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How to Donate Your Hair
Hair donation organizations and tips
There's been a lot of publicity over the past few years related to hair donation, including Hillary Swank's highly public hair cut on Oprah and Penn Jillette's pony-tail chopping. Before you take the plunge and donate your hair, however, make sure you do your homework in choosing a charity, take great care of your hair and have lots of patience!! Hair only grows about half an inch a month, so it takes a while to get those eight-12 inches needed to donate.
I decided to grow my hair out to donate to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program myself. Forty was approaching and the plan was to chop my hair off when I hit that milestone. (First time was Memorial Day weekend 2009! Love my new do!) The program appeals to me because it gives away the hairpieces, and it's the only one I've found that supports adult women. (Of which I am one!) But my sister-in-law and nieces made donations to Locks of Love with their church. You have to pick the one that speaks to you.
Hair Donation in Three Steps
It's just that simple to donate your hair
This lens has a lot of information related to donating hair, but the whole process boils down to three easy steps:
Choose your charity to donate your hair to. You'll find a lot of options and you might pick based on who the charity helps. Or just on the amount of hair you have to give. But do your homework and choose wisely, based on why you want to donate.
Grow your hair to the required length. This means taking care of your hair and yourself so it's as healthy as possible. Remember, hair only grows about half an inch a month, so this is quite a commitment!
Make the cut!! You can do it at home or have your stylist do it for you. Just be sure to follow all the directions given by your chosen charity. If you don't, they might not be able to use it and all your hard work (and heart) will have been for nothing.
Made the cut May 24! Looking forward to enjoying short hair for the summer!
Do You Really Want to Donate? - Make sure you're ready before you step up to the scissors!!
Hair is something both personal and emotional for many of us. Which explains why charities that give or discount wigs for children and adults who lose their hair because of cancer and other disease have such appeal. But make sure you're giving up your hair for the right reasons and to the right place to make those reasons valid.
Once you're sure you want to donate your hair, do your homework. Make sure you understand how the hair will be used, who will benefit and the requirements for making a donation. This is a big decision and you don't want to have donor's remorse later. And don't let anyone pressure you into cutting your hair if you change your mind. You'll find many of the organizations will be just as happy with your check as your hair (if not happier!).
Photo Credit: wht_wolf9653 on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons License - CC BY-SA 2.0.
Are you ready to donate your hair?
Hair Donation: Step One - Choose a group to give to and learn the guidelines
You probably have some specific and personal reasons for wanting to donate your hair. Maybe you had a relative with cancer and got to see first hand the personal side to hair loss. Maybe you are just planning to make a big style change and want your hair to do something better than take up space in the trash. Whatever your reason, step one in making that donation is deciding where to donate.
There are several organizations that take donated hair. Most use the hair to make wigs for children with some sort of hair loss, although there is one group that gives to adults and another that uses hair for mats rather than wigs. Make sure you do your homework on any organization before making a decision. Check to make sure their mission resonates with your personal reasons for wanting give.
Once you've decided what group you want to give to, check their guidelines to make sure your hair's long enough and that it's in appropriate condition to donate. This is critical to make sure your donation is usable.
Pantene Beautiful Lengths
Pantene Beautiful Lengths was created to bring people together to share their strength and donate their beautiful, healthy hair to create free wigs for women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment.
The Entertainment Industry Foundation and the American Cancer Society have teamed up to distribute the Pantene Beautiful Lengths real-hair wigs for cancer patients around the nation. While this program aims to assist as many cancer patients as possible, ultimately the number of free wigs that become available will depend entirely on the number of ponytail donations received.
As Pantene Beautiful Lengths wigs are created, they are distributed for free through select American Cancer Society wig banks across the country.
Benefits: Women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment
- Minimum of 8 inches long
- Wavy/curly hair texture is fine-you may straighten hair to measure
- Hair should be freshly washed and completely dry, without any styling products
- Hair may be colored with vegetable dyes, rinses and semi-permanent dyes. It cannot be bleached, permanently colored or chemically treated
- Hair may not be more than 5 percent gray
Wigs for Kids
Since the organization began, Wigs for Kids has provided thousands of children with complimentary, custom-made hairpieces to help them look themselves, so they can enter back into the world without the ridicule and embarrassment associated with hair loss.
Benefits: Children who have lost hair as a result of chemotherapy, radiation treatments, alopecia, burns, or other medical circumstances
- Hair must be clean and dry.
- Hair that has been cut and saved is suitable for donations.
- Requested minimum length of hair donation is 12+ inches. (Pull curly hair straight to measure.) They will accept ponytails as short as 10 inches but definitely nothing shorter.
- Gray hair is acceptable, but hair that has been chemically processed - permed, colored or highlighted - is not
More information on their website:
One in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in her lifetime and nearly 60% of women regard hair loss as the single worst side effect of cancer treatment.
Locks of Love
Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.
Benefits: Financially disadvantaged children 18 and younger with medical hair loss
- Hair must be at least 10 inches (preferably 12") in length
- Hair must be free of bleach. Colored hair and permed is acceptable.
- Hair must be clean and dry
- Hair cut years ago is usable if it has been stored in a ponytail or braid.
- Hair that has been bleached (usually this refers to highlighted hair) is not usable. If unsure, ask your stylist.
- Cannot accept dreadlocks. Also cannot accept wigs, falls, hair extensions or synthetic hair.
- Layered hair is acceptable if the longest layer is 10 inches.
- Layered hair may be divided into multiple ponytails.
- Curly hair may be pulled straight to measure the minimum 10 inches.
- Gray hair will be accepted and sold to offset the manufacturing costs.
Children with Hair Loss
Created as a resource for all children who have medically related hair loss. Mission is to empower these children to become whole again by making hair available to those who may be financially challenged and might otherwise not have a means of obtaining the hair they want and need.
Benefits: Children under age 21 experiencing hair loss due to a documented medical condition
- Hair should be at least 8 inches in length; longer is preferred.
- Hair must be clean and pony-tailed or braided (this keeps the hair in one direction).
- Non-chemically treated hair is preferred (but any hair in good condition will be accepted).
- Gray hair is accepted.
There are more than 370,000 hair salons in the US and each cut about one pound of hair a day!
Childhood Leukemia Foundation
The Childhood Leukemia Foundation is a national non-profit organization that offers a wide range of services at no charge to children living with cancer and their families. Our goal is to make sure children battling cancer know they are not alone.
CLF provides thousands of custom made, 100% human hair wigs with kid-friendly hats (Hugs-U-Wear) to children around the country. Each custom-made hat/hair headpiece costs $150, an expense many families strapped by ongoing cancer-care cannot afford and which isn't covered by insurance.
Benefits: Girls who have suffered hair loss due to a variety of cancer treatments
- At least 12" in length (curly hair can be pulled straight to measure 12")
- Chemically untreated from permanents or hair dye.
- Do not accept gray hair (not suitable for children)
Angel Hair for Kids
This organization is focused on kids in Canada and is a program of A Child's Voice Foundation there. They budget $800-$1000 to cover manufacturing and related costs for each hairpiece, so encourage cash donations as well as hair.
Don't confuse this one with the Angel Hair Foundation (listed below), which is solely focused on the state of Oregon. I found searching for info the Canada group that the Oregon group came up a lot in the results.
Benefits: Financially disadvantaged children in Canada who have lost hair due to a variety of medical conditions or treatments
- Minimum of 12" in length
- Hair must not be chemically treated or processed
- Download complete set of guidelines
Wig Fund is quite a bit different from the other hair donation organizations, so make sure you understand just what you're giving to here. Rather than a non-profit that takes the hair to make wigs for random people, with Wig Fund, you're giving your hair (or money) to a specific individual.
There weren't a lot of funds set up when I went to take a peek, but note that there was one that was taking gray hair for donation. Many of the funds seem to be looking for cash rather than hair, but you might find a person you'd like to send your hair too if you poke around. This is definitely the way to go if you want to give your hair to a family member or just know exactly who is getting your hair.
The hair is collected by a wig maker, which then makes a custom wig for the recipient.
Benefits: Any individual who sets up a fund to accept donations of hair and cash to get a wig
- Only guidelines I could find related to selling your hair to the wig maker
- Some funds listed specifics for their hair donations
Regional and International Organizations
In doing some searching, I did find a lot of organizations that accept hair donations outside the US or for specific regions. I've listed some of the ones I've found here for your information. As always, pay close attention to the details of how they use the hair and who gets the hairpieces.
- Location: New Zealand
- They will pay you for your hair or you can donate money.
- Hair must be over 14" to sell. Less than 14" can be donated
- Wigs are sold at subsidized rates in New Zealand and around the world via independent resellers.
- Location: UK and Ireland
- Specify that they do wigs for boys and girls
- They accept hair that normally can't be donated, but note that the hair doesn't necessarily end up in a wig. All donated hair is sent to China to be made into wigs, just not necessarily wigs for the trust. The trust receives wigs back in payment for the hair.
- Wigs are provided for free to children.
- Location: Lebannon
- Accept a little gray, but standards for donation are typical for other donations.
- Group is involved in education for women on breast cancer
- Specifically focused on adult women
- Location: Oregon, USA
- Focused on hairpieces for kids in oregon
- They do accept gray hair
- Prefer hair to be non-chemically treated, but will take any hair in good condition.
- Minimum of 12" or longer is preferred.
Why Gray, Treated or Dyed Hair Is Usually Not Accepted
It takes at least six ponytails and up to 20 ponytails to make a wig. Ponytails come from different people and are a variety of shades, and even though some hair colors may look similar, including gray hair, each is completely unique. To make a realistic-looking wig that has consistent color throughout, donated ponytails must be processed and then dyed to the same shade. This is a large part of why few organizations accept gray or chemically treated hair. It is critical for each ponytail to absorb dyes at the same rate in order to create wigs of consistent, natural-looking color. Gray hair, as well as some chemically treated or permanently colored hair, does not absorb dye at the same rate as other types of hair. It is much harder to color and, once colored, fades more quickly. Most permanently colored hair, once it is processed and re-colored, is too fragile and breakable under the rigorous processing required during the production of a wig.
Hair Donation: Step Two
Grow your hair long and strong - You want it the best it can be to donate
You don't want your donation to go to waste, so make sure you put the time and effort into taking care of your hair as it grows out. Keep in mind any requirements your chosen charity might have in terms of chemical treatments (perms, haircolor, etc.) as well as the length to shoot for.
Key things to remember:
- Heat is the enemy!! This means blow-dryers, curling irons, straighteners, hot water even. Now, I still wash with warm water (who wants to take a cold shower!), but avoid all other heat sources. I just wash at night now and let it air dry. It's made a huge difference in the health of my hair as it's grown.
- Consider using a special deep conditioner once a week. I've never liked the hot oil treatments that much. I used the Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask for a few months and loved it, then switched to one from Pantene. It takes a long time to use up one of these tubs! I think I had fewer split ends with the Neutrogena product, so I'd definitely recommend it. There are lots of options for deep treatments, though.
- Careful with the hair products!! Most of them contain alcohol, which is really drying. Unless you desperately need them to keep your hair from becoming just crazy, go lightly here.
- For some people, it is possible that areas of your life such as diet, exercise, hours of sleep, and stress affect hair growth. Healthy habits will promote healthy hair!
- Yes, what you eat can impact how your hair grows. In addition to my regular vitamins, I've been talking extra doses of biotin. Check out the link below for more on the special hair vitamins out on the market.
Hair Donation: Hair Care Aware
Get some help from the experts to grow your hair out in top condition.
Hair Donation: Step Three
Time to make the cut
Lucky you!! You get to try a new hairstyle! Review the guidelines for your chosen charity, then head for the salon. Or, you can just grab a friend and make the donation cut at home yourself.
- Ask if your salon gives free haircuts when you're ready to donate. Some organizations keep lists of participating salons on their websites.
- Know how much you want to cut (and keep in mind how much will be left once you've cut enough for the donation).
- Discuss your new style options with your stylist before he/she starts cutting. Your new dream hairdo might not be possible once you cut off enough to donate or you might need to leave some parts longer than others to make the new look happen.
- Hair should be freshly washed and completely dry. Do not put any styling products into your hair before cutting it.
- Gather your hair into a ponytail. Secure the ponytail with an elastic band. Ensure that the band is tight so as to keep the hair together after cutting it. You can put a second hair band around the middle of the ponytail to help keep the hair together.
- Measure your hair from just above the elastic ponytail to the ends to determine if your hair meets the donation agency's requirements. If you have wavy or curly hair, you may straighten it first before measuring.
- If your hair is layered, separate each layer into its own ponytail. It is okay to submit multiple ponytails of different lengths.
- Follow the mailing instructions of the organization you have chosen to donate to. Be sure to include a piece of paper with your name, address, and phone number so that you can be contacted should there be any questions about the condition of your hair.
Bald and Bold
You'll note that most of the organizations giving away hairpieces are geared toward children and for good reason. It's just so much harder to be "different" when you're a child. While it is difficult for women to lose their hair - one of their most feminine traits - at a time when they might also be losing their breasts, there is a growing Bald is Beautiful movement. This book highlights some gorgeous women who have embraced their baldness rather than cover it.
Thoughts on this lens? Questions? Planning to donate your hair or have you done it in the past? Let's hear from you!
Most of the answers to your questions are on this site. Check the links above or any of the previous questions to see if it's been answered already. Thanks!