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What is cold cap therapy?

Published: 26 Mar 2019

Cold cap therapy is a drug free and non-invasive treatment that helps people reduce hair loss from medically prescribed drugs, such as chemotherapy. 

Unless you’ve undergone chemo, you are unlikely to have come across cold capping – and even if you’ve had chemo, the chances are you still weren’t told about it. Your medical care team is more interested in getting you better rather than how you look.   However the medical world is slowly coming around to the fact that our personal appearance has a massive impact on how we feel, and therefore how quickly we recover, so many oncologists are starting to suggest cold capping to their patients.

If you’ve been told you need a course of chemo, a thousand questions will pop into your head – and although it may seem superficial, one of people’s biggest fears is the thought that they will lose their hair! This has even led to some people rejecting chemo treatment because they couldn’t bear the thought of going bald. This fear is not solely about aesthetics – for many the reasons are far more complex.  

The way we look is often linked directly to our self-esteem, and if you’re feeling low your recovery may be affected.  Some people don’t want the rest of the world to know they have cancer, such as work colleagues or friends.  For others it’s about protecting young children who may be upset if mummy starts to lose her hair – it’s an outward sign that all is not quite right!  

As people become more aware of cold capping, increasing numbers of people choose to give it a go and are successfully keeping their own hair.

So what is it?

Cold Capping is a non-invasive, drug free way of reducing chemotherapy induced hair loss by the application of cold to the scalp.

Chemotherapy drugs are designed to damage or kill cells that have a ‘fast division rate’, such as cancer cells. Unfortunately there are also other cells in the human body that also have a fast division rate, including your hair. This similarity makes these cells susceptible to the chemotherapy drugs and causes the unwanted side effect of hair loss.

Cold cap therapy involves fitting a specially designed cap, filled with a very cold gel or liquid, snugly onto the patient’s head to cool the scalp.  This cools the hair capillaries, reducing the metabolic rate of the follicles so they go into a hibernated state, thereby preventing the hair bulbs absorbing the chemotherapeutic drugs. 

To work most effectively the caps need to be worn for a period of time before starting the chemo session, so the scalp is already cooled before the drugs are transfused. Caps should then continually be worn and regularly changed throughout the whole chemo infusion, maintaining the scalp at the correct cooled temperature.   Once chemo infusion has ended caps need to be worn for a period of time afterwards to give the body time to dilute and clean out the chemo drug toxins whilst the scalp is still cooled. The length of time will depend on the drug regimen, but your cold capping consultant will be able to advise.

What kind of results can I expect?

Users of the Penguin cold cap therapy system can expect to retain between 60% and 90% of their hair – although the precise amount of hair shedding will largely be determined by the type of chemo drugs as well as your physical wellbeing.  For more information about which drugs are compatible with cold capping, contact your area representative who will be able to provide you with expert advice.  To find your area rep visit our website or email support@penguincoldcaps.com.

Hair Shedding
Many people are concerned about the amount of shedding – but this is normal. As long as the hair loss is even it’s unlikely to show.  For more information about shedding read professional capper Claudia Falzarano’s blog: Shedding – Why It’s A Crucial Part of the Capping Process and How to Manage.  

Different types of cold caps
If you want to know more about the two different types of cold capping available, read our blog Manual vs Machine Capping - which is best for you?

Cold cappers feedback
Here are a few quotes from people that have used the cold caps themselves - quotes are taken from posts by members of Chemotherapy Support Group on Facebook:  

“I just competed 4 rounds of A/C followed by 12 rounds of Taxol. Each person’s hair reacts a little different (the same as how chemo is a little different for everyone). I have lost about 25% of my hair but others would not know it. I was sure to follow all the rules to a t!! If you have a consultant in your area, use them, it’s well worth it!!”

“I cold capped - I did 4 rounds of Taxotere Cyto every 21 days. I have a ton of thick curly hair and I shed 30-40% relatively evenly. Although the texture changed to a dull frizz, I just used cold water, baby shampoo and a wide tooth comb to comb out, completely natural products and a satin pillow case. I took biotin, silica and supplements. It takes patience, but I am soooooo glad I did it. I’m 5-6 month past last chemo and my hair has completely replenished and it is so healthy.”

“I barely touched my hair from Nov until March. I waited to have a trim and highlight 3 months after chemo. It was hard! But, I saved 85 per of my hair with penguin cold caps.”

“I had 12 rounds of Taxol. I used penguin cold caps and they worked great. AWESOME – I had such amazing results.”

If you have any questions about cold capping, or anything else related to your chemo treatment, why not join the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group – with thousands of members reaching out to each other, someone will no doubt be able to offer you first hand advice.