As part of our Boost of Confidence blog series, we invited breast cancer survivor and headwear designer, Gina de Givenchy, to share her advice on how to select hats and scarves if you have treatment-related hair loss.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I realized that I was facing a life-changing physical transformation and countless decisions I had to make about my health and wellness. Early on, I learned that I would need chemotherapy treatments that would cause hair loss. Given everything else I was grappling with, finding headwear to cover my bald head should have been the last thing on my to-do list. But oddly, it felt like the most urgent.
If I could somehow resemble the “old me,” I thought, perhaps my treatment and hair loss journey would be a little easier. I wanted and needed easy, stylish headwear alternatives that didn’t draw attention to my diagnosis or require a lot of thought.
My first purchase was a beautiful wig. I wore it quite a bit, especially when I was out and about with my daughter, who was 12-years-old at the time. I longed for my own hair, and a wig felt like the next best thing. Unfortunately, the wig was uncomfortable, hot, and itchy. The thought of continuing to wear it every day was daunting. Over time, as I grew more comfortable with my hair loss, I started wearing headwraps and beanies instead.
For many people with treatment-related hair loss, it takes time and some trial and error to find headwear that fits well, is comfortable, really suits you, and that you can rely on day in and day out. I don’t think you need a lot of headwear. You just need a few pieces with a little versatility since you may be wearing them for a year or so. Here are my tips for making the process of building your headwear wardrobe a little easier:
Try a headwear set
It’s useful to have a basic set of headwear that can be worn together or separately. These are the basic items that I found essential, day in and day out:
- A beanie. I recommend buying a beanie (a form-fitting, stretchy cap) in a lightweight fabric before you lose your hair because it’s a versatile staple that you can rely on right away. You can wear a beanie during the day and as a sleep cap. Make sure you choose one that has good coverage in the back. I found that selecting one in a color that’s similar to your hair tone (like a dark brown or black if you have dark hair, or a yellow-ish or light brown-ish shade if you have lighter hair) can help you feel more comfortable since it’s more like your own hair. Also, a color that mimics your hair tone most likely goes well with your wardrobe and serves as a neutral base if you want to add a scarf over the beanie.
- A scarf. Find a scarf that you can wear as a headwrap on its own or wrapped over a beanie. (See the images below of how to wrap a scarf over a beanie). I liked having a scarf in the same fabric as my beanie so that I could wear them as a matching set. You can also layer a lightweight, woven scarf in a different color or pattern that you already own over the beanie. I recommend a rectangular scarf that measures between 60-65 inches. This size and shape will allow you more fabric for different tying and wrapping options.
- A scarf pad. When I first lost all my hair, I felt that my beanie looked too flat on my head. My face also looked a bit fuller than usual because of the chemotherapy and steroids. I discovered that I liked wearing a cotton scarf pad under my beanie to add some volume and height until my hair grew back.
Dress up your look
Once you’ve assembled the basic pieces of your headwear wardrobe, you might want to try out some other looks. For instance:
- Add a scarf with a little sheen. For an evening out or a special event such as a wedding, I recommend wearing a head scarf with a little bit of sheen, either on its own or layered over a black beanie. One of my favorite breathable fabrics for a glamorous evening look is cotton sateen.
- Try a wide headband. An oversized headband can frame your face nicely and call attention to your eyes. It’s also an easy option because it doesn’t require much styling. As a part of my collection, I designed headbands that resemble a turban with a center or side knot that is pre-tied. You can find oversized headbands with different levels of coverage, including ones that will cover most of your head.
Go for comfort and ease
Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice style if you want hats and scarves that are easy to take care of and comfortable. I suggest looking for:
- Breathable, natural fabrics. Lightweight fabrics can help keep you cool through hot flashes and keep you warm when you have the chills. For the warmer months, try headwear made from cotton voile and modal stretch jersey. During the colder months, try cotton/silk blends.
- Headwear that is hand or machine washable. When you’re selecting headwear that you’ll be wearing often, you probably want to avoid dry-clean-only fabrics like silk. You don’t want your favorite, go-to scarf to be unavailable for days at a time because it’s at the cleaners. Instead, choose fabrics you can wash yourself. And consider buying two of your favorite beanie or scarf, so that you’ll have one to wear when the other is being washed.
Embrace your new look
Although losing your hair can make you feel self-conscious and insecure, I think that in time it’s possible to embrace your new look. You may even discover that you want to wear some of your new headwear after your hair grows back. Before I lost my hair, I had never worn a headwrap. Now I find myself wearing wraps all the time, and find them to be super comfortable and chic.
One thing that helped me a lot when I was going through chemotherapy and afterwards was to remind myself often that my hair would most likely grow back. It sounds simple, but it’s something that you tend to forget when you’re having a bad day. You can write a reminder on a sticky note and put it on your mirror, so that you’ll see it every day.
Another thing that I think is really important is not to compromise if style is important to you. It’s worth putting in the extra effort to find headwear that makes you feel attractive and boosts your confidence. I think of it as a way to bring beauty back into your life when you need it most.
For more tips, visit the Scarves, Hats, and Turbans page on Breastcancer.org.
Gina de Givenchy is the founder of GEEG, a website that sells stylish headwear, scarves, and other products for women, men, and children. She is a mother and former fashion executive who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 at the age of 46. Inspired to offer well-made headwear options that she wished she could find when she lost her hair, she launched GEEG in 2016. Ten percent of the proceeds of each sale goes to a nonprofit that supports people affected by cancer.