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Locks of Love: Donate Your Ponytail

by Elizabeth Creehan and Jamie Littlefield
The Challenge

Hair donation is a simple way to provide a child with locks of love. If you have a ponytail that is at least 8 inches or longer, you can donate hair so children who have lost theirs can look more like themselves.

Children undergoing chemotherapy, suffering from alopecia areata or other diseases, or recuperating from scalp burns face multiple hurdles. In addition to the physical challenges of medical treatment, children also must combat low self-esteem and poor self-image from losing their hair. Oftentimes, bald children believe it necessary to hide their condition under hats and feel they stand out among other kids.

Your hair donations can be turned into natural-looking wigs for kids. On the other hand, synthetic wigs "look fake," like doll hair. Only donated human hair achieves a realistic, natural appearance.

When kids feel better about their appearance, they feel brighter about the outlook for their future. With renewed confidence, these children will go out in public again, without feeling self-conscious. They can look proudly in the mirror. They see themselves again.

A custom human-hair wig can cost more than a thousand dollars to make and is too expensive for many families. But, several non-profit groups are working with volunteers to make wigs for financially disadvantaged kids. To make this happen for a child, all you have to do is donate your ponytail, the next time you get a haircut.

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First, you'll need to choose a charity that makes wigs for children. Here are a couple of the most popular hair donation organizations:

Locks of Love

Locks of Love is the most well-known hairpiece charity. Most Locks of Love wigs go to kids with long-term hair loss. Children with conditions such as alopecia areata, for example, who will never grow their natural hair again are given first priority. Since most children who undergo chemotherapy will be able to grow their own hair again, a very limited number of human hair and synthetic wigs are given to children with cancer. You should be aware that it takes multiple hair donations to make a single wig and that Locks of Love sells a number of the hair donations it receives in order to fund its programs. Some families pay for their wigs based on their financial ability; the neediest are given their wig for free. You also should be aware of a controversy published in Forbes regarding $6 billion worth of hair donations that reportedly are unaccounted for each year for Locks of Love. You can send your hair donation by mail using Locks of Love's online hair donation form

Wigs for Kids

Wigs for Kids gives hairpieces to kids who suffer hair loss due to burns, chemotherapy, radiation treatments alopecia, and other medical problems. Wigs for Kids sells hair donations it considers "unusable" in order to fund its programs. Families must demonstrate financial need in order to qualify for the program. Children who are accepted in the program are not charged for the wig that is created for them. You can send your hair donation by mail by using Wigs for Kids' online hair donation form.

Children With Hair Loss

Children With Hair Loss provides human hair replacements to children at no cost. Any child who has suffered hair loss because of cancer, alopecia, burns, trichotillomania, or other disorders or diseases is eligible. More than 300 children a year receive a customized human hair replacement and care kit from Children With Hair Loss. See information on how to make your hair donation

Hair Donation Tips

For specific directions, please first review the recipient charity's website before cutting your hair, but here are some general guidelines to consider regarding hair donation:

  • 8" to 10" minimum hair length (tip to tip)
  • You may pull curly hair straight to measure the minimum 
  • Bundle your hair in a ponytail or braid
  • Hair from men and women, young and old, and all colors and races are needed
  • Hair swept off the floor is unusable
  • Hair must not be bleached or over-processed
  • Hair cut years ago is usable if stored in a ponytail or braid
  • You may divide layered hair into multiple ponytails for donation
  • Anyone can cut your hair as long as the appropriate guidelines are followed
  • Natural human hair only; no wigs, extensions, or synthetic hair
  • Hair must be clean, dry, placed in a plastic bag, and then in a padded envelope

Once you donate your ponytail, take time to celebrate. Every time you look in the mirror, you'll know that you've made a real difference in the life of a sick child.

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