Hhistory repeats itself. As I had my first PET scan to determine the staging of my Diffuse Large B-Cell Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, all I could think about was my mom being in this exact position two decades ago. Losing a parent at a young age prompts you to look for relationships, to look for evidence that you are similar to them — do you wear perfume the same way, laugh at the same things? Anything to confirm, “Yes, I am their child.” This was a resemblance I knew neither of us wanted for me. Holding back tears, I told the technician that I was ready to lay completely still for the next thirty minutes, wondering how similar our battles would be.
An agonizing week later, during which I burst into tears as soon as I woke up, my husband and I found ourselves sitting in front of my oncologist. There were many questions: How hard will this be? Should I stop working? How does chemotherapy affect fertility? And what about my hair?
I have had long, thick wavy hair for most of my life. Throughout high school, college, and cross-country moves, it was my go-to—either naturally free-falling or on top of my head in a giant, messy bun. And as much as I love it, the reason I get so emotional at the thought of not having it anymore was less vanity and more that it would be a flashing neon sign, “I’m sick!”
For as long as cancer patients have been receiving chemotherapy, most have been left hairless by the treatment – from their scalp to their eyebrows, legs, eyelashes, and more. The reason is that some types of chemotherapy, such as the R-CHOP regimen for lymphoma, attack fast-growing cells indiscriminately. Cancer cells grow quickly, but so do hair cells. That’s why after just two intravenous chemotherapy treatments, many lymphoma patients find their hair falling out in droves. Some people use cold caps during their chemo injections, which are essentially helmets filled with a cool gel (15 to 40 degrees below zero) that restrict blood flow to the scalp to reduce the reach of the drugs. Ideally, this process puts the hair follicles in a dormant state, which minimizes shedding. However, it is an expensive method and does not guarantee that your hair will be saved.
I chose not to go the cold cap route and after my second infusion, I handed my husband his clipper and watched my golden locks fall into our bathtub. By my fourth treatment, both my hair and eyebrows were distant memories. As a beauty writer, I’m lucky enough to have access to industry leaders, so I reached out to Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist and owner of the Philip Kingsley brand. She immediately created a special chamomile tonic for my scalp and gave me the entire No Scent No Color line to prevent scalp irritation during my infusions.
More than six months later, when my hair started growing back, I wanted to be the best host to my precious new follicles. If there’s a silver lining to losing all your hair, it’s that the hair regrowth is “virgin hair”—completely untouched with no chemical or mechanical damage. But wash, rinse, repeat cancer never counts on things going as planned—most people have a completely different texture, and sometimes color, when their hair grows back. Looking to regain control and get back on track, starting with my hair, I knew I needed help before I could get back into my regularly scheduled hair routine.
As fate would have it, an email landed in my inbox about it Myavanaan artificial intelligence tool that uses microscopic hair analysis and AI imaging technology to provide personalized hair care product regimens from a database of over 3,000 hair care brands.
“After researching the science of hair, I discovered that your hair is as unique as your fingerprint and that there are many variables that determine the best products for your hair,” says Candace Mitchell-Harris, founder of the brand. “I decided to create an algorithm that could match your personal hair profile, needs and preferences with the products to help you achieve those hair goals, and Myavana was born.”
Myavana refers to its process as “CRE Experience,” which stands for Consult, Analyze, Recommend, and Educate. First, you get a labeled folder with different bags for placing hair from different places—top left and right, crown, and bottom left and right. Gently pulling out a few of my precious strands, I packed them up and dropped them off at the post office.
Then you create a profile, upload photos of your hair, and answer questions about hair problems you think you have and improvements you’d like to see. A few days later, I received an email saying my results were ready. The brand offers a virtual consultation with one of its healthy hair experts to review your analysis and recommendations, or you can access a portal and view them on your own time.
The breakdown includes healthy hair care plans that contain recommendations for your product and ingredients, regimens to follow, styling techniques and more. You can also be matched with a professional stylist in your area for your salon visits.
Microscopic hair analysis reveals what the eyes can’t see about your hair. It reveals the condition of your hair, the unique characteristics of the cuticle layer and the health of the strand. “We decided to automate this process through AI technology and machine learning by training thousands of unique images of different hair textures, types and conditions to easily detect these things from a photo and create personalized recommendations through our proprietary recommendation system,” he explains. Mitchell-Harris. This is a service for every hair type and every hair condition, which helped me trust the service – after losing my hair, I would only willingly pull out strands if I felt sure it would be worth it.
Analysis revealed that my strands are in a weakened state with physical damage—small tears and tears along the hair shaft, compromising the outer layer of the cuticle. Through my personalized recommendations, I discovered the best products to help rebuild my hair—including a sulfate-free product shampoo and moisturizing styling treatments, like this Aveda mousse.
What I love most about this service is that you can send your hair in regularly to monitor its health. Myvana also offers a web3 Virtual “Hairquarters”, which provides a way to connect with communities facing similar hair journeys. Soon, the brand will launch ‘In The Lab with Myavana’, a weekly series in which hair scientists, analysts and cosmetologists share discoveries from their strand analysis research.
While Myavana doesn’t necessarily replace a hair specialist or your stylist, it is another tool that will help give you the full picture of your hair’s health. Just like I’m not the same person before my diagnosis, neither is my hair – we’re both a work in progress, trying to find our new normal. Myavana is an innovative tool that I will continue to use throughout my evolving journey to make the most of each new stage I encounter.