Because it’s been, what, a whole month since I posted about my hair?
Just thought you should know that I have some serious hair at this point. That shit has grown back with a curly vengeance.
And those curls have a name, dear reader: chemo curls.
It’s common knowledge that many people grow curly hair after chemo. A Google search of the term brings up 178,000 results. But I could never have imagined just how curly my hair would become. After all these years, I have real empathy for my curly-haired friends’ endless search for the right product.
It’s heartening, I suppose, to see that many other people struggle to figure out what to do with their chemo curls, too. There are gobs of online forums about chemo curls, and even a good number of YouTube videos offering coaching on how to manage your Shirley Temple look. Even though I’m not a big fan of her technique, this video is one of my favorites, because the woman is delightfully, straightfacedly self-deprecating throughout. Solid cancer humor. This one offers a Millennial’s perspective on the whole ordeal. Also funny, but in a different way. And holy cow, does she ever have A LOT of ideas for how to manage her chemo curls. That’s the benefit of being in your early 20s, I guess: a greater willingness to spend time making yourself look beautiful. I’d prefer to complain.
My hair has always been wavy, but not curly, in spite of the best –and repeated–attempts of every hairdresser I’ve ever had to “bring out my curls.”
Now, those of you who’ve known me most of my life might chuckle at my insistence on this point, since you may recall my spiral perms in the ’80s. Those hairs were pretty darn curly. But only by way of plenty of stinky chemicals and hours with my hair in a plastic bag.
No, I inherited my mom’s thick, wavy dark brown hair, rather than my dad’s (also thick) curly, black hair.
Chemotherapy seems to have kicked in the paternal genes. In addition to some intensely curly hair, it’s now decidedly salt and pepper, just like Dad’s was for many years. Still, in spite of any genetic predispositions, it’s safe to say that this change is driven mostly by the chemo. This time it was the bags of chemicals injected into my veins that did it, instead of the bottles of chemicals squeezed on top of my head.
The thing that amazes me about chemo curls is that scientists don’t understand the underlying physiology that makes this happen.
I can see why the biochemistry of chemo curls would be low on the totem pole of cancer research. But I’m so curious! Here’s an interesting read by another person who tried to get to the bottom of this curious pattern. Alas, even this Nancy Drew couldn’t solve The Mystery of the Curly Coiffure.
or The Clue of the Terrible Tresses.
or The Message in the Ridiculous Ringlets.
or The Quest for the Frizzy Grail.
You know I could go on for a long time with this, right?