My Chemo Hair Journey

Steph Kennelly
7 min readSep 14, 2022


The losing, the growing, and the embracing of all phases

I always like to start my cancer blogs with a bit of background information and a disclaimer.

I started TC Chemo (Every 3 weeks for 4 sessions) in February 2021. Every cancer and chemotherapy experience is different based on medication and individual biology. I also know that hair, and hair loss, can be an emotional issue. I am in no way asserting my way is the way, rather just sharing my experiences with the intention of helping others.

The Cut

When I got “the call” that I needed chemo, I knew I was going to shave my head. For me, trying to cold cap and hold onto my hair seemed just like one more thing. And, secretly, I kind of always wanted to shave my head.

First, I decided to buzz my hair the week before chemotherapy started. I had heard the scalp can be sensitive after treatment.

Many women opt to have a friend or family member cut their hair. However, I decided to go into my salon for my haircut. My stylist washed and cut my long locks. I was even able to use my hair to make a wig! Note: When we buzzed my hair, I left a little bit of length. More info in the next section!

The Falling Out

Many women ask, “When will the hair start falling out?” For me, it was Day 10 after my first chemotherapy session. And I will say, it didn’t feel great. Can you imagine when your scalp gets sore when you leave in a tight pony tail for too long? Imagine that with a sort of prickling sensation.

I would run my hand over my buzzed head and it would be covered in little hairs. I read in a support group an amazing hack to accelerate this process. I got a lint roller and rolled it over my head! It gently pulled out the loose hairs and alleviated some of the uncomfortable tingling. I also used coconut oil to keep the scalp moisturized. Pro Tip- my stylist told me to make sure to wash the scalp throughout this process with shampoo to keep the hair follicles clean.

You’ll notice in these pictures, I never lost 100% of my hair. For me, having this patchy situation was way worse than actually being bald. So, at about Day 14, I went back in for re-buzz.

The Buzz

I decided to buzz the hair down to the nubs. And keep it buzzed until further notice. I love my stylist, but it wasn’t in the budget for weekly haircuts.

There is an amazing program at Great Clips called, Clips for Kindness. So, once a week or so, I would visit my local Great Clips. Keeping it short, and not patchy, actually made me feel so much better! She would use an electric razor without a guard (not a manual because of risk for infection) and in a few minutes, I’d be cleaned up and ready to go.

With the encouraging of some fashionable friends, I even did a bald photo shoot! And I have to say, these are some of my favorite photos!

What I am about to say next may sound controversial, so hang in there with me. Many may ask, “What can I do to speed up this process? Vitamins? Gels? Magic Creams?” And here is my advice- KEEP BUZZING! I know it seems counterintuitive and the urge to just grow whatever hair shows up is strong. But here is the deal.

When I was finally done with chemo in May, my hair was still patchy. And the hair that was growing, was a weird gray fuzz. Chemo hair. I decided to keep going back to my Great Clips team until all of the gray fuzz was gone and my healthy hair was all back.

As you’ll remember, my chemotherapy started in February and it was August when I had all of my healthy hair back, about 6 months since I had started chemo.

The Plan

At this point, I was ready to start growing! I said a heartfelt thank-you to the gals at Great Clips and returned to my salon. My first task was to scroll the pages of Pinterest and find a pixie cut inspiration photo. When you are growing out your hair, it is important to identify the plan!

My Inspiration Photo!

The Styles

At the end of summer, I returned to my salon and received my first haircut! She basically left everything on the top (which was now starting to curl), and trimmed my neck, around my ears, and gave me feminine looking sideburns. Seriously, I felt SO MUCH better after this first haircut. Especially having a clean neck!

From here, I started creating a side part and embracing the chemo curls! Find a good paste and scrunch when wet! As someone with stick straight hair my whole life, this style was fun! This was the fall of 2021, about 9 months after I had started chemo.

The next phase had good news. I could use a barrette! Yay! The bad news? My hair was now starting to grow back to my normal stick straight. So, I had two textures to try and work with. Straight at the roots and curly on the ends. Boo.

So, my hairstylist recommended that we keep trimming off the curly tips and allow my hair to go back to it’s previous texture. I’ll have to admit, it was emotional to cut the hard earned length, but I just kept focused on the plan.

Eventually the straight hair was back! This was Spring 2022, almost exactly one year since I had started chemo.

I am still planning on growing out my front for awhile until it is as long as my Pinterest inspiration. But about 15 months after I started chemo, I think I have a rad, healthy looking, hairstyle. I honestly do get compliments all the time. It is probably not a hairstyle I would have chosen pre-cancer, but I am definitely having fun with it!

Full disclosure, the picture above was taken right after a haircut and style. I have not been able to reproduce this exactly. Basically because I refuse to use a blowdryer and a round brush.

But this is my styling- air drying and some paste, which I think works just fine.

What’s Next?

I get asked all the time, “Are you keeping it short?” The current plan is to keep it growing and continue to have fun with styles along the way.

My next Pinterest inspiration is to grow out the short side and the back, and keep and undercut. And after that- we shall see!

One more thing

One more thing I want to mention… You may also loose your eyebrows. I decided to do micro blading and would strongly recommend it! A local company provides chemo patients FREE micro blading for their apprentices (under supervision) to gain their experience hours. After two sessions, my eyebrows are on point!

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Steph Kennelly

Find me on Instagram @stephkennelly