Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Locks of Wha...?

"Oh, you have such long pretty hair, you should donate it to Locks of Love!"
"I'm growing my hair to donate."
"I love my long hair, and I can imagine how hard it would be to have to lose it, so I'm going to donate mine to a kid with cancer..."
Sound familiar? I've heard them all...in fact, that last one was me up until a couple of years ago. I planned to donate, and actually felt a little guilty that I wanted to wait until after my wedding (because I wanted to have long hair in my wedding pictures). How selfish of me, eh?
Then I learned that Locks of Love ain't all it's cracked up to be.

Some basic facts: the hair does NOT go to kids with cancer. It goes to people with permanent hair loss, such as alopacia (sp?) or scalp burns. Granted, these are good causes...but it's false advertising. Even if it did go to kids with cancer, human hair wigs are hard to care for, and actually wouldn't be good for kids anyway...they're better for adults. (Now, as someone who has worked with wigs in the theatre, I will vouch for human hair being superior to synthetic wigs...it's just much harder to take good care of it.)
LoL cannot use any hair that is damaged, has been color-treated in any way, or even that has been conditioned with silicone-based conditioner (ie, the majority of hair in the USA). They will sell it to get cone-free hair from other countries. Most of the hair ends up either thrown away (because it's damaged or otherwise unusable) or else it is sold. NOT donated. The hair that is sold is used for things like extensions, or theatrical wigs (think Hollywood).

Here are some numbers which really opened my eyes:
A little math using information from LoL's own website and the BBB:
LoL receives about 2000 donations per week, by mail.
That's 104,000 per year.
Let's say that only half of that is usable for wigs.
That's 52,000 per year.
It takes 6-10 ponytails to make a wig.
Ok, let's say each one takes 10.
That's potentially 5200 wigs per year.
Now, in fiscal year 2002, how many wigs did LoL provide?

So, given those facts, I realized that it didn't make sense to donate my hair--it wasn't going to do the good I had been led to believe it would. (I also realized that my hair wasn't terribly healthy and wouldn't make a good donation anyway).

If you want to cut your hair anyway, and it's long enough to do something with, then sure, donate to LoL. They are making SOME wigs for bald people, after all.
There are also a lot of other places where you could donate hair.
Or these guys use donated hair (in any condition) to make mats to clean up oil spills. (That is so cool!)
Alternatively, many theatre groups would love to have some hair for making their wigs.
Also you can sell the hair yourself, and use the money to keep or donate. (A long thick ponytail can bring in hundreds of dollars.)

However, if you love your long hair (which, I might add, you grew yourself, and have a right to keep) then hey, keep it. After all, it's yours. The New Testament says a woman's hair is her glory and is given to her for a covering...I don't think it's selfish or vanity to like your own hair. Some folks may not have to give it much attention, but if you're like me then you have to baby your hair to have it long and pretty, and hey, you're entitled to the fruits of your labors.


Here are some more reference sites:
The Better Business Bureau reports that LoL does not comply with all of the standards of being a non-profit organization. For one thing, they have documentation of LoL earning money... uhhhh...
This blog post is well laid out and has lots of reference links.
The New York Times wrote an article about this.
Even the Wikipedia article has mention of it.
LiveJournal threads from longhairs about LoL.
LongHairCommunity thread. Another LHC thread.

And next time someone says "Oh, you have such long pretty hair, you should donate it to Locks of Love!" I will retort "Oh, you have such nice blood, you should donate it to people who are dying!" And then I'll fill them in on the truth about Locks of Love.


Becky said...

I've heard in passing about Locks of Love. Thanks for compiling the information so nicely. Good info to have!

I know you're really passionate about breast cancer awareness issues, and I was wondering if you would address a couple things this month? One, are regular mammograms really a good idea? I've heard and read opinions that the compression and exposure to radiation could actually be *bad* for breast tissue. Two, are there any tips or tricks to self-exams while you're full-time nursing? I'm having a hard time feeling any consistency to my breast tissue when they fluctuate so much during the course of a day, a week, or even a month.

Carolyn said...

OK, here's my take. LOL receives very few cash donations. They have operating costs, such as paying for wigs to be made, cost for employees, etc. Selling some of the hair is the way they cover these operating expenses.

Jessica said...

I donated my hair to LoL because I am selfish. I wanted a major change anyway and the best salon in town was offering a free style appointment to anyone who would donate. Hey, why not? I think the stylist was surprised that I didn't get all weepy when the ten inches was lopped off (which took all the length I had - right up to the nape). But like I said, I wanted a big change and I did this for me. Oh, and yes, I did my research beforehand and knew full well that the hair was not going to a kid with cancer and that more than likely it would be sold - assuming that the salon did their part and sent it in the first place! I just didn't see the point in putting the ponytail in a book or remembrance or anything.

Brightonwoman said...

Jessica, I don't think donating is bad, I just think people should know the truth before they do it. Like you said, you wanted a cut anyway, and the salon offered to do it free if you'd donate. Well sounds like a deal to me! The main reason I try to spread the word around is for people like me--who didn't really want to lose their long hair, but felt like they should do it as a service, you know? To learn that a major personal sacrifice may not really serve anyone after all, well, I think that's pretty terrible, and if I'm going to make major personal sacrifices I want to know they're doing some good. :)

Jessica said...

Oh, I wasn't disagreeing with you, just sharing my experience. I meant to agree with you that people really should know what they are donating to and what will be done with the donation. It's right on the website so it's not hard to find. I really hope that people are not donating to ANY organization or cause without doing at least a little research. In fact, I attended the taping of a local talk show last year which featured a representative of LoL. She made it clear right on the show that the wigs were not for kids on chemotherapy treatment (which will end and the hair will grow back), but for kids with permanent hair loss.
Anyway, I agree with you, it's sad if people are donating their hair without really being aware of how it will be used.

Jessica said...

Btw: I have told my DH that he has good blood and should donate it, but he just rolls his eyes at me. ;o)

TopHat said...

Every Christmas my DH's family does a service project. My SIL gave us a heads up for the year she's in charge they're doing LoL (she's of the belief it goes to kids with cancer). I'm planning on donating it to another place instead. Thanks for the links!

Brightonwoman said...

I'll look into that Becky...off the top of my head I don't actually know those answers. But I'll post them when I do. :)

nicole said...

Thanks for the info. First of all, I hope you didn't think I was implying that you or anyone else for that matter should donate their hair! I absolutetly do not think anyone should be expected to to that... I was just expressing my own feelings about the matter. :) I am glad you posted this because it gave me an opportunity to look into whether or not I should donate to LoL. I checked out the basic facts link you offered and then I looked on the LoL site to get a better understanding... and I'm wondering if the link you provided was full of rumors...
Here are some of the facts from the LoL website:

Apparently they do accept colored hair. It looks like the only hair they don't accept are dreadlocks and bleached hair.
Can I donate colored hair?
A. Yes, we can accept donations of colored hair

This is a non-profit organization...

When Mrs. Coffman was in her 20's she developed alopecia after receiving a hepatitis vaccination. With medications, she recovered. 15 years later, her 4-year old daughter developed alopecia and lost all of her hair. Madonna said it was difficult to deal with her hair loss, but her daughter's loss was ten times harder. It was at this time that she quit all other charity work and took on Locks of Love as a full time volunteer cheered on by her daughter’s recovery as her inspiration.

Locks of Love is not a manufacturer of any type of hair replacement product or hair care product. As a charity and strictly a charity, we must purchase the custom prostheses we provide for our recipients.

In no way is Locks of Love associated with or an affiliate of any for-profit hair replacement business. Furthermore, none of its employees or members of the Board of Directors is associated with any company in the hair replacement or hair care industries.

On their website it clarifies that they actually do donate to cancer patients. Although personally I don't think it really matters which disorder the child is suffering from, they're still bald. And whatever the cause of baldness, it would be humiliating for a child. Here is the info regarding the recipients...

Our largest number of children live with alopecia. Alopecia is an auto-immune disorder that causes the hair follicles to shut down. This disease has varying degrees and affects 4.7 million people in the United States alone. Alopecia areata affects both sexes equally and may, but does not always, progress to significant hair loss. Currently, there is no known cause or cure for alopecia. The degrees of alopecia are as follows:

Alopecia Areata Ophiasis-loss in bands along the scalp margins
Alopecia Areata Sisaipho-loss of all scalp hair except along the scalp margins
Alopecia Totalis-loss of all scalp hair
Alopecia Universalis-loss of all scalp and body hair

Cancer constitutes the second highest percentage of our recipients. Every year approximately 2,200 children under age 20 are diagnosed with brain tumors. Radiation treatment to the brain stem as a treatment for cancer can cause permanent hair loss. Chemotherapy may also cause hair loss to be long-term depending on the length of treatment needed.

Other causes of hair loss account for a small percentage of our recipients.

Ectodermal Dysplasia-A heritable disorder that affects the formation of the ectoderm. Extremely sparse hair can be a result of ectoderm abnormality.
Loose Anagen Syndrome-An abnormality where hair is thin and normally does not grow beyond the nape of the neck.
Trichotillomania-Compulsive and repetitive hair pulling.
Telogen Effluvium-Diffuse but excessive shedding related to sudden stress.
Trauma-burns, accidents, dog attacks, etc.

Anyway, I still haven't decided what to do, but it's been good to explore my options since this was going to be a perpetual life goal. I want to make sure I'm not wasting my precious hair.

Brightonwoman said...

I cannot completely verify all the info on the links I provided, no...however I do know that a couple are accurate--for example the Better Business Bureau has found them in violation of 'non-profit organization' requirements...
And the discrepancy between number of donated ponytails and number of wigs given is info they have profided on their own site.
Anyway, no, I certainly didn't feel pressured, and I don't think donating to them is a BAD thing by any means...I just thnk it's good to let folks know that it might not be quite what they were thinking, so they can make educated decisions about it. :)

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