If you’ve ever wanted to donate hair, you more than likely have been directed to donate to Locks of Love.
They have a great cause– but many seem to be misinformed about Locks of Love‘s exact mission.
Once upon a time, I was an eleven-year-old with Leukemia. My family and I turned to Locks of Love to secure a wig for me. We went through the extensive application process (including getting references from people who knew me, submitting medical information, and filling out a form). Eventually, we got a letter back.
Rejected. I was offered a “synthetic hair piece,” and was told that they only give real-hair wigs to kids with “long-term” hair loss. Like most people, my family and I were under the impression that Locks of Love provides wigs to kids with cancer. Their justification to my frustrated mama bear was that my “hair is going to grow back.”
If you actually take a close look at their website, Locks of Love does specify that most of their wigs go to kids with alopecia. They don’t clarify, however, that cancer patients usually aren’t eligible, nor do they define what “long-term hair loss” precisely means.
In kid time, though, even a year of hair loss feels pretty darn long-term.
To be clear, alopecia is a devastating condition, and those who suffer from it absolutely deserve wigs. Locks of Love‘s mission is admirable.
The problem is that Locks of Love does not do an adequate job of correcting the widespread false perceptions about the organization. While they say on the site that most of their recipients are alopecia sufferers, they still suggest that cancer patients regularly get wigs too:
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.
In their ‘Who We Service‘ section:
Our recipients are financially disadvantaged children, age 21 and under, suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. Most of our children suffer from an autoimmune disorder called alopecia areata… Other recipients have been victim to severe burns, endured radiation treatment to the brain stem as a treatment for cancer, or suffer from any number of skin disorders that cause permanent hair loss.
A little vague, huh? Sometimes they refer to permanent hair loss, other times, long-term hair loss (again, what’s long-term?). It’s no wonder people are so confused.
If you donate to Locks of Love, you’ll potentially be helping a kid, but be aware that it most likely won’t be a cancer patient.
Why only potentially?
According to The New York Times,
As much as 80 percent of the hair donated to Locks of Love… is unusable for its wigs… Many people are unaware of the hair donation guidelines and send in hair that is gray, wet or moldy, too short, or too processed, some of which is immediately thrown away. Even hair that survives the winnowing may not go to the gravely ill, but may be sold to help pay for charities’ organizational costs.
In other words, even if you do decide to donate, your hair might end up getting rejected and thrown away, or the organization may sell it for funds. Therefore, some donors have just gotten a drastic haircut, and that’s all it is– a haircut.
So, where can you donate your hair if you want to help cancer patients get wigs? Lots of places!
Here are some awesome organizations that focus on making wigs largely for people going through cancer treatment:
“For over 30 years, Wigs for Kids has been providing Hair Replacement Systems and support for children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, Alopecia, Trichotillomania, burns and other medical issues at no cost to children or their families.”
Check them out here.
“Beautiful Lengths is a partnership between Pantene® and the American Cancer Society®, the largest nonprofit health organization committed to saving lives from every cancer and improving the quality of life for people facing the disease. The role of Pantene is to help women grow long, strong*, beautiful hair and provide the funds to turn this hair into free, real-hair wigs for women with cancer. So far, Pantene has donated 24,000 free real-hair wigs to the American Cancer Society’s wig banks, which distribute wigs to cancer patients across the country.”
Check them out here.
“Children With Hair Loss was created as a resource for ALL CHILDREN who have medically-related hair loss. It is our mission to empower these children to become whole again by making hair replacement available to those who may be financially challenged and might otherwise not have a means of obtaining the hair they want and need.
Our goal is to assist as many of these children as possible in changing their lives by improving their outlook and empowering them with a degree of self-confidence that will allow them to face the world with renewed self-esteem.”
Check them out here.