Is it safe to color hair after cancer?

Every day people are exposed to chemicals that are toxic to our system, and radiation that is connected to the risk of breast cancer. The beauty products we use on a daily basis expose us to that risk. The risk of becoming allergic or sick. Therefore, it is very close to our hearts at NATULIQUE to raise awareness in the salon industry, and avoid all of the toxic chemicals in our products.

Originally posted: Jun 12, 2017
Updated: Oct 28, 2021

A Topic Close to Our Hearts

Mette Lykkegaard, one of two founders of NATULIQUE, was 28 years old when the doctors found a lump in her breast. Mette and her family had always been living a healthy life. So she was in shock when she got the bad news.

But how do we define what healthy living means? Is it when you don’t smoke and don’t drink alcohol? Is it when you exercise often? Or when you eat healthy and organic? No one can define what a healthy life means to you. We would like to tell you about what we at NATULIQUE think is essential to a healthy lifestyle.

colouring hair post cancer

Mette Lykkegaard, Co-Founder NATULIQUE

Safe Hair Colors after Cancer

Many people color their hair, but is it safe to color your hair after cancer?

You may have heard the rumors about a link between hair color and cancer. Let’s make it clear that there is no concrete proof that this is true. Studies have looked at the possible risk for cancer related to hair colors. Here, we will discuss what the research has shown, and how you can minimise your exposure to chemicals.

How Am I Exposed to Chemicals During Hair Coloring?

Hair colors containing ammonia will expose you to chemicals in different ways. Some chemicals in hair colors can be absorbed in small amounts through your skin. Some can be inhaled from the fumes in the air.

Hairdressers who work with hair color as a part of their job, are exposed to a higher amount of chemicals. The risks related to ammonia does therefore not only affect the clients, but especially the hairdressers touching and inhaling the hair colors all day every day.

You can read more about ammonia-free hair color here.

Safe hair colors after cancer

What Do the Studies Show?

Researchers who study hair color and cancer are looking for ingredients that are carcinogenic. This means that the ingredient causes cancer and helps cancer grow. Of course we would like to avoid this type of ingredients in our hair colors!

The chemicals found in most hair dyes that you should avoid are:

  • PPD (P-phenylenediamine)
  • PTD (toluene-2,5-diamine)
  • Hydrogene Peroxide

  • Ammonia

  • Parabens

  • Resorcinol

  • Lead Acetate

  • DMDM Hydantoin

Most studies measure how, why and what happens when someone is exposed to chemicals and toxic ingredients like Carcinogen. But no study has yet provided enough evidence on its own.

Studying hair colors is very complex, because not all hair colors are the same and they contain many different chemicals. Hair colors have also changed a lot over time, which does not make it easier to keep track as a researcher. Early hair colors (1970-1980s) contained far more chemicals than today. Luckily, the industry is removing more and more chemicals!

safe hair colors after cancer

Changes in Your Hair After Cancer

Did you know that your hair can change after cancer treatment? It actually can! Some people experience thinner hair after going through chemotherapy, and some experience changes in texture. This can actually result in your hair going curly (known as ‘chemo-curls’)!

Your hair is usually affected to some degree by chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. You can possibly experience change in hair color after cancer treatment, including grey hair.

All of these changes affect your hair’s condition. As a result of this your hair might be more fragile and will probably need special care. A great product for giving your hair a nourishing treatment is the NATULIQUE Nourishing Hair Cream.

Witnessing these changes in your hair, can be one of the difficult side effects to having cancer treatment. We truly understand your frustration!

Our hair is part of our unique identity, as it is one of the first things you notice about someone.

That’s why we at NATULIQUE believe it is so important to take extra good care of your hair, as it begins to regrow.

The Link Between Hair Color and Cancer

Is there a link between hair color and cancer? The studies show that there is potentially a link between some ingredients in hair color and the risk of cancer, but there is not enough evidence for a definitive conclusion.

The studies on hair colors that can increase the risk of cancer have focused on specific types of cancer such as bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukaemia and breast cancer. The people who were studied are people who color their hair regularly, and people who are exposed to them at work.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). It is their major goal to identify causes of cancer. IARC has concluded that workplace exposure as a hairdresser is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” based on data from cancer studies about bladder cancer.

Studies on the Topic

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is made up of different US government agencies.

This includes the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The NTP has not classified exposure to hair colors as potential to cause cancer.

So what does this mean – that two different experts say two different things? One argues for a link between hair color and cancer, and one does not.

Taking no chances

Here at NATULIQUE we take no chances!

Therefore, we are proud to be both with organic ingredients and with few chemicals. Does this make our colors safe for cancer patients: We would not recommend it. While there is no evidence to colors causing cancer and various experts are divided on the topic, the believe that you should stick to your true self and your true colour while battling something as serious as cancer.

If you or your clients are lucky enough to get through and become cancer-free, we do recommend consulting your doctor on how to approach hair coloring moving forward, but when you do, choose a color with less PPD and or PTD.

On the similar topic: Did you know being a green hairdresser minimises the risk of developing allergies and other diseases?
Read more about NATULIQUE Natural Hair Colors here.

Coloring Hair After Cancer

As long as your hair and scalp are healthy, and you do an allergy test, there is no specific length required for using hair color. However, we at NATULIQUE recommend that you allow at least an inch of hair to grow before coloring it. This is so you can be sure that the hair is of good quality.

Also, NEVER color your hair during or after cancer treatment without explicit permission from your doctor. The general rule is to wait at least six months before using hair dye on your hair, after you’ve finished treatment.

Hair Color Allergy Test

Even though the NATULIQUE colors are made from natural ingredients and are 100% ammonia-free, you should always do a patch test to ensure that you are not allergic to it. Doing a patch allergy test is very easy.

Techniques for Coloring Hair After Cancer

It can be difficult to color hair after cancer. As a hairdresser, you have several coloring techniques at your disposal. You might however find it difficult to color very short hair. When coloring 1-2 inches, the easiest technique is all over color. You can apply this to almost any length of hair.

Applying highlights in short hair can be even more difficult, but if you use a tint brush or a fine tail comb, this should make the job easier.

If you want to do foils make sure that the hair is at least 1.5 inches otherwise this may be impossible.


So let’s do a summary of the things we know:

Coloring hair after cancer is tricky business. You should stay away from hair coloring during your cancer battle for sure. When you’ve been declared cancer-free, wait at least 6 months before coloring your hair. This ensures your hair is of both a suitable length and condition for coloring treatments.

When coloring your hair, go for hair colors that contain low to no PPD and/or PTD. This way you’re minimising your exposure to harsh chemicals while coloring your hair.

The NATULIQUE Natural Hair Colours are great, however full transparency: We use a low amount of PPD in our colours. If you are looking for an PTD alternative, the NATULIQUE ZERO range is a good place to start.

Before coloring your full hair, you should perform an allergy patch test: This is best done by applying a small amount of the color mixture behind your ear. Wait 48 hours to see whether or not you get an allergic reaction. You can of course wash the mixture off after normal treatment time, so DON’T leave it on for the 48 hours.

And there you have it! We hope you’ve found this information useful. For more information you can read more of our blogs here!

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