Saturday, September 25, 2010

Curing Chemo Curl

September 31, I'll be six months post-chemo. My hair is almost three inches long. The color is gray, but it's a pretty, silvery gray. I'm not used to it yet - I still don't know who that woman is when catching a glimpse of myself in a store window. I'm not certain I'll keep it this color or not, but for now the color wasn't my main concern.

The curl was.

Unfortunately, I have hit the point where the famous and dreaded chemo curl reared its ugly head, pun intended. The curl first started around the bottom, and then like a fungus, began creeping up. It got to the point where it was very wavy on the top and super curly below the ears. Had I kept my original red dye-job, I would have been mistaken for Bozo the Clown's sister. As it was, I was on my way to looking like a sheep. Or, Betty White.

Each morning I woke up to a head full of dandelion frizz, so I'd mist it and use spiking glue to try and tame it.

I'm a woman. It doesn't matter what I've been through. It doesn't matter that estrogen is not allowed in my body anymore. I'm a female, and that means I'm genetically incapable of liking my hair. The fact that I had spent six months this year bald means nothing in the face of that truth.

Photos of women with short, cute, spiky straight pixie cuts kept finding their ways into my magazines, and into my consciousness.

So, I decided to relax it. I know that my African American sisters have had much success with chemical straighteners, and my own sister has done the Brazilian and Japanese straightening treatments - so I figured it was my turn.

I made an appointment for Friday, excited at the thought of smooth, silky hair so straight that it would appear longer.  And, that was a big part of my desire to straighten it - I wanted bangs.  The longer my hair got, the more it curled and it wasn't ever going to cover my forehead, I felt.

Well, you can guess what happened. I got the exact opposite of what I'd hoped for. I have thin, impossible to style hair now which sadly is still curly on the bottom. My scalp feels scarred and the hair feels like dental floss. I used hair glue before to contain the curls - now have to practically pour it on my head so I don't look 90 years old with puffy sections sticking out everywhere. The straight hair is aging, doesn't fit my face, and weirdly, it looks shorter than when it was curly. If I don't slick it back, it puffs out in strange and straw-like ways.

One of the worst parts is that it smells. Horrible. Like burnt microwave popcorn. No amount of washing seems to get rid of that scent. It fills my tiny office and is giving me a headache.

Ladies, let this be a lesson to you. Chemo curl is better than starting all over with your hair. Chemo curl will go away on its own. Be patient!

Let me tell you this as well. A bad hair day after you have been bald is a much worse feeling that before. It seems so unfair.

Here are some photos for you:

See the Bozo curls near the ears?  No flatiron was strong enough to flatten it.

I've glued it to my head to prevent it from sticking straight out. Even so, you can see on the right temple where it does anyway

Not so bad but this is after a lot of work. The curls were there even under water.

Oh no, still not straight on the bottom.

I liked it much better curly.

Hmmm.....I wonder if I should do a perm?



  1. It's hair and most of the time it is the Boss of us. But please, Please PLEASE don't have a perm....

    Judi G

  2. Hair, are we ever really happy with it? Take it from a total looks much better than you think it does!

  3. Hey Judi, what is your email address? Can you contact me? Thanks!

  4. Yes! It DOES look much better than you think! And soooo full!

  5. Hey that's my hair exactly!! I have these curly whatever you want to call them at the end of my hair. The other side of my head the hair just stands up straight won't lay flat just sticks up. Looks like a cow lick lol. Oh well it's just hair.....My hair grew in a little darker and with some reddish tinges compared to my blonde locks I had previously.
    You post gave me a good smile!!

  6. I agree with Alli about your post bringing a smile. I could not help but feel that, at last, I find I am not alone. Women and hair - we always seem to want what we haven't got.
    As I have only seen you with your short silver style, my thoughts were that it suited you perfectly!

  7. Wow, you have a shitload of hair already! It looks great!

    I'm 9+ months post-chemo and mine isn't as long as that and everyone that's been through this that I know keeps telling me that mine has grown much faster than most but now that I've seen your pics I am certain that mine isn't growing nearly as fast as yours! Mine didn't come back curly or wavy at all either. Mine didn't come back gray though either. It came back a few shades darker than my natural color and brunette instead of strawberry blond.

  8. I am 11+ years post-chemo, and I still have some of the curl. Although it has relaxed considerably, there's just enough to be annoying. I have been seriously thinking about the straightener, and your description of the smell alone cured me of that notion. Work with what you have, I guess. I agree with the others -- yours looks way better than you think. You have nice, soft waves not frizz.

  9. Your hairstylist did not do this correctly. There should not be any smell. I believe that you also have hair loss with this as well. Do not do anything else to your hair chemically until you get some protein treatments.( I used to be a hairstylist.)

  10. Wow, so much hair so soon, and I think it looks great and I love the natural color. I didn't get curls, but everyone has loved my hair really short - bangs only about 2 inches after 10 months that came in just as straight as before. When my friend husbands tell me how much they like the way I'm "doing" my hair.......Oh well. Have fun with it.

  11. Yeah, I did lose some hair and some strands came out when I washed it yesterday.

    Is there anything I can do on my own to fix it? What kind of protein treatment?

  12. Hi Ann, it's hairstylist woman! First of all, get a bottle of Redken Cat. Do not overuse it. Wet your hair, spray the Redken Cat in it, and use a nice natural emollient in your hair on top of it, like coconut oil or olive oil. Massage it into your hair, wrap a crappy towel around it for about 15 minutes, and shampoo out with a gentle shampoo. Condition, rinse. Towel dry. Don't force your hair into anything right now. Do the protein once a week(no more) for a month, but the deep conditioning is great, do it twice a week, You can add real essentail oils to the coconut or olive oil, no more than 8 drops of lavender, or real rose. The oil is probably no more than an eight of a cup.

  13. Thank you hairdresser woman! I'll go look for that redken product this Saturday and use as instructed. Thank you.

  14. Ann, I think you look awesome! You have so much hair and the color is wonderful! Mine is only about an inch long but has come in a beautiful silver. I never thought I'd say this but I love it so short and I don't think I'm going to color it. It looks much better than you think!

  15. Hate to say it, but I kinda like the wavy curl thing... you look great. Just happy to have you here - I think it's hilarious that you're even worried about your hair!!! :)

  16. Glad that you put the pictures up. Your hair was wavy, not curly. And I hate to break it to you, but that's just the reality of your hair growing back out, you will have awkward phases.
    My hairdresser told me to blow dry my hair and use some wax to keep it from flipping up. In the beginning it was gel, but as it grows out you'll need wax because it's heavier. My hair grew back salt and pepper and I felt the same way when I looked in the mirror. Who is that? Finally dyed it back to my former color. Whew! That's better. I look like myself again.
    Good Luck to you. Glad to see you're smiling.

  17. Hi nice ladies :)
    A year after chemo and having a baaaddd ! hair day It's frizz and curl galore.
    I have been using Surf Hair by Fructis and gel, I wash my hair once a week because it is pouffy for days when I wash it.
    Mid week I add a few drops of Argan oil (From Bed Bath Beyond)
    Could be worse I guess , no hair !

    You're hair looks better than you think CAncer Sister

  18. I love my chemo curls. I cut my hair over the ears a few times to keep my pixi cut nice and neat, then as it grew, the curls showed and I refuse to cut it. See I have always wanted naturally curly hair. The down side is I use a ton of conditioners, moisturizers and oils on my hair. Moroccan hair oil, silicone oil, coconut oil. Sometimes several together to keep it from drying out. No matter how our hair is, we are alive and that is important.

  19. My hair came back curly at first, and an ugly silver color. I colored it back to red. Then the curls went away, and I was back to straight hair, but it was much thicker than originally. Now, for some reason, the curliness/waviness is back. My hair is almost chin length, and after I wash it, I just use something called "Curl Up," which I got at the salon. I let it air dry, finger-comb it a bit, and use another "Curl Up" product here and there. It looks wonderful and carefree. If I want, I can blow it dry and straighten it for a more polished look. I am 2 years post chemo. I have ovarian cancer, not breast.

  20. I could only wish to have your hair!!! I am 5 months out of chemo and my hair is very thick and very tight curls growing straight up instead of down making me look like a Q tip so much my husband has nicknamed me cotton top. So although this post is really old and I pray you are still here to read this you were and are blessed.


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