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Scalp cooling is a treatment that can help minimize hair loss for people undergoing chemotherapy. Several companies manufacture cold caps, which a person can wear before, during, and after chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that causes hair loss. Cold caps reduce blood flow to the scalp to minimize hair loss during chemotherapy.

This article discusses how scalp cooling works, where to rent cold caps, and what factors to consider.

Cold caps are helmet-like hats that are tight-fitting and filled with cold gel or liquid. People wear cold caps before, during, and after chemotherapy treatment. The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that cold caps can prevent or reduce hair loss that occurs with cancer treatment.

There are two methods of scalp cooling that someone undergoing chemotherapy can use:

  • Cold caps: People have to keep cold caps in a cooler with dry ice or in a biomedical freezer before wearing them. The cap warms up and thaws during use and requires replacing every 20–30 minutes during chemotherapy sessions.
  • Scalp cooling systems: These are automated systems that attach to a computer-controlled refrigeration machine. The machine circulates a cool liquid around the cap during treatment, which prevents the need to replace it.

In addition, cold caps could reduce the chances of someone developing cancer-related alopecia. A 2021 study suggests that these conditions can be distressing and affect a person’s identity and relationships. Cold caps could help reduce these problems.

Cold caps offer scalp cooling therapy that doctors may also refer to as scalp hypothermia. These devices narrow the blood vessels under the scalp to limit the amount of chemotherapy that reaches the hair follicles. Less exposure to chemotherapy can reduce the risk of hair loss.

A 2017 study found that women with breast cancer who received chemotherapy and underwent scalp cooling maintained most of their hair. However, those who did not get scalp cooling experienced substantial hair loss.

A 2017 review found that scalp hypothermia can reduce alopecia and appears to be effective for people receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer and solid tumors.

A more recent 2018 article suggests that cold cap treatment works better in individuals undergoing taxane-based chemotherapy than in those receiving anthracycline. These are two different types of chemotherapy drugs.

Some side effects that people may experience when using cold caps include:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • neck and shoulder discomfort
  • scalp pain
  • forehead pain

People considering using a cold cap may wish to weigh the benefits and downsides.

The below are some companies that offer cold caps for people who want to try to prevent hair loss during cancer treatment:

Penguin Cold Caps

Penguin Cold Caps has been in business since 1997 and offers a personalized cold cap therapy schedule based on a person’s diagnosis and treatment plan.

People who use this supplier’s services can benefit from:

  • unlimited phone support
  • one-to-one tuition
  • video training

They can rent cold caps for $449 per month. There is also an additional $200 refundable security deposit to pay.

Chemo Cold Caps

Chemo Cold Caps is another company that offers cold cap therapy alongside personalized timesheets to help people replace their caps appropriately.

Customers can also benefit from free ongoing phone support, a written instruction guide, and training videos.

Cold caps are available for $425 per month, with the first month being nonrefundable. There is an extra charge of $75 for shipping, but no deposit is necessary.

Arctic Cold Caps

Arctic Cold Caps supplies cold cap systems for $379 per month and provides trained registered nurses to perform the treatment.

People who rent cold caps from this company also receive other tools that include:

  • a satin pillowcase
  • an infrared digital thermometer
  • ear protection liners
  • a hairband
  • Velcro straps

Polar Cold Caps

Polar Cold Caps states that customers must securely fasten the cap to the head and replace it every 30 minutes.

The company charges a monthly fee of $375 for cold caps and donates a portion of this fee to the ACS.

People also have to pay a $375 refundable deposit and can return the caps at their convenience. Shipping is free of charge.

Cold caps are available at various prices, which depend on the manufacturer, the number of chemotherapy sessions, and the duration of the scalp cooling therapy.

Most cold caps cost $380–450 per month, but there may also be additional costs for shipping and refundable security deposits.

A scalp cooling system can cost $2,000–2,200 for a full course of treatment. People who opt for this method may also have to pay a fee to the facility.

Aetna is a health insurance company that may provide coverage for scalp cooling to prevent hair loss.

In addition, individuals who wish to prevent cancer-related hair loss and opt for scalp cooling treatments can consider contacting a nonprofit organization.

Nonprofit organizations

The nonprofit organizations that offer people access to scalp cooling treatment include:

  • The Rapunzel Project: The Rapunzel Project provides a list of the cancer treatment facilities in the United States where people can get scalp cooling systems or biomedical freezers for their cold caps.
  • HairToStay: This organization offers subsidies for people who want to undergo scalp cooling treatment from a company with approval as a qualified scalp cooling supplier. These companies include Dignicap, Arctic Cold Caps, and Penguin Cold Caps.
  • Cap & Conquer: This foundation provides financial support to people receiving cancer treatment in Southeast Michigan.
  • Cold Capital Fund: This organization provides financial assistance services to individuals with solid tumor cancers who live in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

Some factors can serve as a guide to help people choose the right supplier. These factors include:

  • Cost: Most cold caps are available for rent for a monthly fee. There may also be an extra charge to cover shipping.
  • Financial assistance: A person should check whether their insurance company covers the costs of cold caps. There are also nonprofit organizations that offer financial assistance.
  • Company services: It is important to check what features a cold cap supplier is offering. For example, some manufacturers offer phone support, instructional videos, and satin pillowcases.

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center provides some tips to help individuals prepare for their scalp cooling treatment. It recommends:

  • washing the hair with a fragrance-free shampoo
  • brushing the hair gently using a soft-bristle brush or comb
  • keeping the hair short before beginning treatment
  • using products that help cover bald spots or thinning areas

Some things to avoid using during chemotherapy include:

  • swimming caps
  • hair dryers
  • hair dye
  • hair straighteners
  • scrunchies
  • ponytail holders

Another recommendation is to bring warm clothes when attending an appointment, as cold caps can make people feel very cold. The initial part of the treatment may be uncomfortable while adjusting to the cool temperature.

Other treatment options that people can consider to stimulate hair growth after undergoing chemotherapy include:

People undergoing chemotherapy may wish to consider using cold caps to reduce or prevent hair loss.

Many companies manufacture these therapies, and some also allow insurance companies to cover the costs involved.