I had long hair until two weeks ago. I had donated my hair once
before but the hair salon was collecting the hair for a large
contribution and I didn't know where the hair would be going. This
time instead of letting the locks pile onto the ground as usual my
stylist carefully braided the back of my hair before cutting it.
She placed the hair in a bag for me to ship off to the organization
of my choosing.
This is when the research began. Locks of Love is the most
well-known hair donation foundation in the United States,
receiving nearly double the amount of hair annually as Pantene
Beautiful Lengths program. However, it has some disconcerting
business practices that surfaced in 2013 when Nonprofit Investor
(NPI) did an investigation. You can read the full report here, but the
gist is that Locks of Love has $6 million in hair donations
unaccounted for annually, or 91 percent of the total amount
Locks of Love has been transparent regarding the fact that the
majority of donations, 80 percent, are
unusable. The organization has also disclosed that it
sells some of this less than satisfactory hair. However, the
organization says it does not count how much hair is sold for
profit or to offset production cost. NPI research, however,
revealed that Locks of Love receives a reported 104,000 donations
annually and it can take up to 10 pieces to create a wig for one
child. This would mean that the organization should be cranking out
somewhere close to 2,080 hairpieces per year. But in reviewing
records from 2011, NPI found that only 317 were produced.
Once a hairpiece is created, parents are required to submit
their child's medical diagnoses, photos, their most recent tax
return, and two formal letters of recommendation. Frequently and
unbeknownst to donors, patients with
cancer are rejected due to their hair loss being deemed
"short-term." Moreover, families often have to pay for these wigs.
Locks of Love states on its website that hairpieces sell "on a sliding scale based on
the financial need of those responsible for the children." The
average monthly cost for cancer care is
$10,000, but can exceed $30,000, so it's safe to say that the
cost of cancer treatment is a burden for many people.
If any of this information has you a little hesitant to donate,
know that there are plenty of alternative organizations to which
you can donate your hair.
Beautiful Lengths specifically provides wigs to the
American Cancer Society's wig program and was estimated by the
NPI report to make wigs with a seventeenth of
the needed donations as Locks of Love. Specific requirements
are determined by the local chapter.
Children with Hair
Loss provides wigs to young patients (younger than age 21) in
Michigan at no cost. The organization started with a cancer-based
focus but has since spread to other indications causing hair loss.
An application is required with standard supporting
Wigs 4 Kids
provides hairpieces to children younger than age 18 with hair loss
for a variety of circumstances, including disease-related alopecia
and burns. This is done at no cost to the patient, but requires a
physician referral and before and after photos with the wigs (which
is great because they're adorable).
Wigs for Kids requires
physician referrals, insurance information, a cranial prosthesis
prescription, and for patients to work with the Wigs for
Kids-sponsored salon personally; however, this involvement results
in a completely free hairpiece anywhere across the country.
Angel Hair for Kids is sponsored by
the A Child's Voice Foundation and is focused on helping
financially disadvantageous children in Canada. It provides free
wigs to patients upon physician or social worker
If your hair is not long enough to donate to these programs or
for any other reason is not qualified, you can also sell your hair
(then hopefully donate the funds) or send clippings to Matter of
Trust, an ecological nonprofit foundation for the Clean Wave
program. The Clean Wave program uses donated hair and other
fibrous materials to absorb the oil in contaminated waterways and
has been used in such instances as the
Gulf oil spill in 2010. Four-legged friends can also
participate in this one.*