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A Gift of Hair

I just chopped off 10 inches of hair and mailed it away. I loved my long hair, but last weekend I had the realization that, since donating my hair was on my bucket list (my lil sis has donated her hair before), there was no better time to do it than now, in honor of my mother-in-law who passed away just weeks ago. Making the cut felt a tad impulsive since I hadn’t been actively considering it even though it was in the back of my mind… the idea popped afresh into my head one night and wouldn’t leave me alone.

I chose Pantene Beautiful Lengths over others hair donation options. Donating hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths lets them create free real-hair wigs that will be given to low income women who have lost their own hair to cancer treatment. Wigs are made by HairUWear and are distributed by American Cancer Society wig banks.

The requirements for hair donation to Pantene Beautiful Lengths:

  • Donated hair must be a minimum of 8 inches long (hair is measured from just above the elastic band of the ponytail to the ends).
  • Donors may straighten hair to measure wavy/curly hair.
  • Hair is washed and completely dry, without any styling products.
  • Hair may be colored with vegetable dyes, rinses and semi-permanent dyes. It cannot be bleached, permanently colored or chemically treated.
  • Hair may not be more than 5% gray. This is because it takes six ponytails to make each wig, and the ponytails for a single wig will be dyed a uniform color. Gray hair (along with permanently colored, bleached, or chemically treated hair) doesn’t absorb color at the same rates as other types of hair, making a uniform color unachievable.

I chose this hair donation option primarily because it makes wigs for adult cancer patients and I wanted to give something tangible to those dealing with the multifaceted challenges of cancer, like my MIL did. Other options are Wigs for Kids and Locks of Love. Here is a nice article that discusses factors to consider when deciding where to send your hair donation. It also debunks the myth that any of these 3 options makes recipients pay for the wigs, but explains how they do sell unusable (too short, too gray, etc) hair to help offset the manufacturing costs.

Seeing my MIL slowly lose her hair brought the reality of cancer treatment home, even before we knew the chemo wasn’t working for her. She gracefully accepted that she would never grow her own hair again, and ordered a wig. She had it styled by her regular hairdresser, something that never occurred to me as a possibility (but then, I had not deeply considered wigs before either). In writing this post, I happily discovered that a small local salon company in my county, Brown and DeLine, has partnered with the ACS as a wig bank location to generously give cancer patients private appointments to fit and style their wigs.

So, here I am a few days after the chop… a little lighter, a little richer. I loved having long hair, but I have no regrets. We get so much by giving.

Karen, post haircut

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