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Cancer Hats: Buying Hats & Scarves During Treatments

Floppy sun visors, extravagant Kentucky Derby-esque hats, classic baseball caps- the word "hat" conjures up a thousand mental images. The word "hat" has different connotations for different people, but what do you think of when you hear the word "cancer hat?" When Carol Galland was first diagnosed with breast cancer 27 years ago, a "cancer hat" meant a humiliating surgical cap. Galland decided she had to take matters into her own hands and created Headcovers Unlimited, a place where people with hair loss could reclaim their dignity. Nearly three decades later, thanks to Galland's innovations, your headcover options are virtually unlimited.

Slouchy Snood Hat Slouchy Snood Hat
Slouchy Snood Hat
Florette Newsboy HatFlorette Newsboy Hat
Florette Newsboy Hat
Denim Bucket HatDenim Bucket Hat
Denim Bucket Hat
Slip On Slinky Headwrap Pre-Tied Head ScarfSlip On Slinky Headwrap Pre-Tied Head Scarf
Slip On Slinky Headwrap Pre-Tied Head Scarf

Losing your hair due to chemotherapy treatments can be one of the most challenging aspects of facing a cancer diagnosis. For many of us, our hair seems to be inextricably intertwined with our identity. Thankfully, many are able to reclaim their identity with the confidence given to them by a beautiful new hat. However, many women have never worn or bought hats.

If this is your first time hat shopping, you may feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin. Don't fret! After more than 25 years of designing headwear for cancer patients, we've learned a few things and we're here to let you in on our secrets. Here are some of the best tricks to keep in mind when buying a hat to get the most comfortable and flattering cancer hat style.

What To Look For In A Cancer Hat:

trying on hats for cancertrying on hats for cancer

Full Head Coverage

When shopping for cancer headwear, the coverage of the hat is the first thing you should consider. You want a full coverage hat. This means that the hat will cover all areas of the scalp where hair normally grows. Full coverage headwear will disguise hair loss, and provide a sense of security (physically and emotionally). Look for headwear that extends all the way to the nape of the neck, and around the entire hair line.

Soft Material

For sensitive, bald scalps, comfort is infinitely important. Soft, smooth, and breathable fabrics will be most comfortable on bare skin. Make sure to choose a hat that has a soft and soothing feel. If you want to experiment with different, more textured fabrics, keep in mind that any hat that is not necessarily “soft” can be worn with a hat liner underneath to give a more comfortable feel. Read below for more on recommended fabric types.

Seamless or Few Seams

Look for head coverings that have minimal seams with a comfortable lining, as the scalp can be more sensitive without the protection of hair.


Designs that offer some degree of volume at the crown or back of the head will give the illusion of hair underneath. For most women, this is a flattering, desirable look.

Lifestyle Considerations:

When deciding what type of cancer head covering is best for you, it is important to determine several factors:


Climate: In what climate will you be wearing your headwear? This will determine which fabrics and weights of headwear to choose. Will you choose Summer Hats or Winter Hats? Some items, such as Cotton Hats and Bamboo Hats can be worn year round. 


Lifestyle: Do you primarily wear casual, business casual or dressier clothing? Where you will wear your headwear?  Do you need a dressy hat for a special occasion? Are you looking for a casual turban to wear while running errands or going to treatments? Will you be wearing it outdoors?


Knowing when and where you plan to wear your headcover will help determine the type of headwear that is right for you. Most styles are usually available in several fabrics or color choices, so that you can find one that suits your needs.

Types of Hats:

It is always a good idea to experiment with several different headwear types; you will either find the perfect style to wear over and over again, or discover multiple styles that you can mix and match.


Hats - Our Types of Hats Guide has great information about different hat types and styles. Also see our resource page on Selecting the Perfect Hat for Your Face Shape to see what styles are most flattering on your particular face shape. Once you familiarize yourself with the different hat types, you're ready to select one that will be flattering for you.


Turbans - These caps have become a go-to cancer hat for many women with hair loss because they are simple, fashionable, easy to wear, and comfy. These are the perfect choice for every day wear and can be dressed up or down to suit any occasion with accessories. They are typically made from soft material and constructed to look like fabric wrapped around the head. Bonus: turbans can double as sleep caps.


Scarves - A scarf is an elegant option for women who want to experiment with sophisticated, feminine looks. These versatile head coverings can be worn in a myriad of ways and can be found in almost every type of fabric. Some cancer patients do not want to tie a scarf, so we offer both untied and pre-tied head scarf options.


Wigs - A wig can help women with hair loss feel secure and confident. With so many styles and colors to choose from, it is even possible to find a wig that closely resembles your hairstyle prior to your hair loss. On our Wig Resources page, you'll also find a step-by-step guide to help you on your wig buying journey. You can also take advantage of our free wig consultation service to have an experienced wig consultant help you choose the right color and style for you.


Hats with Hair Hairpieces - For those who cannot decide between a hat or a wig, we offer our "hats with hair" hairpieces. Our hair halosare open on top, allowing your head to breathe while giving the look of having hair. Many women who are not fond of wigs find these hairpieces the ideal solution, as they are often more comfortable and low-maintenance than a traditional wig.

5 Must-Have Basic Headwear Items for Cancer Patients


1. Sleep Cap - When you don't have hair to cover your scalp, heat can be lost through the top of your head when you are sleeping. In other words: you'll get cold.Finding a sleep cap that you can wear at night can prevent night chills and work to keep your head warm at night. Additionally, bare scalps can be sensitive and a sleep cap will help protect your skin while you toss and turn in your sleep.


2. Basic Beanie or Turban - Beanies and turbans are ideal “everyday” head coverings.These can be thrown on in a snap, and they're perfect for wearing to chemotherapy treatments.They can even be kept in a car, purse, or pocket for quick, unexpected trips.Our most basic coverings come in many colors, so you can easily find one that suits you.You'll get the most from your money by purchasing a simple, comfy cap because 1) they can bedressed up or down with accessories and 2) they can also double as sleep caps.


3. Sun Protection Hat - Cancer treatments can leave your skin extremely vulnerable to the sun's harmful rays. Invest in a wide brimmed sun hat to help keep your scalp, face, and neck protected. Many of our hats also have SPF built right intothe fabric for even more protection.


4. Hat Liner - A hat liner made from soft, comfortable fabric like cotton or bamboo, is a great item to have on hand. Wearing a hat liner allows you to wear hat styles made from more abrasive materials without irritating the scalp. A hat liner can also be worn under any hat to give you full head coverage.


5. Slip-On or Pre-Tied Scarf - These easy-to-use scarves are a wonderful everyday or formal option for cancer patients. They slip right onto the head and give the look of an intricately tied scarf without all of the work. They're lightweight and perfect to toss into a bag or keep in your car for times when you need something quick, easy, and sophisticated.Their elegant design can be dressed up or down.

How To Determine The Most Flattering Type Of Hat For You

Selecting a flattering hat can make all of the difference when going through cancer treatments. A flattering hat can offer a sense of security, confidence and empowerment to women with hair loss.


Finding your face shape is essential to selecting a flattering hat. There are several ways to find out what face shape you have. One way is to take a photo of yourself and trace the outline of your face. The shape that you draw will reveal your face shape. You can also observe your face shape by standing in front of a mirror with your hair pulled back and tracing the outline of your face with a tube of lipstick or a bar of soap.


If you're more a mathematician than an artist, measuring your face from cheekbone to cheekbone, across the widest points of your jawline, across the widest points of your forehead, and from the tip of your hairline to the bottom of your chin will give you measurements that will help determine your face shape. After recording your measurements,you can use our handy face shape chart to determine what shape your face most resembles. You can find this chart on our resources page under Finding a Flattering Hat for your Face Shape.

Tips And Tricks For Cancer Hats

Because many women who experience hair loss are wearing hats and turbans for the first time, we've gathered some tips and tricks to help make the transition towearing hats and other headwear as easy as possible!


Adjust the fit - If a hat isn't flattering when you first try it on,you may need to adjust how it is placed on your head. Think of this like parting your hair;different parts will be more flattering for different people.The hat should be angled to its best advantage.Try tilting it slightly to the right or to the left. Angle it from every direction andview it from every angle. Experiment until you find your optimal, most flattering look.


Glasses - If you wear eyeglasses or sunglasses, try upturning the brim of your hat for a more flattering look.


Uncomfortable? Add a soft lace sleep cap or hat liner underneath your headwear. Hat liners are also great for absorbing sweat and allow you to wash your hats lessoften because you can simply wash the liner instead.


On a Budget? Buy a basic solid cap and use accessories to create an infinite number of looks. For more money saving tips during hair loss, visit this blog post.


Try Them Out Risk Free - Buying online is a convenient way to shop in the comfort of your home. If you don't like the way your headwear looks or feels, it's easy to swap it out for something that you like better. Our liberal headwear return policy ensures that you can try out a variety of styles in a private setting at your leisure - completely risk free.

Selecting Colors for Your Cancer Hat

Because hats are worn so close to the face, selecting a flattering color for your skin tone and features is crucial for looking your best. Chemo can leave your skin looking washed out, making headwear colors an especially important consideration. Wearing flattering colors can help you look and feel your best.

A fun and useful way to determine which colors are right for you is to determine your color season. We have prepared a detailed guide on Finding Your Color Season.

Accessories and Hairpieces for Cancer Hats

Using accessories to enhance your headwear is a great way to customize your look and make your hat or turban more personalized. Some accessories even work to make your headwear more comfortable and better fitting. Easy to wear accessoriescan take you from drab to fab in a snap!


Headbands, Hat Pins & Broaches - Headbands can add color, life and pizzazz to your turbans. They also help create a sense of security whenworn with a turban or pre-tied scarf. Hat pins and broaches add asplash of fun to any basic hat, turban, or pre-tied scarf. Because these accessories are removable, you can use them on multiple pieces of headwear.


Oversized Headbands - Our oversized headbands allow you to achieve full head coverage with hats that don't provide full coverage. Do you have a favorite hat already in your closet? Try adding our specially made oversized headbands underneath to give you the full head coverage you need.


Scarves - Small scarves are a great way to add a decorative touch to your turban or hat. Simply tie one around your head to add a pop of color, pattern, or texture.


Ribbons and Trim - Adornments from your local craft store,or even things you might already have on hand,can be great additions for dressing up basic headwear.


Earrings - For women with hair loss, large statement earrings can help balance your look and focus attention back to your face.Try experimenting with different earrings to add that "special something" to your look. We offer a beautiful selection of hypoallergenic earrings that we've hand selected to work with your headwear.


Detachable Bangs - Detachable bangs are an easy, low-maintenance way to add a little bit of hair to your headwear. You can even attach a pair of bangs under the backside of your hat or turban to add some hair to the back of your head as well. Our Instant Hair Headband allows you to wear the same pair of bangs underneath multiple hats.


Hats with Hair Hairpieces - We offer a wide variety of hairpieces with open tops that can be worn underneath your hat. They add the appearance of hair without having to wear a full wig.


Scarf Pad - A scarf pad can be place underneath any scarf or turban to create a more voluminous look, giving your headwear a more flattering appearance.


Scarf Gripper -  Wearing a scarf gripper underneath a head scarf can keep it securely in place and help to stop slippery fabrics from sliding back on the head.

Recommended Fabrics for Cancer Hats

Before anything else, you want your hat to be comfortable on your scalp.Soft fabrics with natural fibers that are gentle and breathable are typically the most desirable for a cancer hat. It is also important to note your climate and the occasion where you will be wearing the hat in order to choose the best fabric for your cancer hat. Many hat choices that are not typically thought of as “soft” can be worn with a soft hat liner underneath to give you a more comfortable feel. Here is a brief overview of some of our favorite hat fabrics and the pros and cons for their use in a cancer hat:

variety of fabric typesvariety of fabric types


Cotton Cancer HatsCotton is a soft, durable, natural fiber. It is breathable, versatile and used in many different types of hats. We often use cotton as a liner in our hats that feature a shell in another type of fabric. Cotton hats are often the first headwear purchase that cancer patients make because the benefits of 100% cotton fabric are so well known.


Bamboo Cancer Hats: Bamboo is a lesser known natural fiber that cancer patients should become familiar with. It is exceptionally soft and silky in feel. It is also absorbent, pill resistent, durable and has natural antibacterial properties.


Fleece Cancer Hats: Fleece is warm, soft, and comfortable. It is easy wash and wear. Because of its warmth, it is best for cool weather. For those who are unfamiliar with the term "fleece" think of your softest sweatpants that you reach for on a cold day.


Terry Cloth Cancer Hats: Terry cloth is a soft fabric that is most often used in turbans. It is absorbent and a great choice for home, spa, pool or beach. For those unfamiliar with fabric terms, think of traditional towel material.


Wool Cancer Hats: Wool is most often used in cool weather garments. It resists water and is made from natural, breathable fibers. It provides excellent warmth and insulation. For those who find wool hats to be abrasive, a soft night cap, such as a lace sleep cap can be worn underneath.


Berber, Tweed & Corduroy: These fabrics are most often used in cool weather hats due to fabric thickness. These fabrics provide warmth and a wonderful texture that brings a unique element to the hat design. Because some fabrics are abrasive, we line the inside of these hats for a comfortable fit.


Lycra Cancer Hats: The addition of Lycra in a fabric allows it to stretch. Lycra allows head coverings to conform to the head securely yet comfortably, returning to its normal shape after being stretched.


Polyester Cancer Hats: Polyester is great for wicking moisture away. It is often used in exercise clothing. This includes CoolMax®polyester.

Cotton/Polyester Blend: This blend seeks to combine the best qualities of both cotton and polyester. The addition of polyester in some types of cotton fabrics allows the material to retain its shape over time.


Silk: This luxurous, natural fiber is often used in untied and pre-tied head scarves. Nothing drapes the same way as an elegant silk textile.


Straw & Raffia Cancer Hats: Straw is light and breathable. These materials are typically used in warm weather brimmed hats. Although often abrasive in texture, our straw and raffia hats are softer and more pliable than a typical hat, for a comfortable fit with full head coverage. Cotton or bamboo liners can be worn underneath for those with especially sensitive scalps.

Fit of Cancer Hats

As with any garment, fit is what separates budget products from high end designs.While competitors have copied our original designs over the years, they lack the expertise to mimic the custom fit of our hats. Fit is important with any type of clothing, but it is especially crucial with hats. When a hat is sewn, even 1/8 of an inch in size variation will create a huge difference in fit. Variations in sewing are magnified and much more noticeable than they would be on a pair of jeans. We personally design and make our hats, allowing us to achieve the custom fit required by cancer patients. This is crucial for women with hair loss, as headwear must not only be comfortable and contoured to the head, but completely cover the hairline. Using our 25 years of experience, we have honed the fit of every hat we make.


To take the guesswork out of buying, most of our hats have been specially designed to have built-in stretch or size adjustment. This allows them to fit on almost any head size. Still, it is a good idea to determine your head size. We have prepared a helpful video on measuring your head for a wig. The same sizes apply to hats. Most women have an average sized head. If you find that hats are typically tight on you, you probably have a large head. Conversely, if hats are usually loose on you, you probably have a petite head. As you are browsing products, there are filters that allow youto sort the hats by size. Additionally, on each product page, you will find a sizing tab.This gives detailed sizing information about the particular product.

Style of Cancer Hats

It is our philosophy that hats for cancer patients should look like hats for anyone else.They should be inspired and fashionable. The inspiration for our designs does not come from the chemotherapy floor or your local cancer hospital, but from the runways in Paris and New York. We travel overseas regularly to stay current with fashion trends, keeping our designs on the cutting edge. We offer a wide variety of many kinds of hats to allow our customers to discover the look that is uniquely "them."

Care and Storage of Cancer Hats 

Always follow label directions when washing headwear if available. Most turbans and scarves can be hand washed in cold water with mild detergent. For cancer patients, it is best to use very mild, non irritating soaps when washing; this will remove build up while minimizing skin irritants.


Take special care when washing or using headwear with embellishments.If your headwear is wrinkled, a hand steamer can be used to quickly release wrinkles.Use a lint roller or tape wrapped around your fingers (with the sticky side out) to remove loose hair or dust from headwear.


Store brimmed or structured styles in a box in a cool, dry place if you will not bewearing the hat for an extended period of time. Hanging a hat on a hat rack is only recommended for short term storage, as it can dimple the hat or change its shape. Don't leave your headwear in direct sunlight for extended periods of time when you're not wearing it.


Please see more detailed information on caring for different types of headwear on our resources page, Caring For Headwear.

 What did you think of this article? Please leave your feedback and questions below.

©2014-2020, Headcovers Unlimited, Inc. All Rights Reserved.We encourage and welcome direct links to this page, but please do not redistribute, copy, alter or create derivative works from our content without express written permission. 

Comments, Questions & Ratings

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Newbie looking for Cancer hats Review by Buying Guide for Cancer Hats
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Very comprehensive, covering every possible aspect of head coverings, taking a lot of the guesswork and anxiety out of the process. Thank you. (Posted on 10/06/2023)

Ms. Review by Buying Guide for Cancer Hats
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losing my hair was quite traumatic and finding a hat or a scarf that fits my head gas been a challenge. Hopefully you can help me with that. (Posted on 04/14/2023)

Mrs Review by Buying Guide for Cancer Hats
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The tips given for selecting a scarf, hat or wig have been very useful. I feel more confident in selecting the items and placing my order. My first purchase of 5 scarves has led to my second for a turban, 2 hats, a wig and several accessories for my sister and me. I am looking forward to receiving and using them for my upcoming Chemo sessions and family outings. (Posted on 03/17/2023)

Ms Review by Buying Guide for Cancer Hats
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This was very informative. Thank you. (Posted on 02/16/2023)

SKU SV-11788 Scarf Pad - Padding For Headwear & Scarves Review by Buying Guide for Cancer Hats
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When will this item be back in stock? (Posted on 01/18/2023) Review by Buying Guide for Cancer Hats
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Very helpful information. (Posted on 10/09/2022)

Buying Guide for Cancer Hats