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There's washing a man right out of your hair -- and then there's Sarah Harding's new 'do. Not for Sarah is the age-old routine of crying into a tub of Ben & Jerry's after splitting with her fiance Tom Crane. The Girls Aloud star caused a commotion at London Fashion Week when she debuted a fiery and entirely glamorous new hairstyle. The colour? A very don't-mess-with-me shade of red. Predictably, the new-look Sarah has become the talk of Fashion Week, oozing glamour and fresh confidence.

It's a time-honoured ritual, and one that has been used to wily effect by many a celebrity before her. Yvonne Keating swapped her blonde tresses for bright red after she and hubby Ronan went through their marital difficulties last year.

Hollywood starlet Lindsay Lohan has always been a chameleon, yet, after breaking up with Samantha Ronson, blonde Lohan went back to her red colour before getting a new tattoo at the Shamrock Social Club in West Hollywood.

In March of this year, after breaking up with model Louis Dowler, Kate Winslet debuted an eye-catching new hairstyle on the cover of British Vogue. Gone were the long buttery highlights that have become her trademark; instead, the actress was sporting a platinum blonde pixie crop.

Emma Watson tried a shorter new look out after splitting from her Burberry-model boyfriend George Craig last year. In Emma's case, the elfin style turned her into a couture muse.

Kelly Osbourne, another star fond of a chop and change, decided on slightly less drastic action after dumping fiance Luke Worrall last year. Kelly ditched the grungy style, lost a staggering 50 pounds in 18 months, opted for a grown-up hairstyle and vintage wardrobe and never looked back.

Kelly's one-time nemesis, Christina Aguilera, decided on a similar tactic when she broke up with her husband, Jordan Bratman. When Christina married the record producer in 2005, she was a fierce advocate of stripper chic, yet toned down her image when she became a mum. After announcing her marriage split last year, the old Xtina was back, complete with hair extensions and figure-hugging dresses.

Others prefer a more subtle makeover, making do instead with a wardrobe clearout. Reese Witherspoon followed the advice of Nina Ricci designer Olivier Theyskens and went for a new look when she split from hubby Ryan Phillipe in 2007: "I've used a stylist before, but these days I'm kind of just going with Olivier's taste," she said at the time. "At the Golden Globes this year I felt like I looked different than I've ever looked." The transformation was hard to ignore, as Reese went from girl next door to flaxen-haired siren.

Earlier this year, Jennifer Lopez is also thought to have begun experimenting with her style since separating from Marc Anthony, who allegedly didn't like his wife to wear revealing outfits. One source hinted that J-Lo has dropped €20,000 on new designer gear.

Quite apart from those who decide on a revamp, there are those who get sexier after a split through the heartbreak diet.


Charlotte Church went from mumsy to wowza last October after splitting from Gavin Henson after dropping a dress size and opting for flame-coloured tresses.

And before mum-of-four Kerry Katona ditched her husband, Mark Croft, in February 2010, she was a 'slummy mummy' personified, appearing to exist on a diet of takeaways and booze. Yet after her marriage break-up, Kerry lost an impressive three stone before undergoing the mother of all makeovers . . . both inside and out.

However, they all pale in comparison to the spectacular change-up that Rihanna orchestrated after breaking up with bad lad Chris Brown. When Brown's post-Grammys assault on Rihanna hit headlines, the star went off-radar for a few months to heal and regroup. And when she re-emerged Rihanna was virtually unrecognisable from the sweet starlet she once was, with her new image hinting that she was a force to be reckoned with. She began experimenting with her style after the break-up in 2009, going from sweet pop princess to a tattooed bombshell. Out went the cute crop, and in came her fiery red mane.

We're beginning to see a pattern of sorts emerging here.

"Red hair is a very strong statement," agrees Peter Mark creative director Gary Kavanagh. "It's a way of saying, 'look at me, I'll be fine'. Something extreme has happened to a woman who has gone through a break-up so her attitude is 'to hell with it'. And bright copper is definitely one shade that they ask for."

Of course, the reasons for a post-split makeover are plentiful. Firstly, it signifies the closing of one chapter and opening of another. It's a way of putting love woes firmly in the past. Chopping off one's hair signifies the ridding of emotional baggage (that's why there are so many tears on America's Next Top Model). It shows you're single and ready to mingle. And perhaps most significantly of all, it shows him just what he's missing.

A new haircut or wardrobe is as good a symbol as any of your comeback to the singles scene. And, sometimes it takes the jolt of a break-up to provide the impetus you need to build the body you always wanted.

"When you have been in a relationship that doesn't serve you, you can undergo confusion as to your identity, 'Who am I really?' 'What do I want out of life?'" asserts life coach Judymay Murphy. "Makeovers allow you to realign with your own preferences while also reminding you that you are empowered to make choices and changes in all areas of your life. As such, it goes much deeper than the lipstick layer."


Adds Kavanagh: "When ladies come in looking for a new look, they are almost always reacting to something going on in their personal life.

"They're down in the dumps so they want to jolt themselves out of it by doing something drastic. They want a new start, and they want to bump into their ex looking their best. They want him to think he's made a big mistake."

However, any women who are bruised of heart and crushed of spirit should proceed with caution: "You really do have to be careful as it's often a knee-jerk reaction to something, and you can sometimes regret it. Do it for a good reason, not just because of something negative happening to you. And whatever you do, don't go to the chemist and pick a colour up off the shelf. Go to a hairdresser like Peter Mark, where we can give you a free consultation. Very often I tell women to sleep on the decision for a few days and then get back to me."

And, once the decision to fashion a change is finally made, be prepared to make an impact.

"When I saw Sarah Harding's new look I didn't recognise her straightaway, but I loved it," admits Gary. "It was pretty outrageous, but she's sending out a very strong statement . . . that whatever happens, she'll be fine, and that she's more than ready for a new start."