Calling All Hairdressers to Take Control During Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Laura Middleton-Hughes is a former hairdresser with cancer so she knows first-hand the impact of hair loss on a client’s confidence. She’s sharing her experiences as part of ghd’s Take Control campaign during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to help clients with medical hair loss.
How can you raise awareness and help your clients take control during Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
ghd is using its 2020 breast cancer awareness campaign to remind everyone about the importance of carrying out regular self-checks. Click here for more information and to help your clients take control.
Laura believes hairdressers are in the perfect position to normalise clients’ self-checking their breasts. She recommends asking clients if they have checked their breasts to help spread the message that we all need to do it regularly.
She adds: “Learning as much about hair loss as possible will also be really beneficial. There are lots of YouTube videos and information on hair loss on the Breast Cancer Now and Cancer Hair Care websites. You could also take part in wig styling training to help clients who have never touched a wig before.”
What can clients who have breast cancer expect to happen to their hair?
I was on a common combination of breast cancer drugs called FEC and it was 13 days after my first infusion that my hair started coming out. I booked a salon appointment as close to that day as possible to have a head shave party so I could take control. Most clients’ hair will look normal for a while, but it will start to go patchy after a few days.
On day 17, which was a few days after I had it shaved, I still had a shadow line from the follicle, but then it disappeared and was patchy. A few days after that I was a shiny egghead with nothing left. It came out really fast and it wasn’t just my head hair – it was all of my hair with my eyebrows being the last to go.
After treatment my hair grew back quickly. I thought after another six rounds of chemo my cells would be ruined, but it grew back fine. I had a mastectomy three weeks after my last treatment and in photos from that day I had the shadow line back. Everyone’s hair grows at different speeds, but mine grew back with the same parting, texture and thickness. Some people’s hair will grow back with a different thickness or curly instead of straight.
What might breast cancer clients want from their hairdresser at different stages?
Offering a head shave with a few friends could help a client take control of the situation. I went a bit shorter before I knew I was going to lose it. It was less traumatic to go from a bob to a shaved head. You could suggest your client donates their hair and make it a charity event. Remember, even if you offer to shave it, they might not want to do it.
You could also offer a wig styling service as thinning it out and adding texture can make a huge difference. Many clients might not consider asking or even know it’s on offer.
Services after treatment are dependent on the client. Some will want to come in and get their hair done, while others might want to leave it to grow. If a client does come in, give advice on products to maintain it and suggest styles that will make growing it back more fun. If your client comes in for a cut don’t accidentally take off more than they want – that’s key.
Patients are advised not to colour hair when it’s starting to grow back. It’s weak and fine and the scalp is sensitive. After this you can colour it, but it needs to be gentle – similar to pregnant clients. Use foils, avoid bleach, don’t touch the scalp and avoid using harsh products near the scalp.
What should you avoid saying to cancer patient clients?
You should definitely avoid: “Lucky you, not having to blow-dry your hair every day!”. Be mindful of comments about how short hair suits them. It might do, but remember they didn’t choose it, the treatment did and having it short might remind them of their illness. Personally, I don’t mind having short hair but I wanted ‘going short’ to be my choice – not because of cancer.
I would prefer someone to say the wrong thing than nothing at all. You could say: “I’m sorry I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you and if you want to talk I’m here to listen”. If you don’t acknowledge it at all, this can make your client feel awkward.”
What can salons do to make breast cancer clients feel more comfortable?
If your client wants to shave their hair, agree a time after hours so they feel more comfortable. If you are close to the client you could offer to go to their home to do it. After a treatment, be mindful they might want somewhere more private until their hair is long enough to look like short hair. Be respectful and remember, they might not want to talk about the cancer.
How can hairdressers show their support to breast cancer clients?
Talk to your client and stay in touch with them – nothing pushy, just a little message to say thinking of you and if you need anything, call me. Clients might feel daunted going back to the salon if they’ve always had long blonde highlighted hair and it’s now short and dark. Communicate, don’t jump to conclusions, talk about new styles but don’t be pushy about booking future appointments as they might want to grow their hair out. As and when rules regarding Coronavirus ease, you could also suggest inviting them to bring a friend to the appointment.