Home Life & DIY

Where Is Your Donated Hair REALLY Going?

I have to admit, I’m blessed to have hair that grows at an alarming rate. Because of this, I have chopped off my ponytail and donated to charity THREE times in my life.   Twice I donated to Locks of Love (which I regret) and once to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. Locks of Love has become a household name for hair donation, with most donors wanting to “help make a wig for kids with cancer”. WELL I did a little research and was completely shocked about what I found.  There have been ongoing investigations into potential fraud related to Locks of Love.

  • Locks of Love hair donation recipients are usually those with long-term hair loss, such as alopecia. (Not that there is anything wrong with the wigs going to recipients with this condition, but it’s a misconception that most of their wigs go to cancer patients)
  • Locks of Love receives an estimated 104,000 hair donations per year. Locks indicates that up to 80% of this hair is unusable and that 6 to 10 hair donations are necessary to make one hairpiece. “Back in 2007, the nonprofit told The New York Times that about 80 percent of the hair donated is discarded because people are unaware of the guidelines and often send strands that are that too short, processed or gray.”
  • Locks of Love DOES sell unusable hair…they say it is to offset the cost of making a wig (which costs around $1000). However, they have not been transparent about their finances and operations as a non-profit organization.

Most of the information I gathered about LoL came from this Huffington Post article back in 2007.  If you’re a numbers person, you might enjoy this more detailed breakdown about the potential fraud being committed by Locks of Love in this Forbes article published around the same times as Huff Post.

Other lesser known facts about donating your hair:

  • Human hair wigs aren’t the first choice for those undergoing chemotherapy, because the wigs have to be made to order and can take up to 2 months. Most cancer patients need a wig sooner than that.
  • Most human hair wigs go to patients with long term hair loss e.g. alopecia
  • You can lose up to 4 inches of hair when pulled into one single ponytail. It’s best to pull your hair into multiple small ponytails instead to get the most length
  • It takes approximately 10 to 12 ponytails to create a wig.
  • It is a myth that color-treated hair cannot be donated! Check the donation requirements of the organization

This article in Business Insider published Jan 2017 gave a nice breakdown of where donated hair goes for three of the top hair donation organizations:

Locks of Love: Recipients are women/children with hair loss, min 10 inches to donate,  no bleached hair, but accepts colored and grey hair (they do not make wigs from this hair, but sell the hair to “offset costs of manufacturing wigs”.

Pantene Beautiful Lengths : recipients are mainly adult cancer patients, min 8 inches, no dyes or grey color accepted

Wigs for Kids: recipients are children with any type of hair loss, min 12 inches, no dyes, colors, bleached hair or greys accepted


The most informative article I found was on a blog, LocalAdventurer.com, They did all the leg work for me in researching about hair donation and provided a longer list of lesser known hair donation organizations.


Ultimately, I decided to donate to Children with  Hair Loss for the following reasons:

  1. I want my hair to go to pediatric patients, no matter the hair condition (chemotherapy, alopecia, etc.). Being bald as a kid can be very emotionally devastating.
  2. My hair is layered, therefore some layers may meet the 8inch requirement while other layers will exceed 10+ inches.
  3. My hair has been color treated and bleached balayage-style, and this organization is one of the only ones that would probably accept it

Bottom line: Before you donate your beautiful, hard-grown hair, do your research. Make sure your tresses are going to whom you hope would benefit and not into the trash or being sold.

I was trying to avoid the classic “mom bob”, but according to this SNL skit, there’s a new mom cut that has taken its spot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh75XWRaugg

Here is the before, during and after!! My friend and experienced stylist, April, does amazing at BeScene Studios in North Bethesda. If you’re in the DMV and need a color/cut, go see her!