Using hair dye and hair treatments after chemotherapy

Changes in your hair can affect how you feel about yourself. For some people this change can be one of the worst parts of their treatment. 

How chemotherapy might affect your hair

This will depend on which chemotherapy drugs you had. Some types of chemotherapy make hair fall out completely. Other types make the hair thinner, or change its texture. 

Your hair might not grow back exactly the same as it was before. You might find that: 

  • the colour may change
  • the texture may be different
  • your hair may be more curly
  • it may be straighter

Speak to your hairdresser and ask for their advice on ways to look after your hair following chemotherapy treatment.

You should have a patch test before using hair dye, even if you have used the same product before.

Using hair dye and treatments

It is best to avoid some treatments for around 6 months after finishing chemotherapy. This includes: 

  • permanent hair dyes
  • semi permanent hair dyes
  • bleaching
  • perms
  • chemical smoothers or relaxers
  • weaves, braids or extensions

This is because when you are recovering from chemotherapy, your hair is more fragile than usual. It is more likely to get damaged. 

It takes about 6 months for the hair to become stronger.

Some of these products contain strong chemicals that can damage your hair. Your scalp may also be drier and itchier than normal during this time. Using strong chemicals on your hair can make this worse.

Henna and vegetable based dyes

It's understandable that you might not want to wait to dye your hair. You can ask your hairdresser to suggest henna dyes or vegetable based dyes for you. These are gentler on the hair than the other types of hair colouring. So hair specialists think it is safe to use them.

Even with a vegetable dye, it is worth testing before you use it. You can test the dye on a small section of your hair first to see how it works.

  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical and Cancer Nursing Procedures (10th edition, online)
    S Lister, J Hofland and H Grafton 
    Wiley Blackwell, 2020

  • Use of hair dyes following chemotherapy
    GM Decker
    Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 2004, Volume 8.

  • Chemotherapy-induced alopecia: advice and support for hair loss
    H Roe
    British Journal of Nursing, 2011. Volume 20. Pages 4-11

Last reviewed: 
09 Jan 2024
Next review due: 
08 Jan 2027

Related links