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Locks of Love, or, Go Forth and Chop!

Locks of Love, or, Go Forth and Chop!

A few years ago, as a Midwestern native, I was struggling to adjust to summer in Alabama. The heat & humidity were enough to make me crazy, and to top it off I had an 8-month-old baby whose new favorite game was practicing his future gym class rope climb on my ponytail. I had never donated my hair before, but I had just enough to do so if I went with a super-short pixie cut, so I took the plunge and chopped it all off. I sent my ponytail off to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program, which provides free wigs to women fighting cancer.

I liked the freedom of the short ’do and was feeling pretty content about my good deed. Win-win, right? Well, about a month later I had a cancer scare of my own. I was so wrapped up in my fear and concerns about my health that hair was the last thing on my mind. Fortunately, one minor surgery was all I needed to remove the cancer. Just 3 days after receiving the pathology report assuring me that it had not spread and giving me the all clear, I opened the mailbox to find a thank-you letter from Pantene. My knees buckled and I cried as I read about how my donation had helped others. I had come so close to being on the other side of this story. I felt like Karma had just shown its beautiful face in a way I’d never experienced before. I decided then that I would continue to donate my hair to show gratitude for my good health and help others who needed it.

Locks of Love logo

It took me three years to cultivate a new crop of locks to harvest, and in the meantime I won’t confess how many gray hairs I plucked. This past spring I broke down and dyed my hair since I was losing the battle against the grays. When I finally had almost enough hair to make another donation I panicked a bit upon seeing that Pantene Beautiful Lengths doesn’t accept color-treated hair. Yikes! What had I done!?

Fortunately, Locks of Love does accept dyed hair, but they require 10 inches to Pantene’s 8. A few weeks ago I found myself standing in the kitchen on my 3-year anniversary of good health with hair still hanging past my shoulders. I’d been complaining about my sweaty ponytail and saying all summer that I was going to chop my hair again…that was meant to be the day! I gathered up a Ziploc bag, a measuring tape, and a handful of ponytail holders and marched into the only salon I could find open. (Because clearly these are the things I should be doing on a Sunday afternoon with no planning and no appointment anywhere??)

As luck would have it, the girl working that day had never cut hair to be donated before, and I nearly lost my nerve and she buckled the apron around my neck. Surely this could wait a day or two? Nah, my conscience chided me, it would be a little ironic if I backed out of donating my hair to those who have none because I thought the cut wasn’t going to be good enough. I talked her through the steps I’d seen the guy do my first time through the donation process, and we both survived with intact ponytails ready to mail off for their next life as part of a prosthetic hairpiece!

Pixie Cut

There are several options when it comes to donating your hair, so be sure to read up on the requirements before you make the cut.

Pantene Beautiful Lengths

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Recipients: Adult women fighting cancer.
Minimum length: 8 inches

  • Does not accept permanently color-treated hair, and hair must be no more than 5% gray
  • Hair must be tied in a ponytail prior to cutting

Locks of Love

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Recipients: Children ages 6-21 suffering from permanent or long-term hair loss
Minimum length: 10 inches

  • Accepts permanently color-treated, but not bleached, hair
  • Hair must be tied in a ponytail prior to cutting

Wigs for Kids

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Recipients: Children suffering from hair loss.
Minimum length: 12 inches.

  • Does not accept color treated hair, but does accept gray hair.
  • Hair must be in a ponytail prior to cutting.

Children With Hair Loss

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Recipients: Children suffering from hair loss
Minimum length: 8 inches

  • Prefers chemically untreated hair, but accepts any processed hair in good condition
  • Accepts gray hair
  • Hair must be tied in a ponytail holder at EACH end

Some Pro Tips

It can take anywhere from 6-20 ponytails to make one wig or prosthetic hairpiece. So to make the most generous donation, part your hair into 4-6 ponytails before you cut. One large ponytail pulled to the back leaves a lot of shorter hairs that will not be able to be used. Also, pack a large Ziploc bag and protect those ponytails ASAP. All it takes is one curious grab from your toddler to send your good deed falling into a tangled pile, and none of the hair donation organizations are able to accept loose hair that has been swept up off the floor.

If you are feeling particularly daring and ambitious, check out St. Baldrick’s Foundation. While they don’t make wigs or want you to send them your hair, they are an organization that raises money for childhood cancer research. You can be part of an event where you get your friends to pledge money and “sponsor” you to shave your head. Of course I’m hoping if you did that you would also donate that hair…but this is a great way to get young boys, or anyone without hair long enough to donate, involved in a charity fundraiser. Think about how much money a little league team could raise for cancer research!

Are you a stylist? If your salon allows it, why don’t you print out a few of the donation forms, and keep some extra ponytail holders and Ziploc bags on hand. You’d be amazed how many people have never heard of donating their hair. Next time someone comes in wanting to make a big cut, you can give them the option of paying that hair forward.

Go forth and chop, my friends! I want to see some short, sassy hairdos around Huntsville this fall! Whether you are considering donating your own hair, your child’s hair, or both (how much fun would this be as a Mom/Daughter bonding experience?), teaching our kids the value of performing selfless acts might be one of our most important jobs as parents.

I wish you good health always.

Feature Photo credit: Chris & Cami Photography, Charleston, SC


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