If you're thinking of chopping off a good chunk of hair any time soon, you may be able to donate your strands to those in need — rather than just have them swept off your go-to salon's floor.
And trust us, the need for medical wigs is greater than you'd think.
According to the American Hair Loss Association — an organization dedicated to educating the public, healthcare professionals, legislators, and the media about the emotional devastation that comes with hair loss — 3% of all pediatric visits in the United States are about childhood hair loss. Furthermore, NYC-based, double-board certified dermatologist Dr. Brendan Camp explains that the psychosocial results of hair alopecia and hair loss can be devastating for those experiencing it.
"Many studies have demonstrated the negative impact hair loss has on quality of life and mental health," he shares. "For example, patients with hair loss, especially children, may experience embarrassment, insecurity, or even bullying."
Then there are those who are undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
The American Cancer Society reports that around 1.9 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2022 alone.
"Almost every day we have patients coming in, often on the verge of tears, discussing the extreme impact that their hair loss has on them," says Dr. Dhaval G. Bhanusali, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and Founder of Hairstim Labs and Skin Medicinals. "To an extent, hair helps us express our personality and can even define us and so it's completely understandable that any situation that causes significant change can be traumatic."
All that said, there's never a bad time to donate hair. But if you don't know which organizations to partner with, we've got you covered. Here, we spoke with hairstylist Susan Oludele, the owner of Hair by Susy in Brooklyn, NY, to discover the best places to donate hair and to find out if your strands are the right fit.
Is Everyone Eligible to Donate Hair?
While you may wish donate your hair, you need to make sure your strands are in tip top shape. Each organization has its own checklist, so it's important to read through the requirements throughly so your hair does not get tossed.
All organizations do require your hair to be clean at the time of donation, so make sure to wash and condition your hair before cutting it. You should also refrain from putting any product in the hair to avoid creating build-up.
It's also important to keep in mind that many organizations require at least 12-inches of hair to donate, but there are still some that will accept a minimum of 8-inches. And while there are always exceptions to the rule, most organizations prefer virgin hair — aka, strands that have not been chemically-treated.
Where Do I Go to Donate Hair?
There are several places you can go to donate hair, according to Oludele.
"Wigs and Wishes, Hair Place NYC, and Wigs for Kids are the top places I send clients to donate hair," she shares.
Discover more about these organizations, and a few others, below.
Wigs and Wishes
Based in Sewell, NJ, and founded by hairstylist, educator, and salon owner Martino Cartier, Wigs and Wishes is works to help hair loss patients through wig creation. In 2012, Cartier met a young girl named Kiki who had been battling cancer since she was 8-years-old and was turned down by all the national organizations to have a wig made. Cartier made a wig for Kiki and granted her dying wish of meeting Justin Beiber through his company. One week after the concert, Kiki died; however, her spirit lives on and inspired Cartier to start Wigs and Wishes.
Since 2012, the organization has created a network of salon owners, hairstylists, and beauty industry experts to provide over 10,000 wigs at no cost to women in need while also granting wishes to dying children.
Wigs For Kids
For over 40 years, Wigs For Kids has provided wigs and hair for children in need. They support kids experiencing hair loss due to medical treatment, including chemotherapy or radiation, as well as those experiencing burn recovery, scarring, alopecia, or trichotillomania.
To donate your hair, your strands must be a minimum of 12-inches, and hair must be clean. No chemical treatments are preferred, which means the hair must not be permed or color-treated.
And if you can't make it to the salon for your big chop, the organization's website provides a guide donors can follow to cut their hair with step-by-step instructions.
Hair Place NYC
Hair Place NYC is a salon based in the the midtown East neighborhood of New York City that specializes in hair systems for men and women, and has experience working with women undergoing cancer treatment.
While they are not a non-profit and do not supply pro-bono wigs, they do offer free pre-chemo haircuts, free initial wig cut and styling, a free one-on-one wig care lesson, and a free wig care kit. However, just keep in mind that to have a wig made, it can cost upwards of $1900.
The BeYOUTiful Foundation provides online education and support to women fighting cancer. Founded by Matt Coulter, Riawna Capri, and Nikki Lee, the idea for the organization was birthed while on a trip to Maui. This organization connects salons and stylists to local survivors, provides online education on cutting, styling, wig care, dealing with chemo hair, and more, and accepts hair donations for wigs.
The minimum hair length they take is 10-inches. However, unlike other organizations, the BeYOUtiful Foundation accepts chemically treated hair as long as it's in good condition. They also take used hair extensions and wigs for repurposing, so those tracks in your closet that you only used once can be put to good use!
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Hair We Share
Hair We Share is a Long Island, NY based organization with the mission statement: "To help maintain dignity, confidence, and self-esteem to those affected by medical hair loss."
Hair We Share supports people of all ages and applications are determined on a case-by-case basis and voted on by their board of directors. The minimum hair length requirement is 12-inches and they accept dyed hair that has not been altered with bleach.