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Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Many people undergoing this treatment wear hats to protect their scalp from harsh weather.

Chemotherapy leads to hair loss in around 99.9% of people, with most individuals experiencing hair loss 18 days after starting treatment. Around 98% of people have hair regrowth, which starts 3 months after they complete chemotherapy.

Hats can keep the scalp warm while people wait for their hair to regrow.

This article explores what to look for in a hat, and it suggests some hats that people may find suitable.

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Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments for cancer can cause hair thinning and hair loss.

Some people may wear wigs, scarves, or hats to cover their scalps while undergoing cancer treatment. Head coverings can protect the scalp from hot and cold weather.

Most individuals will notice a change in their hair or hair loss within 1–3 weeks after beginning treatment. The scalp may feel sensitive while a person undergoes cancer treatment, especially when washing, combing, or brushing the hair.

Some people may also experience the thinning or loss of pubic and arm and leg hair as well as of the hair in their eyebrows and eyelashes.

Learn more about hair growth after chemotherapy here.

Hair plays a role in regulating body temperature and providing protection. Body hair helps regulate temperature by standing up when it is cold, keeping a warm layer of air nearer the skin.

Head hair helps prevent UV rays from reaching the scalp, while the eyelashes and eyebrows protect the eyes from sweat, dust, and dirt.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), cooling caps are a form of scalp hypothermia that aims to prevent cancer therapy from destroying hair follicles.

These caps aim to reduce hair thinning or hair loss by constricting the blood vessels in the scalp. This in turn may reduce the amount of drugs that reach the hair follicles.

While cooling caps are generally safe to use, the ACS notes that some doctors believe cooling caps may prevent chemotherapy medication from reaching cancer cells in the scalp. However, more studies are needed to investigate this further.

Hats do not prevent hair loss. However, people may use hats for comfort and warmth and to protect the scalp from damage from the environment.

There are several factors an individual may consider when looking for a hat to wear while undergoing chemotherapy. These include:

  • Comfort: A person undergoing chemotherapy may find that their scalp becomes itchy and sensitive. Hats that do not have seams or stitches inside may reduce irritation. Additionally, people may prefer to choose hats with a soft fabric, such as cotton, to reduce itching.
  • Needs: It is advisable to consider the season and any likely weather when purchasing a hat. A person may prefer to wear warmer hats during the winter and more breathable ones during the summer.
  • Care: People may wish to purchase hats that are suitable for machine or hand-washing.
  • Fit: Some individuals may prefer close-fitting hats, whereas others may wish to purchase hats that are slightly looser, such as beanie hats. Also, people should consider the material, as bamboo and cotton are less likely to slip than silk.
  • Scalp coverage: It is advisable to ensure that the hat covers the whole of the scalp to protect the skin from hot and cold weather.

Below is a selection of hats that people may wish to purchase.

Hats Scarves and More Butterfly Cotton Chemo Hat

Best for comfort

The Butterfly Cotton Chemo Hat contains 100% cotton and weighs 2 ounces. The company states that this product has a secure fit that will not slip.

The hat fits most head sizes of 21–23 inches (in) around the hairline.

Hats Scarves and More recommends hand-washing and air-drying this hat.

Customer reviews on the website state that this product is soft, lightweight, and comfortable to wear.

If a person is not satisfied with this hat, they can return it new and unworn within 30 days of purchase. The company can provide a return shipping label and will deduct the cost of shipping from the refund price.

The Hats Scarves and More Butterfly Cotton Chemo Hat is available in five colors.

At the time of publication, this product costs $38.99.

FocusCare Newsboy Cap Chemo Headwear With Scarf

Best for accessorizing

This hat contains 95% bamboo viscose and 5% spandex. Each purchase comes with a removable scarf that is 100% polyester. People can add or remove the scarf from the hat.

The company states that this cap is suitable for sleeping in, everyday activities, and exercising. Additionally, the cap fits head sizes of 20–24 in and fits snugly around the ears and hairline.

FocusCare recommends hand-washing the cap or machine washing it on a gentle, cold cycle. People can tumble dry this item on low heat, gentle cycles.

Customer reviews state that the cap fits well and is soft and comfortable to use.

FocusCare offers free returns through Amazon.

At the time of publication, the FocusCare Newsboy Cap Chemo Headwear With Scarf is available in various colors and has a list price of around $30.

ELLEWIN Baggy Slouchy Beanie Chemo Hat

Best for versatility

This unisex hat contains 95% organic cotton and 5% spandex, making it comfortable and breathable.

It is an open-top, multifunctional item that comes in various designs and that people can wear as a hat, scarf, or bandana.

The Baggy Slouchy Beanie Chemo Hat fits head sizes of 22.5–24.5 in. ELLEWIN states that the hat will provide a baggier fit on smaller heads and a tighter fit on larger ones.

The company recommends hand-washing and air-drying this item.

Customer reviews state that this hat does not slip and keeps the head warm.

ELLEWIN offers free returns through Amazon.

At the time of publication, the ELLEWIN Baggy Slouchy Beanie Chemo Hat has a list price of around $19 for four hats.

FocusCare Bamboo Headwear Turban

Best turban-style hat

This turban contains 95% bamboo viscose and 5% spandex, making it smooth, lightweight, and stretchy. It features a wrinkled design to give it a fuller look.

The item provides full coverage. The company sews the scarf into the cap, and people can wear it in various ways.

FocusCare recommends hand-washing or using a cold, gentle cycle in the washing machine. People should hang or dry the turban flat.

Customer reviews state that this turban is soft, lightweight, and comfortable and that it fits well.

FocusCare offers free returns through Amazon.

At the time of publication, the FocusCare Bamboo Headwear Turban has a list price of around $19.

Suburban Turban Charlie Winter Chemo Hat

Best for cold weather

This hat is 50% wool and 50% acrylic, which may help keep the scalp warm. A 100% cotton lining may reduce any itching from the wool. The item also features a visor, which may help reduce sun glare.

The company recommends hand-washing this hat. The hat is available in sizes ranging from 53 to 58 centimeters.

While the company is based in the United Kingdom, it does ship internationally. People in the United States will need to pay extra for shipping.

Suburban Turban offers full refunds or exchanges on receipt of a returned product.

At the time of publication, the Suburban Turban Charlie Winter Chemo Hat costs £35.

Masumi Active Chemo Hat Infinity Power Black & White

Best for sports

This hat contains 95% cotton and 5% elastane. The company states that this item is light and breathable and absorbs moisture, making it suitable for wearing while exercising.

The hat also features reflective details at the back for those exercising when it is dark, and a small pocket to carry essential items, such as keys or money.

Masumi recommends machine washing this hat on a gentle spin cycle of no more than 86°F. People should air-dry this item.

The company offers a full refund within 30 days of purchase and will exchange hats up to 90 days from the date of purchasing.

At the time of publication, the Masumi Active Chemo Hat Infinity Power Black & White costs $30.

Below, we answer some frequently asked questions about wearing hats during chemotherapy:

Do cooling caps work?

Evidence suggests that cooling caps may help reduce hair loss.

Recent research suggests that cooling caps are similarly effective for Asian females as they are for white females. The authors found that 45.6% of the participants experienced grade 3 alopecia after using the cooling caps, compared with 60.7% of the participants who did not use them.

A 2019 study notes that cooling caps may help people recover their hair volume faster after chemotherapy. The study found that the cooling caps helped increase the participants’ hair volume, even if the caps did not reduce the amount of hair loss the participants experienced while undergoing chemotherapy.

Are there organizations that offer free hats?

Several organizations may offer free or discounted hats to people who have cancer.

Breast Friends offers a free hat to people who are undergoing chemotherapy for breast, ovarian, or gynecological cancer and who are experiencing hair loss.

The Battle Cap Project also offers one free hat to people with cancer. Individuals can choose any two colors, and the organization also accepts donations and crocheted hats.

Other organizations can help with various parts of a person’s treatment and recovery. The ACS has a directory of services on its website.

Hats can help protect the sensitive skin on the scalp from damage from hot and cold weather. People should consider factors such as comfort and fit when purchasing a hat online.

Several organizations may offer free or discounted hats and other resources for individuals who are undergoing cancer treatment.