was all gone! I’ve always had long hair but I was really glad I had shaved it all off! At least people didn’t notice as much that it was falling out. Now I have a short, snappy style and I'll never go back to long hair ever again!

Kelly (shown here with her children): “When my hair started to fall out, I let my children cut it. My husband ‘finished it off’ with his clippers. I’m happy with the choice I made. If I had to lose my hair, I wanted to make it a fun thing I did with my children. They loved being allowed to play hairdresser for once. It was our way of turning a painful experience into a fun memory”.

 chemo hair loss when to shave

Gezina: “I’ve always had long hair, but it ended up falling out in bunches and I was getting bald spots. My boyfriend and I decided that he would shave it all off. It was a very sad moment, but it was also a very beautiful experience and I was happy that we were able to share it. I’m glad we chose to do it that way.”

Bianca “I decided that I would get the clippers out as soon as I spotted the first hair loss, (or realised that I was pulling it out by accident, because I’m always playing with my hair). It happened during the third week after my first chemo session. I was sitting at my PC and suddenly I was holding a handful of hair. I called my best friend to tell her that it was time for the clippers and she was on my doorstep within 10 minutes (we live on the same street). My boyfriend shaved my head completely, and then he shaved my best friend’s head as well. We had agreed to go bald together. My boyfriend was bald already. And I found the whole thing a really lovely, funny experience and a huge relief.” 

Marina: “My long hair started to get paler after my third chemo session and then it began to fall out. My hairdresser suggested that he cut it all off. Now it’s all behind me and I’ve gone for a short style. I’ve decided I like it short!”

Kathleen: “I knew from the outset that I would shave it all off. My cousin shaved it for me three weeks after my first chemo session, and now I wear your hats.”

Maria: “My hair started to fall out after my second chemo session. The hairdresser came to our house to shave it all off. It’s starting to grow in again now, one month after the chemo. It’s pure white and I intend to keep it short and stop dyeing it.”

 should i shave my hair before chemo

Practical tip: how to shave your head safely before chemo

If you choose to shave your head, use an electric trimmer or clippers and watch out for cuts. Start by cutting your long hair short, and then use the clippers. This is easier and will also feel more comfortable. If you’re not very good at using clippers, then ask someone else who is more experienced to help you or go to your hairdresser. 

Want to know more about hair loss after chemo?