Here’s a news story from our media partner The Leader Herald
Apr 25, 2018/Briana O’Hara/Reporter
MAYFIELD — The special bond between a hairstylist and their clients who are diagnosed with cancer, along with the importance of a hairstylist’s education of how to care for their client’s hair, was the theme of the Salon Strong 2.0 event Monday.
New York Oncology Hematology and Nathan Littauer Hospital teamed up for Salon Strong 2.0 to teach hairstylists and barbers how to treat cancer patients’ hair when going through treatment and after treatment.
Kelly Quist-Demars who is a five-year ovarian cancer survivor said Salon Strong is a nice learning event for hairstylists and it’s a “thank you” event to thank hairstylists for the work they’ve done for cancer patients who lost their hair due to treatment.
“I think it means a lot more women will have the support they need during this,” Quist-Demars said. “I think it will help the hairstylists understand what role they play and what they really mean to people.”
When Quist-Demars was diagnosed with cancer she went to her hairstylist who happened to also be a longtime friend since kindergarten to get her hair cut shorter and eventually shaved.
“It’s emotional, you don’t really know what to expect,” Quist-Demars said. “Most women have never had a shaved head before; they don’t know what their head looks like underneath all their hair and you kind of wonder what that’s going to mean to you.”
Quist-Demars said it’s a turning point for a patient to have their hair shaved because with hair they can hide that they’re sick, but once they shave their head, everyone will know and they themselves have to accept that they’re sick too.
Her hairstylist had asked why she wanted to get her haircut short and that’s when Quist-Demars first told her hair stylist she had cancer.
“And this is one thing that really sucks about the whole cancer thing is telling people because everyone is going about their normal day and you just drop this in their lap and your poor hairstylist, who wants to help you look pretty, now all of a sudden has to go in a different mode,” Quist-Demars said.
Dr. Arsyl De Jesus, radiation oncologist at New York Oncology Hematology’s Amsterdam office, educated the hairstylists and barbers on hair care for cancer patients receiving any type of cancer treatment that can lead to hair loss or thinning of the hair.
Losing hair, or experiencing changes because of treatment, can be one of the toughest parts of a cancer journey.
“Especially with hair loss, you’re suddenly now different from everyone else with hair and then they feel more isolated because they cannot look the same,” De- Jesus said. “As stylist, what I ask for you to do is offer to help them with something that you guys do best and that is to help them with their hair and skin.”
De Jesus said hair loss happens because cancer cells are rapidly dividing and the radiation therapy and chemotherapy attack and kill rapidly dividing cells. Areas of rapidly dividing cells include the hair and skin and those areas will have side effects because of the chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It is hard to predict which patients will lose hair and what patients won’t, even if they get the same treatment. Some patients will just have hair thinning and some go completely bald.
Depending on the treatment, hair loss can start anywhere from one to three weeks after the treatment begins. It will start to get worse after one to two months of having treatment. De Jesus said patients will gradually notice when they lose their hair.
Quist-Demars said hair loss was the only side effect that she couldn’t have control over. She gradually worked toward shaving her hair starting from a medium length hair to something a little shorter to really short to shaved.
“I did everything I could at that point to keep my hair,” Quist said. “The good thing is I looked awesome with shaved hair and I think most women really look awesome with shaved heads.”
De Jesus said some treatments can effect hair everywhere. Hair loss can occur for facial hair, armpit hair, pubic hair, leg hair, eye brows and eyelash hair. De Jesus said radiation causes hair loss only in the areas being treated.
In most cases, hair will grow back once treatment is finished. De Jesus said it will take several weeks for the hair to actually start growing, and six to 12 months for scalp hair to grow back completely. She said when the hair first starts to grow back it might be a different texture or color.
“It takes a while for the pigment cells in our hair follicles to regenerate or re-grow back so that it comes out without pigment and later on develops its natural pigment,” De Jesus said.
When it comes to hairstylists caring for cancer patients’ hair, some ways to treat their hair is by going easy on the hair and to stay away from products that contain strong fragrances. Other suggestions include to not color, perm, or chemically straighten the hair when the client is getting any cancer treatment; don’t use rollers, curling irons or straightening irons; and use a soft bristles brushes and let hair air dry rather than a hair dryer because it could cause more damage.
She said if some of the hair clients want to have their hair cut or shaved in private, to possibly go to that client’s home.
De Jesus suggested for stylists to try shorter hairstyles first rather than starting drastic so they can start getting use to how they look. If a client wants to shave their head, then to use an electric shaver.
“There is a big difference to having control over the hair loss rather than the hair loss have control over you,” De Jesus said.