Colouring new hair growth
Colouring hair is a great way to add some individuality to shorter styles but many people are very nervous about any possible damage to their new hair. This is very understandable as once you have experienced hair loss you are likely to want to ensure that you don’t do anything to prevent or delay the new hairs from growing.
With some good guidance and our expert tips you will see that colouring new hair growth can normally be an option available to you should you choose it.
When it comes to colouring new hair growth after cancer treatment there tends to be a lot of hearsay and common misunderstandings about hair colour and the possibility of damage to the new hair.
At Cancer Hair Care we recognise that other cancer charities and organisations give different opinions about when to colour new hair. Our specialist charity services mean that we are one of the few cancer charities within the UK with hands on experience of hair loss and new growth after chemotherapy treatment. As part of our hands on charity service we have coloured hundreds of heads of hair of new hair growth. We also offer guidance to hairdressers, cancer nurses and health care professionals so that they in turn can be better informed to advise people. This is because we have developed a huge wealth of knowledge and experience in this highly specialised area.
As this section is mainly written with new hair after chemotherapy treatment (or scalp cooling) in mind, if you have had external beam radiotherapy to the scalp and are looking for tips on new hair growth please first look at our Radiotherapy Guide.
May we suggest you take a look at the commonly asked topics below. This will give you a good overview so that you can be well informed of how to best colour your hair should you wish.
Colouring new hair growth – commonly asked Q&A
- When can I colour my new hair?
- How to check your new hair growth and scalp are in good enough condition to colour
- What are temporary colours?
- Will my natural hair colour be the same as before hair loss?
- Does all colour make hair dry?
- The concern about hair dye causing an allergic reaction
- How to carry out a patch/sensitivity test
- How can I find hair colours that have more natural ingredients?
When can I colour my new hair?
Generally speaking, as long as your hair and scalp are healthy and you do a skin-sensitivity test prior to colour, there is no specific length required to apply all-over colour to the hair.
However we would recommend that you allow at least an inch of hair to grow before colouring it, so that you can be sure that the hair is of a good quality.
Colouring hair is a great way to add some individuality to shorter styles but many people are very nervous about any possible damage to the new hair. There are plenty of clever techniques and hair colours that contain natural and nourishing ingredients to use both at home and at the salon.
Follow our tips on How to check your new hair growth and scalp are in good enough condition to colour
How to check your new hair growth and scalp are in good enough condition to colour
New hair growth does take some time to establish itself. Your hair may look and feel very different than before.
In terms of colour, texture and condition it may be tricky for you to work out if your hair is ready to colour. It is important that your scalp is healthy to avoid irritation.
Follow our tips below:
At least an inch - We advise that you allow a minimum of an inch of new hair growth before colouring hair. Unless your hair is very dry and brittle it will normally be okay to introduce some gentle colour if you wish. We recommend that you avoid high levels of peroxide and avoid bleach products.
If you are unsure ask a hairdresser for help.
Curly doesn’t mean dry - Don’t confuse a curly texture with being dry or brittle. Curly hair is not necessarily dry, often the conditioning ingredients in hair colours will help to coat the hair and can often calm down curly and frizzy hair into a more manageable texture
Snip off dry ends - If your hair feels dry or brittle why not have the very tips (ends) snipped off and wait until the hair grows a bit longer before colouring
Intensive conditioning - If your hair is dry and brittle use a deep or intensive conditioning treatment once a week to help improve the texture. Avoid colouring until the hair improves in condition or seek help from a hairdresser
Experienced hairdresser - Ask a hairdresser that has experience of colouring short new hair growth for their advice. The reason we recommend asking a hairdresser with experience of colouring short new growth is that, unfortunately, many hairdressers worry about colouring new hair and can advise that you wait until the hair is several inches before applying colour. This is a shame as in most cases the hair is in good enough condition to colour between an inch to two inches. If a hairdresser with experience advises you to wait you can be sure that you have sound advice
You won’t need to worry about split ends – As your new hair growth is likely to be short and very new, remember that you won’t have any of the following common problems in relation to hair condition and colour. No split ends, no build up of colour, no over processed hair, no over dry hair due to over exposure to sun
Wait a little longer – If you are worried wait another four weeks and see what the condition is like after this time. New hair growth can change very quickly once some length gets established
Maintaining a healthy scalp is important to supporting new hair growth. However, it is good to know the difference between a scalp issue such as dandruff (that would not usually cause any problem in terms of colouring hair) and an issue such as a sore scalp (when you would be best advised to avoid certain colouring techniques).
Sores/cuts and open wounds - you should avoid using hair colour directly on the scalp if there are any open sores, open cuts or wounds. Wait until these have healed or the hair is long enough for hair to be coloured in foil or a technique where the scalp does not come into contact with the hair dye.
Dandruff - it is not a problem to colour hair with dandruff on the scalp
Itchy scalp - some people do say that new hair makes their scalp feel itchy. This can be to do with the shortness of the new hair. If your carry out a sensitivity test without any problems you should be okay to colour your hair
Spotty scalp - many people experience spots (similar to facial spots) on their scalp. This can be very normal. As long as a spot is not inflamed or causing any issues it should be fine to colour your hair.
Previous reactions to hair colour – If you have had a mild reaction to hair colour in the past you should be able to establish if there will be any issues by carrying out a patch/sensitivity test. However, if you have had an allergic reaction to hair dye in the past you should avoid colouring hair and seek advice from a dermatologist or other skin and hair expert.
What are temporary colours?
Temporary colours are like using a styling product. They will wash out when you shampoo your hair. Temporary hair colours such as coloured mousses, hair sprays and root touch up products can all be good options to add some colour to new hair.
You can use temporary colours to blend in grey and white hair and to add tones and deepen shades to other natural colours. Whilst there are a number of blonde products on the market, it is your natural shade that will determine how well a blonde product will show up. Generally speaking it is easy to make hair darker then it is to make it appear lighter.
Temporary colours and camouflage products can also help to blend in finer patches of hair loss and make hair appear to look thicker.
There is little risk of allergic reactions to temporary colours as they do not contain the ingredients PPD or any activators such as peroxide.
Will my natural hair colour be the same as before hair loss?
The colour of your new hair may also be altered or it may be just the same as before, this is unpredictable. This can be the result of an alteration to your normal hair growth and may adjust and change as your hair becomes more stable.
Generally speaking, as we get older the amount of hair colour (pigment) that is naturally produced reduces, thus hair appears grey or white. So if you already had grey or white hairs then it is highly likely that hair will come back the same shade.
It is quite common for people to say they notice more grey or white hairs within their new hair growth. This may be true, but it’s fair to say that many women colour their hair and so weren’t really sure how much grey they had. Another factor to take into consideration is that when hair is short it tends to stick up and so any grey and white hairs can appear more prominent.
You can colour your new hair if you wish as long as the hair and scalp are in good condition.
Does all colour make hair dry?
Colouring hair can change the hair structure but the majority of modern colours are packed full of moisturising ingredients that help to counteract any stress put on the hair. In other words colouring hair does not ‘damage’ hair it changes the structure of it. However, if hair is overcoloured, not in good enough condition or too weak then colouring hair will cause the hair to become dry and weak.
The essential thing to know is that if you colour your hair you must look after it. Meaning that as your hair grows, regular trims (even if just tiny ends), using appropriate products and styling techniques will ensure that you maintain healthy hair growth.
Hair can easily become dry and unmanageable when colour products are incorrectly applied (e.g. left on too long) or the hair is not looked after appropriately. For instance, the daily use of straightening irons on coloured hair will make the hair more fragile and vulnerable.
It is our experience that as long as your hair is not overly dry and brittle and you have no scalp problems, then colouring hair will normally help to improve the texture.
Gone are the days when colouring hair resulted in hair that is dry and lifeless. Today, whether you choose to have a hairdresser apply your colour, or opt for a home colour kit, the ingredients in most hair dyes are packed with conditioning and nourishing ingredients.
The only exception to this is bleach products that do tend to make the hair much dryer. They are not really recommend for new hair growth until your hair is at least three inches long and in very good condition.
The concern about hair dye causing an allergic reaction
The ingredient that is most well known for causing concern about skin irritation, and in some cases a very serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis known as ‘anaphylactic shock’, is an ingredient called paraphenylenediamine, known as PPD. PPD can be found in some hair colourant and eyebrow and lash tint.
The possibility of a serious allergic reaction can be easily avoided by carrying out a patch/sensitivity test 48 hours prior to using the hair colour or dye, alongside following the manufacturers guidance.
How to carry out a patch/sensitivity test
A patch/sensitivity test is the best way to try and check that you are not allergic to a product. Whilst this guide is centered towards testing against sensitivity to hair colourants, you can use this guide to do a patch/sensitivity test for almost any product. When it comes to hair colour a professional salon will normally carry out a test for you. If you are using a home kit, the instructions on the pack will tell you if you need to do one and how to do it. Read more How to carry out a patch/sensitivity test for hair colour
How can I find hair colours that have more natural ingredients?
One of the best places to find hair colourants that contain more natural and less harsh ingredients can be to visit a health and wellbeing store. Additionally, some chemists stock ranges of colours that have more natural ingredients. The majority of the time you will still need to carry out a sensitivity test.
Next planned review: February 2020