Remember the Four T’s While You Freeze
My capping career began over 6 years and 100 heads ago. After a friend unraveled at the thought of going totally bald during chemo, I turned to a family acquaintance who had saved her hair with Penguin Cold Caps. That woman, a Dean of Science at the prestigious Brown University and a scalp cooling pioneer in the US, became my capping mentor. The full head of hair at the end of my friend's treatment became legendary, and others quickly sought my help through my company Right Arm Inc. I have since capped throughout NY, NJ, CT, VT, IL - wherever the need takes me and my team of cappers. What have I learned over the years as a professional capper? It’s harder than it looks, but easier when the 4 T’s – timing, temperature, tightness, and tolerance - are followed.
Depending on the chemo protocol, cold caps need to be changed in 20, 25 or 30-minute increments based on Penguin’s individualized schedules. If left on too long, caps may warm up and become less effective. Bring a reliable kitchen timer and use a cell phone timer as a backup.
Hair thickness determines the cap temperature, typically between -28 and -34 degrees Celsius. Thicker hair requires colder temperatures to reach the scalp. Thinner hair needs warmer temperatures and possibly a thin layer of gauze for scalp protection. Consistency is as essential as a thermometer set to Celsius. Sections of a cap that feel hard are too cold and must be massaged to bring them to the correct temperature while making them malleable. Warmer sections must be made colder by placing a plastic bag of dry ice on those areas. Be sure to pack extra batteries for your thermometer.
A tight cap is a right cap. It should touch every part of the scalp after all exposed facial skin has been protected with moleskin or panty liners. Don’t forget the neck where the chinstrap will be fastened. To tighten the forehead pieces, pull each tab tightly while shaping that section to the head. Tuck the back section by guiding it in toward each ear so that it lays as close to the head as possible. Cover all openings with the black straps that also seal the perimeter along the face and ears. Loosen the chinstrap slightly at this point if necessary. The cap shouldn't shift after it is on and the straps/bands are adhered. A tight fit requires arm and hand strength as well as endurance.
Prior to treatment many patients read horror stories online about freezing while capping only to discover that it is completely bearable. An electric blanket and horseshoe shaped neck pillow provide added comfort. Penguin patients begin with dry, unwashed hair hanging down. During the pre-scalp cooling phase, I set the first cap at a degree or two warmer to ease the patient in slowly. Fear not - scalps become numb after 3 or 4 caps which greatly reduces any initial discomfort or anxiety. No one has ever said it was too painful to continue. No one.
When capped correctly, it is common to save a sizable percentage of hair with Penguin Cold Caps even on challenging protocols such as Adriamycin. Professional cappers not only offer kind, caring, personalities, but also bring a wealth of experience with them. Right Arm Inc. cappers have seen it all and expect the unexpected. We proceed knowledgeably, calmly, and confidently in our mission to help each client retain as much hair, privacy, and dignity as possible during chemotherapy.
Tips from Penguin
For thin hair that needs protection, why not try out everyday household items like Moleskin, makeup sponges, cotton wool, or even panty liners!
If you have any of your own tips to share with others, why not join our Facebook group and join in with our capping community?
Head over to Claudia's Right Arm Inc. Facebook page here.