Human hair can be valuable and you can sell it. But since it only grows at the rate of 6 inches a year and many buyers require at least 12 inches, you will probably only be able to sell it every 2 years. The price paid depends on many factors including its length, color and condition and can vary from less than $100 to as much as $2,000. You might also consider donating your hair to organizations that collect hair for use in making wigs for cancer patients and children with alopecia, a disorder that makes them bald. But, whatever you decide, be aware there are strict requirements about how the hair is harvested and packaged and if you overlook them, your hair could be unusable.
To see whether selling or donating your hair is right for you, let’s take a closer look at the industry, what’s involved in selling or donating your hair, what qualities your hair must have and the likely price you’ll receive if you decide to sell your hair instead of donating it.
Who buys hair and what do they do with it?
Wigmakers, some hairdressers and others may be interested in buying your hair to make wigs and hair extensions. They sell them to healthy people for aesthetic reasons and some are used in filmmaking and theater productions.
There are people who collect hair. It started during the Victorian era when admirers asked celebrities for locks of hair instead of their autographs. It is now a multimillion dollar industry.
But, not all wigmakers are currently in the market for hair. While, World of Wigs in California has a notice on its website saying it has enough hair and isn’t buying now, HairHarvest.co.uk is still buying.
What organizations collect donated hair and what do they do with it?
Non-profits are always looking for hair. Some send donated hair to wigmakers overseas to make custom-fitted wigs for adults and children they judge most in need. Before you criticize them for not having the wigs made here, realize they pay $1,000 to $1,800 for each wig and most charge the recipients nothing.
The American Cancer Society recommends Pantene Beautiful Lengths for donations intended for adults and Wigs for Kids for donations intended for children. Wigs for kids should not be confused with Michigan-based Wigs4Kids which only operates within Michigan. Wigs for Kids provides wigs to both children with cancer and children with alopecia. It helps 125-150 kids a year. There are 1.1 million children with alopecia. The American Cancer Society estimates 10,450 children under 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
Possibly the best known group that supplies wigs for children is Locks of Love. Contrary to what you may read, Locks for Love is not the oldest organization that collects donated hair. It started in 1997, whereas, Jeffrey Paul founded Wigs for Kids in 1981. Locks of Love only provides natural hair wigs to children suffering from long-term hair loss. Cancer sufferers receive synthetic wigs. In 2011, it furnished 317 natural hair wigs and 113 synthetic ones.
Wigs for Kids vs. Locks of Love
Both organizations do a lot of good. But, Wigs for Kids’ application process is less onerous, it never charges for wigs, it has a network of salons to facilitate the hair donation process and it gets wigs to kids faster. The entire process takes 4-6 months with Locks of Love. Once Wigs for Kids orders a wig, delivery time is 4-10 weeks.
Preparing Your Hair for the Sale
Once you have decided to sell or donate your hair, be sure to check out the buyer’s or donor organization’s specific requirements. They can vary considerably. But, as a minimum:
- Hair must be at least 10 inches long.
- Virgin hair, hair that has never been chemically treated, is preferred and some will only accept virgin hair.
- The hair must be properly packaged. Since some groups like Wigs for Kids like braided hair and some buyers like HairHarvest.co.uk reject braided hair, it is critical to investigate the exact requirements to avoid disappointment.
Locks of Love estimates that 80% of the hair it receives is unusable for wigs for various reasons.
This video from Wigs for Kids does an excellent job of explaining how it wants you to package your hair and why. Page down to find it.
Harvesting Your Hair
Cutting your hair yourself isn’t a good idea. It is best to go to a salon and bring along the guidelines from your intended buyer or donor organization. If you have chosen Wigs for Kids, it maintains a network of Ambassador Salons. Some will cut your hair for free and some discount their usual fee by 50%. The Ambassador Salons have information about packaging, etc. Enter the required information and choose Ambassador Salon from the drop down menu next to the word, “Tag.”
How much can I make by selling my hair?
If your hair is naturally blonde, long, virgin, very thick and very healthy (no split ends, not dry, you don’t smoke and rarely blow dry), it can fetch several hundred dollars and maybe a couple thousand.
To get an idea, try HairSellOn’s hair price calculator. To give you some idea, I entered 25 inches, blonde, 3 inches thick and virgin hair and got $651. When I reduced the thickness to 1 inch, the price dropped to $420. BuyAndSellHair has a table of prices in its Seller’s Guide.
About two-thirds of the hair used to make wigs in the United States comes from Asia, mainly India. That suggests most wigmakers aren’t likely to pay much for your hair unless it is really exceptional.
For example, HairHarvest.co.uk pays just $24.50 to $49 for usable hair 10-12 inches long. And as much as $330 for hair 19 inches long or more. The key word here is “usable.” If some hair has to be cut off because of split ends, that part is not usable and you will only be paid for what is left assuming at least 10 inches is left. Note the above prices are for Caucasian or European hair. Prices for Asian hair are lower.
Your best bet will be listing your hair on sites such as BuyAndSellHair, SellHairStore, Hairwork and HairSellOn. Some sites charge a listing fee and some don’t. You can even sell your hair on e-Bay if you want. Payment is via PayPal or check.
Be sure to factor in all your costs to get a realistic idea of your net proceeds: cost to harvest, if any; shipping cost and listing fee, if any.
Marketing Your Hair
Yes, you have to market your hair.
- You will need pictures before it is cut.
- To make your hair look its best, wash and rinse your hair with cold water to increase its shine, dry (preferably not with a blow dryer) and brush thoroughly and carefully.
- Photos taken in natural sunlight are best.
- Taking pictures of your hair yourself is difficult. Get someone to do it for you.
- Provide a detailed description of your hair including length, color, thickness and quality, including information about health habits and living conditions (non-smoking environment).
- Use one of the resources above to realistically price your hair.
- Cut your hair until you have been paid
- Read and understand all the guidelines for selling your hair and follow them exactly.
If you decide to donate your hair instead of selling it, you may ease the burden of the recipient’s illness by helping to make them feel good about their appearance.