Chemo hair regrowth

Chemo hair regrowth and experiments with hair colouring

Chemo finished in mid March 2013 and my hair has been slowly but surely growing back.  I've been getting my husband to take photos to record the growth (like an expensive hot-house plant).

At 8 weeks this is what it looked like - white fuzz!
White fuzz chemo hair

And this is what it looked like a week later.  Hair at 9 weeks.
More white fuzz chemo hair

Ten weeks worth of white fuzz.  It is getting longer!
White fuzz chemo hair at 10 weeks

Experiment 1
My hair at 3 months after colouring with Clairol Beige Blonde (6-8 wash) after one wash.  The colour is fading already, but it is still an improvement on Chemo White.
Chemo hair after first hair colouring

See here for my thoughts/research on the subject of hair colouring after chemo.

Experiment 2
The next colouring experiment involved using the Beige Blonde for 45 minutes (instead of 30 minutes as tried previously).  The new colour has remained largely intact after one wash.
Update: after 4 washes, the colour has mostly faded away, leaving my hair a faint mauve colour.

Experiment 3
Light Golden brown for 40 minutes.  Hair washed 24 hours beforehand.  Three and a half months after last chemo session.

Did the colouring an hour ago and I must say it looks absolutely fab!  A lovely colour and no sign of the chemo white.  Will have to see how it fares after a couple of washes though.
Photos after one wash

Chemo hair colouring second experiment

Update 1:  This colour seems to be lasting well.  My hair is still looking good after 5 washes.

Update 2:  Colour continued to look good until  9 or 10 washes.  It looked faded by then, but still better than chemo white.

Pictures 4 months after chemo (Experiment 3 after 9 washes).
You can see the hair is a little longer and thicker but no sign of chemo curls yet.  Hair colouring is starting to fade.

fading hair colour chemo hair

Experiment 4
Mixture of Light Golden Brown and Dark Blonde 40 minutes. Hair washed 24 hours beforehand.

My hair has just dried after this wash and it looks even better than Experiment 3 at this stage. Lovely natural colour -no sign of the Chemo White.  Still no chemo curls or perhaps it is too short to see them.

Will post pictures after a couple of washes, so we can see how it is lasts.

Here are the promised photo but these are taken after around 10 washes so there is significant fading.  The hair regrowth corresponds 5 months since chemo.  The hair is very thick, but still short.  It certainly doesn't seem to be growing at 1 cm per month (which is the "normal" growth rate often quoted).

fading chemo hair colour but not chemo white

Experiment 5  
Mixture of Light Golden Brown and Beige Blonde,  35 minutes.  Hair washed 24 hours beforehand.

Coloured my hair yesterday.  Looks Golden Brown (not much influence of the Beige Blond), all grey/white completely gone. Much darker colour compared with the fading remnants of the previous colouring.  May look better after a couple of washes to tone it down.

Experiment 6
Mixture of Light Golden Brown and Dark Blonde, probably more Dark Blonde than Light Golden Brown in the mixture. 30 minutes.  Hair washed 24 hours beforehand.  

Coloured my hair about half an hour ago.  It is just over 6 months since end of chemotherapy. I love the colour - less gingery, presumably due to the greater volume of Dark Blonde in the mixture.  I think this may be the best it has come out so far (although I always seem to say this).  Will have to see how long it lasts and how it looks after some fading.

And here the pics taken a couple of days after the hair colouring.  This also shows the hair regrowth after 6 months from my last chemo session.  I now have some chemo curls (or waves anyway).

chemo curls with hair colour

Experiment 7

Mixture of Light Golden Brown and Ash Blonde, probably 25% Light Golden Brown and 75% Ash Blonde. 30 minutes.  Hair washed 48 hours beforehand, but went swimming (in chlorinated pool) a few hours beforehand - not sure if that is likely to affect colour.

Hair colour looks fantastic immediately after colouring.  Will post some pics soon.

And here are the pics, taken about a week after hair colouring.  The chemo curls seen at 6 months are even more apparent here at nearly 8 months. My hair was dead straight before and I would really like to keep my lovely wavy hair.  It will be interesting to see how long it is before it reverts back to straight hair.  

Although my hair is very thick it doesn't seem to be growing as fast as it used to - I haven't needed a haircut for over a year!


Longer chemo curls

Experiment 8

I have decided to try Medium Golden Brown this time.  I have mixed it with Beige Blonde but the Medium Golden Brown clearly dominates.  I am starting to wonder if the Beige and Ash Blonde colours are just not sticking to my chemo hair, whereas the Golden Brown shades both last for weeks.  

I love the new colour and now at 2 weeks after the colouring, it still looks fab.  Will post some pictures soon.  I am getting close to 9 months after the end of chemotherapy and have thick, but still fairly short hair, with lots of chemo curls.  It definitely isn't growing at the half an inch per month rate typically quoted, so no hairdressing bills yet.

In case anyone is having trouble getting hold of the Clairol temporary hair colour (Level 1, notional 6-8 washes), you can order it online at Superdrug (who sometimes have special offers).  I've not found any High St shops that stock it.  Boots used to have their own brand of level 1 hair colour but I've not been able to find it any more.

Update on Experiment 8

I'm afraid I didn't get around to taking photos of this one.  It is now 11 months since the end of chemotherapy and I've not yet renewed the hair colour I put in for Experiment 9.  It more or less lasted 2 months despite being temporary hair colour.  OK, the colour gradually faded with time to a very light gold, but even after two months it is nothing like the chemo white it replaced.

These temporary hair dyes can really do last for ages, in the sense of covering up white or grey hair.  The main issue seems to be that the Medium and Light Golden Brown are really long lasting, but the Beige and Ash ones only last a couple of weeks.  So you are rather limited in colour options.  I've not tried the darker colours so I can't comment on them.

I've been to the hairdressers and had my chemo curls chopped off.  They were getting too long and too unwieldy and had to go.  It had been over 15 months since my last proper haircut.

Experiment 9
This time I used about 80% Beige and 20% Medium Golden Brown, so similar to Experiment 8, but weighted far more towards Beige this time.  The idea is that the Beige component should last a couple of weeks and then the residual Medium Golden Brown (toned down a little with time) would take over.

It looks very nice now, so I will just have see how long it lasts.  It is now just a couple of weeks short of a year since my last chemotherapy treatment.

And here a the pictures taken a couple of weeks later.  This is my hair at 1 year from the last chemotherapy session

Experiment 10
It is 14 months since my last chemo session but I am still staying with the temporary hair colours as I'm reluctant to inflict ammonia or peroxide on my potentially still delicate hair.  

In this experiment, I've used a mixture of the Beige Blonde and the Ash Blonde.  Yes I know the Beige Blonde didn't last very long (based on Experiments 1 and 2) but I'm giving it another go.  Perhaps the Ash Blonde will reduce the fading?  

After one wash, it still looks pretty good.


  1. Many thanks Purple Fox, your blog is inspirational! I too am fed-up with being chemo-white, although thankful to get my hair returning. having read your story I now feel ready to take control of my hair colour.
    Best wishes and good luck.

    1. I'm just glad my photos and commentary have helped others on the same journey. I found blogs very helpful when I was traversing through the more unpleasant phases of my own treatment. Chemo is definitely the worst part!

    2. So thankful for your photos and commentary, found them today as ive been thinking of colouring my hair as finished chemo in August and its salt and pepper grey not very nice and very curly, it is also not growing very fast but i am glad to have it. I was actually looking on the shelves for a colour today and kept picking one up and putting it back as not sure so ended up not buying anything. After reading your blog i think I have the courage now to try something to make me feel like me again. Your hair looks lovely so hope mine will cope as well as yours. Many thanks x

    3. I finished my 5 1/2 months of chemo on Feb 15th. I did not wait to color my hair and finally did it using a salon color (my daughter is a stylist) only 3 weeks after finishing up chemo. However, my hair started growing back several weeks ago. I figured that the worst thing that could happen is that it fell out, right? If that's the case, then it wouldn't take long for it to come back given that I currently only have about 3/4 of an inch! *lol* Also, I kept reading that the best thing you can do when your hair begins to grow is to cut or trim it. I'm telling you now that it's the truth! Like I said, I had 3/4 of an inch and it was scraggly looking. Bald patch in the front, etc. I just went in this morning to have my daughter "trim" my hair and oh what a difference! I went from looking like a recuperating cancer patient to just looking like someone with VERY short hair! Oh...and she used that colored scalp/hair spray for thinning hair and it gave me ALL the confidence in the world! :-)

  2. Brilliant,have finished chemo for 2mths,did cold cap,so have remnants of previous hair,but have the chemo white now. Your blogs have helped so much,thank you.

    1. I'm glad to have helped. I definitely felt better once I put some colour in my hair. The main difference now between before and after is the chemo curls, which I rather like.

  3. Thank You Penny so much for sharing. I finished Herceptin treatment February 14, 2014. I finished rounds of chemo April 2013. I am so ready to dye my hair but I wasn't sure when it would be safe to do so. I didn't know of I counted from my last round of full chemo treatment or after the completion of the Herceptin.

  4. I'm not qualified to advise as I'm only a layperson, I can only say what I did and how it worked for me. I had my last chemo only a month before you (in March 2013). I was on Herceptin for a year - last Herceptin last month. Herceptin didn't seem to affect my hair, so I assumed it wasn't relevant and just counted from the last date of regular chemo. My hair was very soft and fine when it first started growing back, so I waited 3 months before colouring and only used temporary hair colour (Level 1). My understanding is that this is much gentler than Level 2 and 3 dyes as it only coats each hair with dye rather than penetrating deeper into the hair follicle like the more permanent dyes. It also avoids the harsher chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide and ammonia. If you decide to follow a similar approach obviously read the manufacturers instructions and do a test for allergy first like they recommend.

  5. I am having chemo at the moment, for the second time around,I am having the cold cap and this time not lost my hair although it is thinning. my last chemo is beginning of July and I have a very posh wedding to go to at the end of august, really look old with white hair and so want to do something with it for the wedding.I want to dye it but am scared of the it best to do it yourself or visit a saloon??

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      I'm afraid I can't comment on home hair colouring versus getting it done in a salon as I've only done the former. Everyone's hair is different and what worked for me may not work for everyone.

      If you opt for a saloon, it would be worth asking them what sort of hair colour they would use and why. My personal (layperson's) view is that it might be best at this stage to avoid the harsher chemicals involved in permanent and longer lasting semi-permanent hair dyes. This would mean paying professional fees for a temporary hair colour, but for a special occasion like a wedding the benefits of professional expertise from a good saloon might well make the expense worthwhile.

      Sorry I can't give a more definitive answer.

    2. Today I am going to dye my hair for the first time after finishing chemo. I am glad you shared your pictures. It was fascinating to see the progress step by step . thank you for sharing.

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  8. Very interesting article - would be interested to see what your hair is like now, starting chemo this week. Lucy

    1. My hair is back to normal now. Dont worry - you will get through the chemo and you hair will grow back!

  9. thank you for sharing your story

  10. Thanks. I'm glad you found it helpful

  11. Hi Penny. Thanks for a useful blog. I have just started CMF chemo which I'm told will not result in complete hair loss, maybe just a little thinning.
    I usually use hair dye to cover my grey hair.
    Do you know of anyone who has used the Level 1 dyes you mention to avoid reverting to grey during the chemotherapy?

  12. thankyou for sharing your story im going to use level one on my hair thanks for the advice xx

  13. Thanks for sharing. I was dreading losing my hair with RCHOPS but it happened and I got through it - finished chemo Jan 2015 and hair now 9 months long and very nice and Grey - i desperately need to colour it but I am on Rituximab maintenance for 2 years- although that has no affect on hair now. I had long highlighted hair prior to losing it and am toying with idea or highlighting again. As mentioned in previous post everybody says 6 months after last chemo but different consultants have different opinons on that too. Anybody out there highlighted their hair without it falling out again? Thanks in advance for any help x

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  19. Thank you so much for sharing! My hair is still at the fuzz stage, but I can tell a difference nearly every day. It was great seeing your pictures and getting an idea on what to expect as far as growth. I am looking forward to dyeing my hair, and it is nice to see that I can do it without destroying it.

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  21. Your hair looks great! However, the blog is old so you may look different now. I'm going through the post-chemo 'what shall I do with it' phase at the moment with my hair...

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  24. What do you think of coloring with henna. I tried regular permanent hair color eith no change...white hair still. Really want my hair color back

  25. Your post is so helpful, thank you!! I love the pictures you've taken and the colors you tried. You looked fabulous from The beginning and its so great to see the stages and that your hair grew back so lovely! I am 2 months out of chemo, 1 month out from surgery amd never completely lost my hair and didn't get
    The peach fuzz but grown back more dark brown and silver/white color. I figure I need another month if growth to color but maybe I will try sooner just to give me a little beauty "boost" �� Jenna

  26. Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm 4 months out of chemo and 6 weeks out of radiation. I hate my wig - it feels like a winter hat. I'm going to look for a gentle hair color and hope for the best!!!

  27. I too want to add my thanks for your very thorough and inspirational blog! I am four months past chemo, my hair is fair/white and feeling sparse, and I have been wondering if colour would help to make it look less patchy, so that I could ditch my wig. Based on your pictures and explanations, you have me convinced to try a rinse! We are going through crazy hot weather at the end of September, and my wig is just TOO MUCH. I hope you are well. Thank you again.

  28. Thank you for your willingness to share your photos/experiment results. I'm 7 mos out from Chemo. I have a pixie length of brown & white hair. I realized my short hair is due to the hormone blocker I have take for the next 5 years. I'm inspired to try a Level 1, Light Golden brown rinse.

  29. I didn't lose my hair as I wore the cold cap - I do think though that while I have retained my hair that it has thinned a little and being as it wasn't thick in the first place, this is not good. I didn't colour my hair for a good few weeks before chemo and it is coming up to three weeks post-chemo and my hair is faded out with the usual greyer/whiter bits around the edges (near ears and forehead). Despite not losing my hair as such I am a little wary of putting a colour on it - usually use the 28 wash semi-permanent. Thank you for bringing Level 1 colours to my attention - I can't say that I have ever noticed them on the shelves. I will now go and have a look as I am wary of using anything too strong.

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