Reducing Hair Loss With Scalp Hypothermia in Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy

Scalp hypothermia uses ice packs or cooling caps on the scalp before, after, and during chemotherapy, for a certain amount of time, in order to try to prevent or reduce hair loss. Newer versions of this use a cooling cap system of two pieces that is controlled by a computer, helping to circulate cooled liquid through the cap that one wears during chemotherapy. The other cap is made from artificial rubber to keep the cooling cap steady and keep the cold from escaping. The thought behind this technique is that cooling enables the blood vessels in the scalp to tighten up or constrict, potentially reducing the volume of chemotherapy that reaches hair follicle cells.

There have been conflicting results in controlled studies of older versions of scalp hypothermia, but the newer, computer-controlled forms have shown benefits, with current studies showing that women who have undergone chemotherapy with early-stage breast cancer have lost less than half of their hair from using one of the newer devices. The most common side effects include headache, discomfort of the neck and shoulder, chills, and pain in the scalp. There are some concerns from doctors regarding the survival of cancer cells that are in the scalp, due to the chemotherapy not reaching there with this method. Others have concerns over the potential protection of cancer cells due to cooling in the scalp. To answer these questions on long-term safety, more research needs to be done.


Cooling Caps (Scalp Hypothermia) to Reduce Hair Loss. American Cancer Society. Updated August 3, 2022. Accessed October 21, 2022.

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