One of the most important questions asked by people who've lost their hair during chemo is how soon can they color their hair as it grows back.
The answer is usually based on individual diagnosis and the doctor's recommendation.
Some doctors will allow their chemo patients to color their hair as long as they have enough hair growth to cover the scalp.
Other oncologists or cancer specialists will recommend that their chemo patients wait six (6) months or more after hair has started to re-grow.
The final answer will be individual in nature and depend on your own disease and the opinions of your physician.
What You Need To Know
Some hair colorists and/or salons are willing to color hair after chemo, as long as you have enough hair to color, but only after receiving a written note of approval or clearance from an attending physician or oncologist.
This letter of approval will be be placed in your file for the record to protect the stylist and/or salon for any future liability issues. It's also a very responsible action since this guarantees that the client doesn't have any complicating issues which hair color might tamper with.
Avoid Color When Scalp Has Sores, Burns, Dry Patches Or Similar
The only time hair color is not advanced after chemo is if there are sores, burns, dry patches or flaky areas left after treatment.
Of course any professional hair colorist already knows not to ever do bleach, hair color or any chemical treatments on damaged skin or scalps with abrasions of any kind.
Ideal Re-growth Length
Ideally hair should be at least 1 ½-inches long before the first post-chemo color treatment is completely.
All reputable colorists will require their hair color clients to have a patch test 48 hours before the first after-treatment color appointment.
More Resistant Gray Hair?
If you have resistant gray before you lost your hair to chemo it may change for the better or worse after it grows back in after the treatments have concluded.
Many people report that the color and the texture of the hair may be significantly different after re-growth.
Some post-chemo patients report that their hair first came back as a stark white color which some call Chemo White of Chemo Fuzz.
It can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months for hair texture to transition back to the way it was before chemo. Straight hair may return as curly or vice versa. Your hair may be more fine or more dry and brittle. It's very hard to predict.
Endurance Of Hair Color Applied To Post Chemo Hair
Except in rare circumstances hair color will take without any problems on post-chemo hair.
To guarantee the best and longest lasting color you may ask your professional colorist to perform a pre-color chelating treatment to remove any mineral residue from the chemo.
This is not absolutely necessary, but may make the difference in how well hair takes the color and maintains it.
You may also wish to request that your colorist perform a quick, 20 minute color preview test. The target color is applied in a very small amount to the hair at the nape of the neck. The color is processed, shampooed out and then dried.
A color preview will give you a clear preview of the color results you can expect from a full color of all of your hair.
Semi-Permanent Hair Color Is Considered Most Gentle
Semi-Permanent hair color is often the first step people with post-chemo hair turn to because it's considered the most gentle.
Although it will also wash out after several shampoo, since your post-chemo hair will be changing over time, semi or demi permanent colors may give you more options as your original hair color returns.
Some professional colorists shy away from using bleach on post chemo hair since it's considered very harsh and not recommended as an initial color treatment.
They also don't usually recommend highlights or lowlights since there is less hair to color.
Professional Hair Color Versus DIY Color
If you want to color your hair at home with a Do It Yourself (DIY) treatment you might experiment with one of the root touch products since you won't need much color coverage at first.
Opt for the most gentle hair color products possible.
When possible ask your professional colorist to use non-peroxide based color to cover any grays. This is due to the fact that peroxide may cause more dryness on sensitive scalps.
When possible either work with a professional hair colorist or utilize a well-known color product which has a very positive salon satisfaction record.
Major hair color manufacturers are very concerned with product safety. Their products undergo intense testing and scrutiny before being introduced into the marketplace.
- Revised Publication Date: 05/13/12
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