People have been growing their hair long during the pandemic—great news for those who need wigs

Wigs on mannequin heads-donating hair has increased wig production during the pandemic
Photo via Dylan Otto Krider/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • This story is regularly updated for relevance. Last updated: July 9, 2021

Though hair appointments took a backseat to caution during the first year of the pandemic and though people hadn’t visited a barber in many months, it turns out their overlong hair can actually do some good. Wig makers are urging anyone planning a trip to the hair salon during the COVID pandemic to consider donating their unwanted hair.

A number of wigmakers, many of whom make wigs for people with cancer, are seeing a welcome surge in donations as the pandemic rages on. In the U.S. and in Canada. “Listen, there’s never enough hair,” Martino Cartier, founder of the New Jersey-based Wigs & Wishes, said. “We get donations every day and it’s never enough, so this is definitely a silver lining for us.”

2020 broke a donation record for Sparrow Hospital’s annual hair donation drive in Michigan. Many contributions came from brand new donors, many of whom credit the pandemic for pushing them to consider donation (overall, Sparrow Health received a record 487 donations). This upward shift in charity appears to come, in large part, from an urge to do good in the midst of mass uncertainty. People feel largely helpless and have jumped at the chance to feel useful on a broader scale. 

The longer waits between cuts is also feeding the necessary, and coveted, market for longer wigs. As noted by JoAn Nicely, founder of Mississippi’s Pink Heart Funds, long wigs are always in high demand. “We’re getting 15-, 16-inch ponytails, which is fabulous, because most of the young girls that want wigs want long wigs,” she told CNN.

Wigs for Kids in Ohio also saw a benefit. “It’s such a beautiful experience…you’re giving a physical piece of yourself to this person so that they can love what they see when they look in the mirror,” one stylist told News 5 Cleveland.

If you find yourself yearning to donate your hair, there are a few necessary steps to follow. The minimum length necessary can vary widely, depending on where you intend to donate. Make sure to research your intended recipient organization to determine what minimum length your donation will need to be. Most non-profits require a minimum of 10 inches. 

“People don’t realize how much hair you really do need,” Cartier said. “By the time you cut the split ends off, and by the time you tie a knot in it,” it can take five to six donations to produce a single wig.

The condition of your hair is also a factor. If your hair is layered, treated, dyed, or bleached, it could prevent you from donating. A large amount of grey hair can also limit your donation options. Many organizations request that you keep your hair trimmed prior to a donation to keep it healthy and free of split ends. 

Regardless of where you’re donating your hair during the time of COVID, it will almost certainly need to be clean, dry, braided, or in a ponytail, and it should be placed in a sealed plastic bag. The hair must be well secured, with multiple bands holding it in place. If it falls apart in transit, it cannot be used. You’ll also want to make sure it is secured when it is cut, as hair that has fallen to the floor cannot be accepted. Most charities accept donations made by mail. 

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Sources: CNN, Allure, Wigs for Kids

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