Best Places to Donate Hair (Including Locks of Love) and How to Do It
A Donation in Plain Sight
More than half of all Americans donate clothing, food or other personal items. In recent years, over $390 billion was donated to charitable organizations, and nearly seven million people gave blood. When it comes to “traditional” forms of giving, we seem to have it down.
However, what about other forms of donation that we do not often consider?
Hair donation is an often-overlooked form of donation that requires more research than locating your nearest donation box. However, it is also a donation that could make a huge difference for women and children with cancer, medical conditions, or trauma resulting in hair loss.
Why Should You Donate Hair?
Whether someone loses hair from chemotherapy or as a result of a condition called alopecia (absence of hair), it affects more than just their appearance. In fact, studies show that losing hair during cancer treatments makes patients feel sicker and affects their self-esteem drastically. People with naturally-occurring or chemo-induced alopecia have higher levels of anxiety and depression, lower self-esteem, and poor body image—just to name a few.
The traditional solution was synthetic wigs, built from human-made fibers. These wigs are readily available but, unfortunately, are often stiff and do not mimic the look of real hair. For children struggling with chemotherapy hair loss or alopecia, synthetic wigs are also not made for their smaller heads. As one might expect, the downsides to synthetic wigs do not always boost feelings of wellness or confidence in people who wear them.
So, organizations began using natural hair to address these problems.
Natural hair donations allow for a broader range of real hair colors and textures, and real hair wigs are much more life-like. This means a person’s wig will have a natural feel to it, the strands will lay like normal hair, and wearers can even style the wig with accessories. All of this would be more difficult to achieve with synthetic wigs. In some cases, these real hair wigs are custom-made for patients through an organization, making donations even more important and unique.
Unfortunately, one hair donation does not create one wig, which is why higher volumes of hair donations are needed. In fact, according to Locks of Love, it takes 8 to 10 ponytails to make one wig. This is why donating those long locks is so important; the more healthy hair that is donated, the more women and children can regain confidence as they fight their battles.
However, part of the hair donation process is knowing exactly which organization will accept your hair, and how they will use it.
Best Organizations for Hair Donation
Locks of Love is one organization synonymous with hair donation, but it is the not the only one you can choose to support. In fact, you may find that a Locks of Love donation is not the right fit for your hair, so it is essential to do your research.
The top six hair donation organizations, as far as popularity and impact, include:
These are not the only options for hair donations, but they are national donor organizations, which means you can donate from anywhere. If you want to make a local impact, you can search for local hair donation organizations or drives, or ask your local cancer chapter how best to donate.
Locks of Love
Locks of Love is by far the most popular hair donation organization. Since 1997, Locks of Love has made hundreds of wigs, or “prostheses” as they call them, each year. This organization creates wigs from real hair specifically for children to address issues with “traditional” wigs that are too large, too rough and not offered in children’s styles.
The organization receives over 2,000 locks a week, making theirs the largest hair donation collection center. Find more information about Locks of Love donations here.
Pantene Beautiful Lengths
Established in 2006, Pantene has collected over 800,000 locks of hair used to make real hair wigs for women battling cancer. Pantene has donated over 42,000 wigs to the American Cancer Society Wig Bank, making it easier for women in need of free wigs to find them. To give hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, read more about their donation process.
Find a list of American Cancer Society wig bank locations near you.
Wigs for Kids
Founded in 1981, Wigs for Kids is one of the longest-running hair donation organizations in the U.S. Founded by Jeffrey Paul and his wife, the organization has developed wigs for kids that can “withstand typical kid activities.” Because they do not outsource their wig creation to manufacturers, and because the wigs are designed for high levels of activity, Wigs for Kids needs 20 to 30 ponytails to create a wig.
They also require hair donations to be at least 12 inches in length. See Wigs for Kids’ other donation requests and where to ship donations.
Childhood Leukemia Foundation
Through their Hugs U Wear program, the Child Leukemia Foundation works with over 160 hospitals across the country to provide 100 percent human hair wigs to children. The organization offers these wigs free of charge to the patients, and also include kid-sized hats they call “hugs you wear.” For details on hair donation, check out the Childhood Leukemia Foundation’s hair donation form.
Hair We Share
Founded in 2014, Hair We Share donates real hair wigs to children under 18 and adults facing financial hardships. Most wigs go to people who have medical conditions or chemo-related hair loss, or who have experienced trauma (like burns) that prevent hair regrowth. Hair We Share has some “donation salons” across the U.S. that properly cut and ship hair. They also offer a unique “Track Your Ponytail” program so that donors can see exactly what their donation is doing. See their full hair donation process here.
Children With Hair Loss
Since 2000, Children With Hair Loss has gifted real hair wigs to children and young adults facing medically-related hair loss. In 2016, they donated 528 wigs to children all over the U.S. Their wigs also come with a “care kit” so that children can maintain their wigs for many years. Children With Hair Loss also has an extensive list of salon partners that make it easy for donors to cut and donate their hair.
The General Do’s and Don’ts of Hair Donation
Most organizations have relatively strict rules when it comes to donating hair. You want your donation to make a difference, so it is important to follow the rules. Thousands of Locks of Love donations get thrown away each year because they do not meet criteria.
The most important things to remember are:
- DO trim your ends before starting to cut your hair for donations. As you can see, most organizations require at least 8 inches of healthy hair to use for wigs. This does not include inches of dead or split ends so make sure you have a nice, clean cut before you start chopping!
- DO clean and dry your hair thoroughly. Avoid styling products and make sure the hair is not even a little bit wet before you ship it (it molds).
- DO follow the shipping directions exactly. Some organizations may require a zipper bag, two ties or other shipping requirements so pay close attention.
- DO visit a donation salon if you can find one. Just search “hair donation salon near me” to see what pops up. They will know precisely how to part, tie off and cut your hair to match their organization’s requirements.
- DON’T assume organizations will take dyed hair. Some of the ones listed above will accept dyed hair, but not highlighted hair, while others will only accept hair that hasn’t been altered in any way.
- DON’T send gray hair ponytails unless the organization allows them. As far as the list above, the only organization that explicitly allows gray hair ponytails is Children With Hair Loss.
- DON’T mix ponytails from multiple people. It makes it easier for organizations to sort donated hair if it is all in individual envelopes. Fill out forms for each person who donates, even if they are in the same house, and ship them separately.
Giving the Gift of Confidence
There are few more personal forms of donation than donating your hair. While it may take time to see the direct impact of your contribution (most ponytails go through three to four months of processing), the result is a beautiful wig for a woman or child. These natural hair wigs increase confidence, help patients suffering from illness feel better and allow the wearers to lead active lives. What’s more special than that?