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The Much Anticipated Cold Cap Post

I said...

Brr! It's cold in here!

I said there must be some cold caps in the chemo chair!

I said Oh-Ee-Oh-Ee-Oh

Dry Ice! Ice! Ice!

-Bring It On Cold Cap Edition

Before we jump into everything cold cap, I have a few disclaimers:

*Cold cap therapy is not 100% effective in hair loss prevention during chemotherapy treatment.

*Penguin Cold Caps are not approved by the FDA in America for hair loss prevention during chemotherapy and many insurance companies do not cover the cap fees. That being said, you can submit the proper paperwork to your insurance company and you may be reimbursed for a portion of your expenses.

*You should consult with your oncologist regarding the use of cold cap therapy before you start your chemotherapy treatments.

*There are multiple cold cap companies for patient use, each one being a little different from the next. I will only be discussing Penguin Cold Cap Therapy. Make sure you do your research if you plan on using a different company. The hair prevention success rates can greatly differ amongst the companies.

*I have no affiliation with Penguin Cold Cap Therapy. This is the company I chose to use during treatment and I wanted to share my experience with you all!

Now that we have that covered, let’s Q & A!

1. What is Penguin Cold Cap Therapy?

It is a drug-free and non-invasive scalp cooling process used during chemotherapy to prevent hair loss. Each moldable cold cap contains sewn in gel packs that are cooled to -28 to -30 °C in dry ice before being placed on the head. These caps are switched out every 20 minutes x3 and every 30 minutes x several hours. The cold cap must be on your head for 1 hour before your chemotherapy infusion begins, throughout your entire infusion, and for 4-5 hours after your infusion is completed. This usually results in 8 hours of cold cap therapy on treatment day.

2. How Does a Cold Cap Prevent Chemo Induced Hair Loss?

Chemotherapy often destroys rapidly dividing cells like hair follicles. Cold caps cause constriction of blood vessels in the scalp, which results in a reduction of blood flow to the hair follicles. The reduction in blood flow causes the follicles to go into hibernation. While in hibernation, the follicles are unable to rapidly divide and the chemotherapy ceases to destroy them. The result is a decrease in hair loss!

3. How Much Does Penguin Cold Cap Therapy Cost?

Penguin Cold Caps are rented on a monthly basis, not per treatment. The rental price is $449 (USD) per month. The refundable security deposit is $249 (USD).

4. What Makes Penguin Cold Cap Therapy Different?

This company uses Crylon Gel as their cooling engine in the caps. The gel is pliable at sub-zero temperatures making it easy to mold on every sized head. The gel is also scientifically formulated to stay cold for longer periods of time compared to alternative caps.

5. How Did You Tolerate the Freezing Cold Cap?

Before the cap was molded on my head, a panty liner was placed lengthwise over the part in my hair and Dr. Scholl’s Moleskin placed on my forehead. The reason for this was to prevent redness/irritation to my skin from the direct contact with the freezing cap. Cold cap therapy would initially feel like a brain freeze for 5-10 minutes. After 30 minutes, my head would feel completely numb. Though everybody has a different pain tolerance, the cap was tolerable for me. Other women have described it as quite uncomfortable. I would suggest getting a throw size electric blanket and covering yourself through the entirety of your treatment. Listen to music, download a binge worthy show, find anything to distract yourself from the the cap! (Vanderpump Rules got me through many hours of capping)

6. Hair Tips Before Starting Chemo and Cold Capping?

-Do not get an extreme haircut before chemo! Your follicles are used to your hair weight. If you get chopped, the follicles can actually weaken and cause you to lose more hair (contradictory to what I believed!)

-No chemical treatment (hair dye, perm, straightening) 3 weeks before chemo

-It is recommended to wash your hair 2 days before chemo

7. If I Could Only Give You Only One Tip, What Would it Be?

Drink ALL the water. I think staying hydrated throughout chemotherapy can reduce negative side effects. The faster the chemotherapy is flushed out of the system, the less damage is can cause to healthy cells.

8. Will You Dilute Your Chemotherapy Rendering it Ineffective By Drinking All That Water?

I asked my oncologist this question and she told me chemo is a targeted therapy and water will not render it ineffective. Drinking too much water can cause electrolyte imbalances so this is something to look out for.

9. How Much Water Did I Drink?

I drank: 3 liters the day before chemo

4-5 liters the day of my chemo treatment

3 liters the day after treatment

2 liters every other day

I hate to admit this, but it was mostly Evian Water (I love the taste)… I went through many many bottles of this. Water can get boring, so check out one of my Mocktails to get your liters in!

Hair Tips While Capping

This is what I did and it worked quite well (I cannot guarantee this will work for you, but I would like to share what lead to my success)

11. Hair Washing?

-I washed my hair once a week throughout treatment. It is recommended to wash your hair 2 days before chemo and 3-4 days after your treatment. Chemo toxins can build-up on your scalp if your hair is not washed after chemo treatments, resulting in further shedding.

-I used Olaplex No. 3, 4, 5 once a week and I gently washed my hair, no scrubbing

-I avoided hot water and a high-pressure shower head

12. Hair Products and Styling?

-I did not use a single hair product throughout my 5 months of chemotherapy…no dry shampoo or hair spray (I lived that greasy, flat hair life)

-I brushed my hair twice a day with a Wet Brush (a wide tooth comb is recommended)

-I slept on a silk pillowcase (100% Mulberry Silk on Amazon is $23.99)

-I never wore my hair in a ponytail, I would put my hair up in a “banana clip” over the summer and while working out

-after showering, I would let my hair air dry and then brush it out from the ends up

-I did not use a blow dryer or curling iron

-I did not wear a hat, headband or scarf

13. Exercise and Sunshine?

-Head heat is not suitable for sensitive hair follicles and can lead to an increase in shedding, which is why rigorous exercise and extended periods of sunlight should be avoided

-I took long walks with an umbrella (my neighbors definitely think I’m nuts) because hats are frowned upon while capping

-I continued to ride my Peloton with a fan blowing on me and if I did sweat a lot during a ride I would carry out “Stimulation Therapy.” Stimulation therapy is placing a freezer stored cold cap on your sweaty head for 30-60 minutes after exercise.

14. Shedding?

-Hair shedding is normal (even if it seems like a lot, just try to stay positive)

-Your hair will begin to shed 14 – 21 days after the first chemo treatment

-II think my positive, non-stressed attitude helped me (and my hair follicles) to relax, which reduced the amount of hair loss

15. What Do You Do With Your Hair After Chemo is Done?

Because the hair follicle is still fragile for up to 6 months after chemotherapy, here are my tips:

-I’m continuing to wash my hair 1-2 times a week

-I am still avoiding high-pressure showers and hot water on my scalp

-I will blow dry my hair once and while on a cool heat setting

-I have not colored my hair (it is recommended to wait 6 months before coloring and to avoid dye with ammonia and peroxide)

-I have yet to get a cut 2.5 months after chemo but it is okay to get a hair trim. Just ask your stylist to be extremely gentle with your hair

16. How Much Hair Did You Preserve?

Around 90%. I went into cold capping with the goal of saving 70% of my hair especially because I had Adriamycin & Cytoxan chemotherapy. These two chemo drugs can be especially tough on the hair. I know it worked because I lost everything from my eyebrows to my toes (yes, toe hair).

17. Would You Do it Again?

I pray I will never have to encounter this question in real life. The answer is, I am on the fence, split right down the middle. As difficult as it was, I now believe in the saying, “look good, feel good.” I’ll just say I am grateful for making it through 16 rounds of chemotherapy with almost a full head of hair. I respect all women who shave their heads and take control of their diagnosis, you are badass.

*I hope this cold cap guide gave you some useful cold cap information or some takeaway pearls if you have a cold cap journey ahead of you*

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