Hair coloring during chemotherapy

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My hair is a very stark white now and before chemo it was grey but not a solid color.   Can I safely dye or at least tone it?

  • Hi Icarus,

    Thanks for getting in touch. My name is Eileen and I’m one of the Cancer Information Nurse Specialists on the Macmillan Support Line

    I hope you are finding the online community a safe and supportive space to connect with others affected by cancer.

    I can appreciate that being able to colour your hair can really give you a boost. The title of your post suggests you are currently having chemotherapy. If your type of cancer treatment doesn’t cause hair loss then as long as you have no scalp or hair issues and you carry out a sensitivity test you may be able to colour your hair. Many women continue to colour their hair whilst having various treatments for cancer. If you are still having treatment please speak to your treatment team before going ahead.

    We would also recommend talking to a hairdresser before considering using hair dyes and let them know about your cancer treatment. If you are considering dying your own hair, it is still advisable to speak to a hairdresser beforehand for advice. They may suggest using vegetable dyes that can be gentler on the scalp.

    When chemotherapy has caused hair loss your hair will usually need to be about one inch long before you can use any hair dye on it.  Before considering bleaching hair it is recommended that your hair should be at least three inches long. Your scalp should also be in good condition, not scaly or irritated and if your hair is dry or breaking easily it may not be advisable to colour it.

    To reduce the risk of an allergic reaction it’s important to do a test 48 hours before using any product by applying a small amount of the dye in a small area of the scalp and hair. If you do not have any problems within 48 hours, it is usually safe to apply it to the rest of your hair.


    I do hope this information was helpful but please know that you can always give us a call to talk things through further.


    Take care and best wishes,


    Eileen, Cancer Information Nurse Specialist

    You can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm) or send us an email.

    Ref  EM/LM

    Eileen M - Macmillan Cancer Information Nurse Specialist