A number of stores, catalogs and web sites specialize in hats, caps and turbans for people experiencing hair loss due to cancer treatment. But don't limit yourself to these suppliers. Any hat will do, whether it's from a big department store or a resort boutique. A few tips on buying and wearing hats:
- Look for deep hats that fit down over your head. 1920s-style cloche ones work well, as do many men's-style hats a la Annie Hall. Avoid any hats that you can see through -- they won't protect you from the sun or mask your hair loss.
- Think about where you'll be wearing the hat. Wide-brimmed hats can be fun for outdoors and do a great job shading UV rays, but they also block overhead lighting at the office and can be awkward in crowded spaces like elevators, trains and restaurants. A wide brim may also be difficult to wear while driving if it hits the back of your seat.
- Baseball caps are popular because they're adjustable, widely available and have a nice, casual look. Regular caps may expose part of your scalp, so be sure to apply sunscreen to the back or your head. You may want to buy a cap that is specifically designed to cover the lower part of your scalp. (These are available online, at specialty stores and through catalogs like the American Cancer Society's TLC.)
- The comfortable turban comes in a wide range of colors and is usually made of soft stretch fabrics. Look Good...Feel Better, a national public service program for women with cancer, teaches various beauty techniques and will show you how to make quick-and-easy turbans out of t-shirts. Adding a broach to a turban can spice it up, but be careful not to venture into 'Madam Zorba the Fortune-Teller' territory. If you want a little extra height to give the appearance of hair underneath, add a shoulder pad or two.
- All hats should fit snuggly but not be so restrictive that they give you a headache. Loose-fitting hats can easily be tightened by adding a layer of foam, about one-quarter-inch to one-half-inch thick, to the inside of the hat. The foam sold in hardware stores for insulation around windows and air conditioners works well. If there's an inner hatband, you can slip the padding between the hat and band. Otherwise, buy foam with an adhesive backing and attach it directly to the hat. Adjustable hat-sizers are available from online e-tailers and specialty shops. Camping and travel stores like EMS sometimes carry hats with elasticized inner bands that adjust to the size of your head.
Unless the hat is made of extremely soft materials, you'll need to wear a wig cap, sleeping cap or scarf underneath to protect your scalp from irritation. Sleep caps and wig caps can be bought through a number of retailers and online. If you use a scarf under your hat, choose cotton, because silks can be too slippery.
Chemo hats come in all kinds of shapes, styles and fabrics. You may need to buy several of them to wear for different occasions.