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Hair: The gift of all seasons
December 23rd, 2011
03:44 PM ET

Hair: The gift of all seasons

Tis the season of giving, but there's one gift that you can give all year-long - your hair.  It's not a new concept, but not everyone (who has long hair) may be aware of the opportunity.  The hair is used to make real-hair wigs for people who have lost their hair because of cancer or another illness.

Not everyone can donate.  First of all of course, you must have long hair you are willing to part with.  I had to have at least "10 good inches" of hair to donate,  according to Shane Tylor Petsch, hairstylist at Van Michael Salon in Atlanta, Georgia.  That's because I donate my hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that "provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis." 

There are other organizations to choose from and they have slightly different hair length minimums.  Childhood Leukemia Foundation asks for a minimum of 12 inches and Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which partners with the American Cancer Society provide wigs to women living with cancer, only asks for 8 inches.

Petsch says he has about five to 10 customers each year who choose to make a dramatic change in their hair styles and offer to donate.

However, if your hair is gray or has been dyed or bleached, it can't be donated because it usually takes at least six ponytails – each from a different person with a different shade of hair – to make a wig, So for the wig to have consistent color throughout all these donated ponytails, these  have to be  processed and then dyed to the same shade.  Already color-treated, bleached or gray hair do not absorb dye at the same rate as other types of hair.

Anybody can donate.  Phoebe Pylant (pictured here) was just three and a half years old when she donated her 10 inches last year. When people asked her what happened to her hair, she told them "I gave it to others who don't have hair."

My colleague William Hudson let his hair grow out so he could donated when he  was 17 years old.  At the time he had to convince his headmaster to make an exception to a school policy against long hair for boys until he had 10 inches to donate.

Depending on where you go to get your hair cut, you may find your hair put in a ponytail and then cut off.  My stylist prefers to trim the hair in a more methodical way.  Once the hair is cut, it gets put in a bag and sent off to the organization of your choice.  In return, you can get a nice little thank you note or certificate, but more importantly, someone who is coping with a horrible disease will be able to feel more comfortable, covering up their bald head with a nice wig.


soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    Seems to me that one or more of the NGO's working in third world countries could, for a pittance, get all the human hair needed for people undergoing chemotherapy.

    December 23, 2011 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Limelight

      Please grow up and don't be insulting.

      December 27, 2011 at 10:22 | Report abuse |
  2. Jenn

    If you go to th Locks of Love website it says that they will take dyed hair just not bleached or bleached then dyed.

    December 23, 2011 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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  4. rooney

    I donate to Locks of Love everytime I get my hair cut. I heard about this several years ago and have been doing it ever since. It's a lot better than the hair just getting wasted.

    December 24, 2011 at 04:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. USA

    There is an organization in Rockwood, Michigan that does that also. I believe it's called Children With Hair Loss. That is who I am donating my hair to. Thanks for reporting on this.

    December 24, 2011 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jennifer

    Don't let there be any heartbreaking mix-ups. Make sure that they cut for locks of love and make sure the person cutting it knows what you're doing. In addition, make sure you have it in a ponytail.

    December 24, 2011 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Paula

    My hair is over 4 ft long. Its many colors including silver bc i'm 46. It was my wish to have my hair donated upon my death, to allow 1 teen to have a long beautiful hair peice 1 day. I am very disappointed that any organization would'nt accept my gift of long natural colored hair. Its a shame bc I know any1 would be proud 2 wear my hair. I get compliments daily on it.

    December 25, 2011 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hi

      Maybe you can try to find a group that makes wigs for older people with cancer? It's worth a shot.

      December 27, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
  8. Kechiro

    I have long hair (about 2 1/2 feet) and I get harassed about this all the time. Locks of Love throws out about 90% of the hair it receives because it's not prepped correctly (got wet and became moldy, not long enough, not the right color, poor condition – NY Times, "Lather. Rinse. Donate"), and depending on how long you've been color treating it can be rejected. I'm not growing out my hair – which I love – to chop it off and risk it being tossed away. Sorry.

    December 26, 2011 at 10:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Heather

    Donating your hair is a great thing to do BUT so many people now assume every woman with long hair should do so. I've heard people ask perfect strangers if their hair is long to donate or suggest that they should. It's terribly rude and presumptuous. Mine is long and can not be donated because I began going gray at the age of 11. I color to cover it so I know my hair would never be accepted so it is long for my own pleasure. I don't want to feel like I should have to explain my premature gray to everyone.

    December 27, 2011 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Its great to know that people are still interested in giving their hair out of love-especially with the over abundance of hair for sale internationally.

    December 31, 2011 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.