pic of the word cancer

How to wear a headscarf

Undergoing cancer treatment can entail numerous unpleasant side effects: hair loss being one of them. An itchy, tender scalp; exposure to sun damage; and dip in body heat are a few of the everyday concerns that compound with the emotional vulnerability of sudden baldness. In the broader context of the illness, finding a suitable headscarf might seem secondary but getting the basics right can go a long way to feeling like the best version of yourself. Here’s how.

Material well-being

The trifecta of scarf selection is simple: make it soft, smooth and seamless. The combination of hair loss and treatment make the scalp extra sensitive. Pay heed to your head with light, thin, fabrics like linen, jersey, bamboo and cotton which knot better and hold securely, unlike silk or satin counterparts which prove too slippery. For added coverage, try a scarf pad (a cotton cap underpinning) which eliminates slippage and absorbs sweat. In winter, look to bamboo varieties for added warmth.

Top tip: consult with your physician about wearing SPF 30 or 50 on your scalp and neck for added coverage.

The big cover-up

When it comes to choosing a scarf, size matters. Typically, available in square or oblong shapes, select styles that amply cover exposed areas like the nape of the neck, tips of the ears and the hairline. Looking to play around with tying styles (see our handy guide below)? Oblong iterations give more scope for buns, knots, rosettes and twists.

Top tip: Opt for sizes no smaller than 35”x 35” or 21” x 78”.

Colour me happy

If colour can lighten and brighten a mood, then why not tap into the healing power of your favourite hue? Soothe body and soul with blues, greens and violets; increase appetite and reduce fatigue with orange; alleviate depression and brain fog with memory-enhancing yellow; induce calm and relax muscles with tranquillizing pink or feel nurtured and sustained with purifying white. Be careful with black which can be draining, especially near the face, where it increases dark circles around the eyes.

Did you know? The therapeutic value of colour (chromotherapy) can be traced back to the ancients of Egypt, Greece and India where great healing halls were built that filtered light through glass panels or windows, in turn influencing the flow and level of bodily energy.


Knot it, fold it, twist it, wrap it - there's more than one way to tie one on.


  • Fold a long scarf into a triangle and wrap over the crown of the head.
  • Tie the two sides at the nape of your neck and tie into a knot.
  • Twist the ends together and wrap around the knot into a small bun.

Twisted turban

  • Fold an oblong scarf into a triangle and wrap over the crown of the head.
  • Tie the two sides of the fabric at the nape of your neck. It should hang like a ponytail.
  • Taking the two pieces of the ponytail, wrap them around the front to meet again at the crown of your head.
  • Twist the two pieces of the fabric together to the very ends.
  • Taking the twist, pull it around the forehead like a headband and tuck in the ends.


  • Fold an oblong scarf into a triangle and wrap over the crown of the head.
  • Tie the two side ends at the nape of the neck.
  • Tuck in the loose end and knot, bow or leave as is. 

Kelly (after Grace Kelly)

  • Fold a square or oblong scarf into a triangle and drape over the crown of the head.
  • Take the two sides of the fabric and cross them under the chin.
  • Wrap the two ends around the back of the neck and tie a knot.

Rosette wrap

  • Fold an oblong scarf into a triangle and wrap over the crown of the head.
  • Tie the two sides at the nape of your neck and tie into a double knot.
  • Pull the knot to the side of your head and twist both ends.
  • Wrap the twisted ends around the knot and tuck in the ends.

Laya Healthcare Members can find out more about the cancer care we offer by visiting https://www.layahealthcare.ie/yourbenefits/cancercare/ or download our handy guide https://www.layahealthcare.ie/media/site/pdfs/Cancer-Care-Laya-Healthcare.pdf 

To support the tremendous work of Breakthrough Cancer Research to develop new treatments for cancer go to: www.breakthroughcancerresearch.ie

Photo by Artur Aldyrkhano coursesy of Unsplash media.


Ann Marie O’Connor

Annmarie is an award-winning fashion writer, stylist and founder of The Happy Closet - a lifestyle decluttering service which balances well-being with being well-dressed. Her editorial and styling work has appeared in publications such as the Irish Examiner, Sunday Times Style magazine, The Irish Times, Irish Tatler, Image and The Gloss. On air she is a regular contributor to The Dave Fanning Show, The Ryan Tubridy Show; TV3′s Xposé, Ireland AM and RTÉ’s Today show.