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Facing Chemotherapy Hair Loss - Read On

Wednesday, 4 October 2017 15:44:42 Europe/London

red chemotherapy cap for hair loss worn by young woman

At Suburban Turban we‘ve been designing hats for women coping with chemo hair loss for over 11 years. Our studio started small back in 2006, (my spare room!) I’d been an ‘Ascot’ milliner for 10 years and had never considered designing hats for women at time when they had a real need for elegance and soft headwear.  I responded to a friend’s request, a surgeon at Royal Surrey Hospital, to organise a GRACE fashion show fundraiser and the rest as they say is history.

We’re now a team of 5 milliners, designing and producing 2 collections a year. The studio moved to just outside Guildford, in Surrey. Here we can create hats right from processing and pre-shrinking fabrics, all the way through to trimming and finishing. As a small artisan company I love the fact that we’re able to bring uniqueness to our designs, selecting beautiful fabrics and hand-finishing trim details. Suburban Turban has become known over the years for our dressy daywear and eveningwear styles, many of which incorporate draping fabric to create shape and volume. We also love developing head wear solutions for specific needs – the non-slip exercise hat and the realistic hair fringe wig we created from clients' requests. If you’re facing chemo hair loss, or know of someone who is about to start chemo treatment, here’s a few milliner’s tips to help make the transition with minimal stress.

Exercise chemo hat for hair loss non-slip and real hair fringe wig

We regularly hear ‘I don’t like hats. I have no idea how to wear a hat, or what suits me?’ Many of us only wear a hat for practical reasons - warmth in the winter, or shade in the summer. Not enough of us regularly wear a ‘Trilby’ because it’s part of our ‘style look', or a cocktail hat because we want to make an entrance when we walk into a room! Hats for hair loss will need to be worn for much longer periods of time – both indoors and outdoors.

Tip no. 1 - Lightweight fabrics in soft hat styles help make that indoor/outdoor transition easy and avoid overheating. Think trying to wear your bobble hat or ski hat indoors whilst meeting the girls for a coffee – it would look suitably casual, but it would be rather warm to wear indoors. Feel the hat and remember fabrics that feel soft and lightweight in your hand will feel the same on your head. Try to avoid scratchier wool mixes, synthetic fleece materials and linings, felted wool on a sensitive scalp needs a liner, (more of this later).

What’s your style tribe? Are you a casual dresser – a busy stay at home mum with children; an office worker requiring a smarter approach; or somewhere in-between the 2?

Young women wearing chemo headwear

Bea chemo beanie in Cobalt Grey                                                         Harlow evening wear turban in monochrome

Tip no. 2 - Look at hat styles that will easily fit with what you currently have in your wardrobe – caps for casual days – school pick-up, dog walks and supermarket trips. Beanies and turbans for casual to smart or indeed smart office days. Think about colour too – this will make the everyday ‘getting ready to go’ quicker and less stressy. You’ll feel much more confident and in your ‘comfort zone’, if the style and colour feel right.

If I buy one black chemo hat that will work with everything - right? It is understandable to think that black goes with everything, but treatment can change your skin tone. You can look paler and more tired – black only tends to accentuate these characteristics.

Tip no. 3Think about deep jewel colours for your hats – they add colour to your skin tone and even on a ‘tired’ day help you to look well. You are going to need more than 1 hat over what could be a 6 month period of hair loss. They won’t get particularly dirty – they may collect a little make-up / perspiration but they will need a freshen up and a re-shape. If at all possible buy 2-3 and ring the changes – your hats will last longer with a rest.

'So all hats are the same I just need to pick one up and I’m good to go?' Another key difference with hats for hair loss wear is that they need to be cut and made deeper at the back of the head. Sounds obvious I know (!) but not all hats cover the back of your head. Winter knit hats will, but you may not wish to wear wool knit (or synthetic knit) next to a bare scalp and they’ll be too warm.

Women wearing chemo headwear viewed from the back

Tip no.4 – Look at fuller styles like Baker Boy cap, bucket hats, beanies in lighter fabrics, berets – any style that is made fuller so that when you pull it down on to your head it doesn’t ruin the overall shape of the hat and you get enough coverage. Cloches are another good style that sit deep on the head.

Many women (not all) tell us that at the point of total hair loss (sometime around chemo treatment no. 2) the hair follicle is super sensitive and a wig/ headwear can be a real struggle. This seems to last for a week or so and then settle down. We would strongly recommend you plan ahead and have a soft beanie ready for this time. This way you have something to put on and you can wait till this phase passes.

You can of course plan ahead – cut your hair shorter, purchase your wig whilst your own hair colour is there for reference, purchase hats for those times you don’t wish to wear a wig. This is all very much down to personal preference and how you wish to manage your hair loss.

We’re here on the end of the phone if you need style help and advice, or indeed if you’re local enough to come and try them on at the studio. Hair loss is one of the hardest knocks of cancer treatment, but there are now plenty of solutions available - realistic textured wigs and stylish headwear. You can take control of your hair loss, reclaim your confidence and feel gorgeous again.

© Nicky Zip - October 2017

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Do I have to pay VAT?

If you are experiencing hair loss you may not have to pay the VAT on some of our products. Headwear we have designed and manufactured specifically for hair loss wear is exempted. ‘Standard’ items of headwear such as scarves, brooches, some winter/summer hats by other designers, skincare are not eligible. They have not been ‘adapted’ for special wear. The ‘status’ of items will be displayed in your basket, before ordering, once a short health declaration is completed.

During checkout you will be asked to confirm that you will be using our products for your own personal medical purposes.

It is a legal requirement stipulated by HRMC that Suburban Turban Ltd can justify our customers’ VAT exemption status. Please be aware that these details maybe verified at a later date.