Managing Hair Growing In
It occurs to me that it would be helpful to write the companion piece to yesterday's "Managing Hair Loss." The second half of the experience (and certainly the better one) is the growing in phase, and there are often questions about those months, too.
The most frequent question is: "How long until my hair is back?" Beginning with the usual disclaimer about everyone is different, think first about how quickly, or not, your hair normally grows. That will give you a guess re how you are likely to compare to the average time. Most women feel able to go outside without a head covering about three months after the final chemotherapy. In all honesty, hair is pretty short after three months, but most heads are fully covered by an inch or even two of hair. Most of us have a moment when the hair seems (barely) ok and we have just had it with the wigs, hats, and scarves. Clearly, it is hugely unfair that this takes so long. Most of us have zero patience with the slow rate of hair growth after treatment ends.
The average rate of hair growth is approximately one half inch per month. Supposedly, it grows a bit faster during the summer. Some people believe that Brewer's Yeast (a Vitamin B complex) speeds it up a bit; it won't hurt. If you do try taking Brewer's Yeast, make sure to buy tablets, not powder, as the taste is vile. Hint: it does not hasten hair growth to check it in the mirror every two hours. Unfortunately.
What does this brand new hair look like? The first growth will likely be noticed by someone else who sees you, bald, standing in front of a window. The light coming in highlights the baby fuzz on your head. It feels very soft, later a bit stubbly. If you will please excuse the comparison, for many women, the first growth is rather like a dog (e.g. a Golden Retriever) that has a double coat. The first hair is usually white (unless you are really young) and very soft, and then a darker and more coarse growth appears.
The next big issue is: "It's white! (or gray)". Some of us have been coloring our hair for so long that we really have no idea what the natural color was. However, others of us who had blond or dark or red hair may find that this new hair is gray. Sometimes, it gradually returns to its "normal" color; sometimes it does not. If you want to color it, you can safely do so the minute there is enough hair to handle. Don't believe the old wives' tales re hair dye giving you cancer.
The third major issue is curls. I have never heard a good explanation, but most women's hair comes in very curly. Think baby lamb. Think poodle. One woman described her hair's growth process as a series of dogs, moving from poodle to Portuguese Water Dog, to spaniel. During the many months that my hair was very curly, I felt that I had entered the Witness Protection Program. Each time I looked in the mirror, there was a shocked moment of "Who's that?!" Gradually, sometimes very gradually, almost everyone's hair returns to the pre-cancer state. Some women feel they look like themselves a year after treatment; it took more than three years for my own hair to resemble what it had been.
The summary is that your hair will grow back; it will grow much more slowly than you would wish and likely will look different for an indefinite period. But, it will be hair, and you will be grateful for every last strand of it.