I want to donate my hair- Where does it go after I get it cut?
Donating hair for a cause is a wonderful, and simple, thing to do. If you’re looking into this, or if you’re looking into purchasing a donated hair wig, you should know what happens to the donated hair before it gets to the wig maker.
At the salon:
The first step is cutting the donor’s hair; first, the hair will be pulled together into a ponytail, and then the stylist will cut it above the ponytail holder. The hair will stay in the ponytail for its journey to the next step, being wrapped in tissue paper and sealed in a bag. Then the donated hair is send to a donation center previously chosen, where it will then be prepped for its future use. We prefer Pantene Beautiful Lengths because unlike some other popular hair donation organizations Pantene really does provide wigs for chemotherapy recipients.
At the donation center:
Once the hair arrives at the donation center, it will be sorted with other donations. This check is highly important for quality control; there are criteria hair must fit to move forward in the process, so not all hair is accepted. For example, gray hairs do not move past the sorting phase. All hair must be dry and fully secured. The passable hair is then measured and wrapped for the next step of the journey–the manufacturer.
At the wig manufacturer:
At this point, the hair on the way to the wig manufacturer is deemed suitable. Many manufacturers are located internationally, so this process may take some time. At the manufacturer, the hair is brushed for maintenance, and then more work begins. It’s important to note at this stage that hair for wigs must be healthy to begin with–it will have to withstand tying and handling going forward, so whether dyed or all-natural, it must not be vulnerable to breakage, or it will be weeded out.
Human hair grows in varying lengths on the head, but this is not how wigs are constructed: most often, wigs are created with hairs of all one length, and then, once put together, they are styled. So, a wig with a trendy layered cut you may have or may see today was once all the same length in the beginning. (And then stylists put their master touch on it!) Often it will be the case that the length of hair cut will become three or so inches shorter in a wig, after being tied. So, a woman who cuts 12 inches from her hair to donate may find that it becomes part of a lovely, 9-inch-length wig.
These reasons–uniform wig length and hair caliber–are why it’s important to separate hair by length, and also to remove short or damaged pieces in this step. Only high quality, sorted hairs make it past this stage.
At the coloring stage:
Each ponytail of matching lengths and similar textures are bundled together now, and then collected into one large group of ponytails. A finished wig may be comprised of 20 to 30 entire ponytails! Some manufacturers estimate another way: it takes 8 ounces to make an average wig–which will need hair from an average of 2-3 human donors. If, at this point, the 30-ponytail bundle is made up of one natural, untreated hair color, it’s that much closer to becoming a beautiful wig.
If, in the more likely case, the hair has been treated and colored, it’s time for a chemical bath. You’ll find that color-matching is actually much more unified with the pre-colored hair, as it now goes through a dying process to become all one color.
Natural hair, of course, grows in many varying shades, and so isn’t inherently uniform. The purpose of the chemical bath is to prepare the hairs to become one integrated color for the finalized wig. In this step, the donated hair will be stripped of their original color, becoming translucent. When they are completely colorless, the hairs will be ready to be re-colored for their wig.
Dyes may vary depending on the manufacturer, but hairs are typically dyed full shades of one color, using basic colors. Hair dye or bleach is preferred, and the wig will then be much easier to re-dye, or have highlights added when being customized. While hair dye is simpler to use to create darker colors, bleach may be needed to transform original hairs to a lighter wig shade. Stock colors may include wig options with highlights or lowlights as well.
At the customizing stage:
For many manufacturers, now is when the process becomes personal, if the wigs are custom-made. Depending on the eventual owner of the wig, and her unique head shape, a custom wig cap will be created. This will become the foundation that the donated hair is then sewn into: once a woman is fitted for her custom cap, and hair sewn in, our special stylists can create hand-made custom highlights and lowlights into the wig for a natural, beautiful look especially tailored to the wig’s owner. This method is preferred, for a one-of-a-kind finished look.
At this point, the hair and the cap are ready for the wig maker, and a beautiful mane of hair is only steps away from its new owner.
For more information on custom wigs, or their creation, tailoring, and ordering, contact us today.