Colouring your hair after chemotherapy

One of the most frequently asked questions we get here at Roches is about hair colour after chemotherapy.

In our experience, once women have finished chemotherapy, they are eager to ‘get back to normal’ and for many of them, that means putting their wig away and revealing their new short hair just as soon as they are comfortable with it.

However, many people are dismayed when their hair grows back very dry, frizzy and, more often than not, full of grey. A lot of our clients begin to ask us what their options are when it comes to hair colour when they are still in treatment and thinking forward to when their hair will be growing back.

Here’s what we like to tell them.

When to colour and misconceptions

We recommend not to colour your hair until at least 5, preferably 6 months after the end of chemotherapy. This will allow your hair to grow and strengthen so it can withstand colour.

There are misconceptions about having to shave your hair after chemo because it is ‘bad hair’ – this is not true, post-chemo hair is not bad hair at all but rather just very dry hair that is lacking condition. Chemotherapy affects all fast-growing cells in the body, including the cells that make up our nails, skin and hair. This is why these three areas can and do often suffer during chemo.

How to help your new hair

There are actually a few things you can do though, to help your hair re-growth after chemotherapy. They are:

— Continue to wash your scalp with shampoo during chemotherapy. Choose a very gentle, natural shampoo that cleanses your scalp.

— Moisturise your scalp – it is the soil for your hair! Moisturising it will actually make a big difference to the quality of your hair as it grows back. Use coconut oil or sweet almond oil nightly or, if you have a dry or irritated scalp, choose Soothe Plus by Organic Colour Systems (available here at Roches). There is also a shampoo, conditioner, and hair treatment spray in this range, all of which we recommend as they are made with natural ingredients and are very gentle. The shampoo can also be used as a body wash.

Help! I’m not ready to remove my wig just yet

Once your hair has started to grow back, you may find that there are bits showing around the edge of your wig. If you are not ready to remove your wig at that stage, we recommend colour sticks and colour mousses to mask the colour and that are safe to use on your new hair, to blend with your wig.

Hair colour washes and henna

If you are determined to colour your hair before the 5 or 6 months post chemo has passed, there are some wash in/wash out hair colours available on the market. We tell our clients to choose carefully – you don’t want to choose a colour that has two bottles which you mix together – this is a sign that one bottle contains a developer, and this would be very harsh on your sensitive new hair.

We also don’t recommend henna if you want to use permanent colour down the line. While 100% henna is great, it can burn your scalp when regular colour is applied on top of it. So unless you want to stick with henna colour long term, this is not a good option.

Colour Herbe

Originating in Italy, Colour Herbe products are based on natural ingredients and have been developed over five generations to particularly restore and protect hair. Colour Herbe uses pigment from herbs to add colour to hair, giving a great result with no ammonia and minimum chemicals and no harming the hair or scalp.

Grey coverage

There are some products on the market with very clean labels but they don’t give great grey coverage. We feel Colour Herbe finds just the right balance between effectiveness in covering grey and not being harmful for your hair or body. Colour Herbe is very popular in France and the US and it is only now coming to Ireland. Roches are one of the first stockists in Dublin.

Siobhan is our colourist here at Roches and has high standards. She has tried many of the different organic/natural hair colours on both her own hair and that of our clients and gives us her honest feedback. Any organic colour has to match or beat the results of chemical colours. We’re happy to report Siobhan is now sold on Colour Herbe too.

Low peroxide content

With Colour Herbe, we feel there is no compromise necessary in comparison to a more ‘mainstream’ hair colour. The colour has the lowest amount of peroxide we have seen in a permanent hair colour, at just 5% volume (vs 20% for most hair colours), and uses plant extracts instead of ammonia to open the hair cuticle to deposit colour. The plant extracts are more gentle than ammonia on the hair cuticles, allowing hair to not lose as much moisture as it might with a regular hair colour.

A more natural option

If you are worried about the chemical content of the hair colour you use after chemotherapy, we feel Colour Herbe is an option you will be pleased to find. Containing a much lower amount of peroxide than average hair colours and no resorcinol, it is the first herbal based hair colour gel using pure extracts and natural colour pigments to respect the sensitive structure of hair and skin.

Colour Herbe natural ingredients include extracts from the rosemary herb, cinchona, Chinese rhubarb and walnut husk. It gently deposits colour while achieving healthy natural results.

If you are very concerned about the chemical content of the hair colour you choose, dark colours tend to have more pigment/ingredient content. You might like to stick with lighter colours as they are gentler on your hair or even mesh highlights (which don’t come in contact with your scalp).

Private colour studio

When your hair comes back after chemo, your hair colour may be different, you may feel different and want a different look. Or, you may just want to go back to being you again, the way you were before your treatment. Whatever you are looking for, we’ll be happy to advise and help you get back to yourself or move forward with the new you.

If you’re interested in having your hair colour done after your chemotherapy, we’d love to see you here in Roches. Call us to arrange a patch test appointment and once that is complete, we can arrange your hair colour appointment in our private hair colour studio. We know what a big step it is for you and are able to offer you a private space to have your colour done for the first time after removing your wig.

Colour Herbe hair colour application at Roches is priced at €80-€90. Please call us for more information or to book an appointment for a patch test.

Elizabeth Roche

Elizabeth Roche

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