Norwich eco hairdresser set up after breast cancer battle up for green award

A hairdresser who battled breast cancer has fought back by building the city's greenest beauty salon and is now in the running for an eco award.

Sue Helps, a hairdresser of 30 years, was diagnosed with the cancer in 2008 when tumours the size of golf balls appeared in her breast.

Her mum had died from the illness in 2001 aged 67.

The 46-year-old surprised doctors at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital with the amount of chemical build up in her breast tissue.

She claims that chemicals from hair products could have built up in her body through her years of working in salons.

And Mrs Helps' fears over toxins prompted her to build a green hairdressing business.

The popular FresHair Beauty Barbers 2 on Avenue Road in the Golden Triangle is now going strong and Mrs Helps puts its success down to using organic products.

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'We just try to do our little bit,' she said. 'I think because of what I have been through I started noticing what we have around us. Nature costs nothing and we have to protect it.'

Mrs Helps, who has been a hairdresser since she was 15, had her right breast removed at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, but needed more surgery because the cancer was spreading towards her lungs.

During six months of chemotherapy she lost her hair.

'It all happened so quickly,' she said. 'I found this massive great lump and I thought, oh my god'.'

Soon after having chemotherapy the former City of Norwich School pupil spotted the shop on Avenue Road and decided to go back into business in March 2010.

And her business, which employees four people, has now entered this year's Eco awards which are organised by Norwich City Council and supported by the Evening News.

The hairdressers uses energy efficient hair dryers made from recycled materials, they recycle as much of their waste as possible, use low energy lightbulbs and toxin free, Fairtrade hair products.

Do you have a story about the environment for the Evening News? Contact reporter Tom Bristow on 01603772313 or email