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Should You Try a Cold Cap to Prevent Chemo-Related Hair Loss?

Posted by Manuela Boyle on 11 August 2023
Should You Try a Cold Cap to Prevent Chemo-Related Hair Loss?

Losing hair is one of the most pressing concerns for cancer patients, and understandably so.

Hair loss, or alopecia, is a common side effect of certain cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy.

It's a visible reminder of the challenges patients face during their journey to recovery.

Introducing Cold Cap (Scalp Cooling) Therapy

The Paxman Research and Innovation Centre has been instrumental in uncovering the intricate relationship between chemotherapy and hair loss. Chemotherapy drugs target rapidly dividing cancer cells, but they can also impact healthy cells like those in the skin, hair, and intestines, leading to side effects including hair loss.

Paxman's research found that cooling the scalp could mitigate the damage caused by chemotherapy drugs to the hair follicles. The cap is filled with a cold liquid that lowers the scalp's temperature to 20 degrees Celsius. This cooling reduces blood flow to the scalp, limiting the reach of chemotherapy drugs and minimising damage to hair follicles.

The treatment process involves wearing the Cold Cap 30 minutes before the chemotherapy infusion, during the treatment, and 30-90 minutes after it's completed. The entire procedure lasts up to two and a half hours.

Promising Success Rates

Paxman's scalp cooling technology has been employed on over 100,000 patients globally. The success stories are encouraging:

  • An impressive 89% success rate in breast cancer patients.
  • Only 8% of scalp cooling patients experience significant hair loss during chemotherapy.

How Scalp Cooling Works

  1. Reduced Blood Flow: The cold cap lowers the scalp's temperature by a few degrees, resulting in up to a 40% reduction in blood flow. This means fewer chemotherapy drugs reach the hair follicles, reducing their impact.
  2. Dormant Hair Follicles: Lowering the scalp temperature slows down cell division. Hair follicle cells, which normally divide rapidly, become dormant. Since chemotherapy targets fast-dividing cells, this change helps protect hair follicles.
  3. Less Toxicity: Slower metabolic activity in hair cells leads to a reduction in the toxicity of applied chemotherapeutic drugs, effectively minimising damage.

Eligibility and Side Effects

Cold Cap Therapy is suitable for specific types of cancer and chemotherapy drugs, such as solid tumours associated with breast, prostate, lung, colorectal, and gynaecological cancers. However, it's not recommended for haematological malignancies, cold allergy, scalp metastases, and certain chemotherapy types.

Most patients find the therapy acceptable, with minimal discomfort. Some experience mild coldness, and a small percentage may have headaches during treatment.

Choosing Scalp Cooling: A Different Path

Without Cold Cap Therapy, hair loss typically begins a few weeks after starting chemotherapy. The scalp might become sensitive, itchy, and tender. Hair loss, if it occurs, might take up to a year to fully regrow, potentially with changes in colour or structure.


Author:Manuela Boyle
Tags:NewsCancerchemotherapy side effectsBeautyBlogs


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • British Naturopathic Association