Do you feel charitable but want to make a donation that is tangible and makes an immediate difference?
Consider donating your hair. Yes, you can donate your hair, but it is an often-overlooked form of donation that requires more research than locating your nearest donation box. 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 may not mimic the look of real hair. For children struggling with chemotherapy hair loss or alopecia, synthetic wigs may not be available for their smaller heads.
So, some organizations began using natural hair to address these problems., especially for children and teens. Locks of Love particularly promotes natural hair wigs for kids because they can be adapted to a child's life active lifestyle.
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 10 to 12 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 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.
Top hair donation organizations 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.
Locks of Love
Locks of Love may be 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 several thousand locks a week, making theirs the largest hair donation collection center. Find more information about Locks of Love donations here.
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.” They do not outsource their wig creation to manufacturers, and the wigs are designed for high levels of activity,
Wigs for Kids require hair donations to be at least 12 inches in length. See Wigs for Kids’ other donation requests and where to ship donations.
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, such as burns, that prevent hair regrowth. Hair We Share has some “donation salons” across the United States that properly cut and ship hair. Acceptable hair must be at least 12 inches long and not dyed or bleached. You can also cut and send your hair, but do check out the process first. They also offer a unique “Track Your Ponytail” program so that donors can see exactly what their donation is doing.
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 2019, they donated 608 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.
Many hair donations are discarded each year because they do not meet the proper criteria.
To ensure your donation arrives safely and is accepted, know the proper way to donate to the organization of your choice.
Research hair donation organizations to find the right fit for your hair.
Make sure your hair donation meets an organization's specifications.
Submit hair that is healthy, trimmed, clean, dry, and at least 8 inches long.
Follow shipping instructions exactly.
Assume an organization accepts dyed, gray, or too short hair.
Mix hair from multiple people.
Send hair that appears unhealthy and is unwashed.
Send hair from different people in one shipment.
The most important items to remember are:
- DO trim your ends before starting to cut your hair for donations. As you can see, most organizations require at least eight 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 it is shipped, as 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.
- 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 since 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?