Is there any way to help my mother, who's losing her hair, decrease the itching on her scalp?

3 answers | Last updated: Nov 03, 2014
A fellow caregiver asked...

My 63-year-old mother is losing her hair after chemo for breast cancer and her scalp itches, but she doesn't want to shave her head. Is there any other way to decrease the itching?

Expert Answers

Terry Anders is a registered nurse and clinical educator at the Zangmeister Cancer Center in Columbus, Ohio.

The first thing I'd ask her is what she's using to wash her hair. Sometimes as people lose their hair, they start using soap or body shampoo on their scalp, and that's not a good idea because it's too drying. That, combined with chemo agents — which also make the skin especially dry and flaky — could mean that your mother needs to wash with something gentle and free of dyes and perfumes.

Some people also stop washing as often as they ordinarily would, and that's not good either. Your mother still needs to wash and condition her scalp every day or every other day, just as if she had her normal head of hair. And since rubbing can make the itching worse, suggest that she pat her scalp dry very gently, rather than toweling dry. It also helps to massage the scalp to get the blood flowing and remove any scaling.

If the itching is severe, you can talk to your mother's doctor or nurse about rubbing hydrocortisone on her scalp. But if the itching is that bad, I'd also suggest asking the doctor if your mother might be having an allergic reaction. Some people are allergic to the steroids that are given along with chemo.

Finally, make sure your mother is wearing sunscreen and a hat when she's out in the sun. Even a mild sunburn can cause itching afterward.

Community Answers

Miss d answered...

One of the products that I found helpfuly for the sensitivity/itching of the scalp are shampoos containing papaya. The papaya extract is used in other products to take out the sting from an allergic/sensitivity reaction. The products are not expensive & available at most local drugstores in the shampoo aisle. The smell is good but not over powering. The other thing that works well for the scalp is the use of a satin or satin like pillow case. These too are readily available at most department stores, in the bedding department, or through mail order catalogs. 

Balding bonnie answered...

I have started using Awapui tea tree shampoo, It has helped tremendously with the itching. I also have sprayed a mixture of 3/4 cup water with 1/4 cup white vinegar as a rinse to remove all of the shampoo. I also have used my daughter's prescription Retin A gel for the red bumps that are basically pimples. This all worked for me. Good luck