Many children and adults lose their hair due to radiation or chemotherapy treatment for cancer or from the auto-immune disease known as alopecia areata (which has no known cause or cure). Because it is such a fundamental aspect of one's appearance, losing it, particularly in childhood, can be psychologically devastating. With this fact in mind, many people choose to donate their locks, which can be made into prosthetics for those who suffer from such a loss. Donating hair for cancer patients is a great idea, however there are certain requirements that need to be met in order for the donations to be accepted. Here are some tips on how to donate your hair.
- How donated hair is used. The type of hairpiece that gets made from donated hair will depend upon the condition of the person who will receive it as well as whether the loss is temporary or permanent. Those who have experienced the loss due to chemotherapy or radiation are more likely to receive a wig for temporary use during treatment and as their hair grows out. For those who suffer from a more long-term condition, such as alopecia areata, hair prostheses that remain on the head via a vacuum seal are custom-made from a plaster mold of the head. Approximately 6-8 ponytails are needed to create a wig or hair prosthetic for one person.
- Requirements for hair donation. Guidelines among the organizations that accept hair vary as to the required length and condition of donations. In general, the longer the hair the better (preferably 10-12 inches in length), and the less processing the better. Be sure to check with the organization that you intend to donate to before cutting your hair to ensure that it can use your length and condition. But don't rule out donating hair for cancer patients if you do have colored or permed hair.......you just need to find an organization that can use your type. For example, LocksOfLove accepts charity hair donations that are permed or colored. For some organizations, even hair cut years ago (back when your hair was still virgin!) and stored in a ponytail or braid is still usable.
- Participating hairstylists. Many hairstylists will gladly cut your hair according to donation guidelines and sometimes will even send it in for you. Be sure to check with your stylist ahead of time so that he or she will be prepared to cut according to the organization's requirements.
- If you choose to cut your hair yourself, follow these guidelines:
- Hair should be freshly washed and completely dry. Do not use any styling products before cutting. You can use a wash-out conditioner if you so choose.
- Gather your hair into a ponytail. Secure with an elastic band. Ensure that the band is tight to keep the hair together after cutting it. You can put a second 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. 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.
Now you know how to donate hair. Kudos to you for choosing to donate your hair to a worthy cause. In a year or two or three, your hair will return to its former length and meanwhile, you will have given the gift of a lifetime. If you're still on the fence about whether or not to donate, check out these comments from people who have at 43Things.