Imagine waking up one day and finding you've lost your hair. More often than not, we take physical attributes like our hair for granted, like it's a given. When in fact, for some individuals, it's not. But there are amazing organizations out there that work to help those individuals, like Wigs for Kids, which provides wigs to children who are going through radiation therapy or who have alopecia, trichotillomania, burns, and other medical issues, at no cost to the children or their families.
Donating your hair is a simple way to make a huge difference in someone else's life, and all it takes is a little bit of research and the right haircut. To understand the mission behind hair donation services, we talked to Jeffery Paul of Wigs for Kids.
Ahead, we share what you need to know before donating your hair.
Meet the Expert
Jeffrey Paul is a hair and scalp specialist and the founder of Wigs for Kids.
Why Should You Donate Hair?
"We activated the donation program over 30 years ago when I was consulting a woman in my private practice who was going to go through chemotherapy for cancer," says Paul. "Her daughter was with her, whose 40 inches of beautiful blonde hair was her crown and pride, and asked me at the end of the consultation with tears in her eyes [...] if she could cut her hair to give to her mother for her wig.
"At that time, there was no donation program or processing in manufacturing to accommodate such a request, but when I saw the giving heart of this daughter to give what she considered golden for the mother she loved, I was moved beyond the tears all of us were shedding at that moment," he adds. "That was the 'seed' of the idea to launch the Wigs for Kids Ponytail Donation Program."
If you're yearning for a hair breakthrough and considering cutting your strands, you could change a child's or adult's life with your big chop. Hair loss, whether its the result of significant health challenge or non-life-threatening causes, can severely impact self-esteem, yet store-bought wigs that look like the real deal are expensive. In short, your hair will grow back, but the knowledge that you helped someone will live on forever.
Where You Can Donate
- Wigs for Kids
- Pantene Beautiful Lengths
- Locks of Love
- Hugs-U-Wear (Childhood Leukemia Foundation)
- Hair We Share
- Children With Hair Loss
- Angel Hair for Kids
The Hair Donating Process
Whether you're cutting your hair yourself or at the salon, below is exactly how to donate hair to Wigs for Kids (or another charity) no matter your natural hair texture:
- Hair must be clean and dry. Wet hair will mold during shipping and will be thrown away.
- Tie hair into at least four sections (six are even better) around the head for a more generous donation. Hair pulled into one ponytail or a braid results in a loss of up to four inches of hair. To separate your hair correctly, make a center part. Starting from the center part, part your hair again over the top of each ear. This will create four sections of hair. To create four ponytails, tie the hair in front of each ear into ponytails, and then tie the hair behind each ear into ponytails.
- Make sure each ponytail or braid is tightly secured. Loosely wrapped hair tends to come out of its band when shipped, making it unusable. Please be sure hair is tight and secured with several rubber bands, two to three inches apart.
- Cut hair above the rubber band.
- Wrap all ponytails in one piece of tissue paper and seal in a plastic bag. Send your hair donation to the appropriate address for the charity.
Below are the most common stipulations for hair donations:
- Make sure hair is a minimum of 12 inches for proper hair donation length. Pull curly hair straight for a more accurate measurement.
- Hair cannot be permed, color-treated, or highlighted.
- Temporary coloring or highlights that wash out are acceptable but must be completely washed out before cutting.
- Gray hair is accepted.
Though the overall process is very similar from organization to organization, the specifics, such as how long your hair must be in order to qualify, may differ. Check the individual organization's websites to be sure you're complying with their rules.
How to Help If You Can’t Donate Hair
Don't feel left out if you can't personally donate your locks. Maybe your hair doesn't get quite long enough or you dye it or process it too regularly, but you can still help. "There are two other very important parts of what it takes to continue to provide free hairpieces, products, and styling tools to the hundreds and hundreds of children all over the country in need of hair from all the causes of hair loss like alopecia, cancer, trichotillomania, burns, and other medical causes," Paul explains. "The two other needs are the financial needs to subsidize the costs of manufacturing and managing the programs for the children and their families."
Donating money directly to these organizations is a great way to get involved. "Most people think the hair donation completely fulfills the cost of the wigs and hairpieces that Wigs for Kids provides, but it only makes up about 30 percent of the costs of the quality manufacturing that has continued to rise," says Paul. You can also take on a volunteer role for a more hands-on approach with the organization of your choice.
If you're a hair professional or own a salon, you can get involved by partnering directly with these charities. According to Paul, "the proper harvesting of the hair to capture the longest hair possible and preparing it to be sent to Wigs for Kids headquarters" is extremely important. "That is the reason we launched a Salon Certification Program with online tutorials and a social media campaign to challenge all donors to go the extra inches that it takes to provide the young children with the length they're looking for," he adds.