It’s funny how as a cancer survivor myself, I’ve never thought about growing my hair out for hair donation, until a friend told me about her own experience donating hair to make wig for cancer patients.
It was the eve of my wedding day. My friend came over to my house and I saw her new haircut. A cute wavy mid-length bob. I asked her about the haircut and she said she actually donated her hair.
I was surprised because I didn’t remember seeing her hair being extremely long. I thought you’d need super long hair (ie waist length) to be able to donate or you’d have to go bald!
Wrong. In fact, she said my hair at the point in time was already long enough. Oh wow and yay!
After the wedding, I did my research. In Malaysia, it seems that we only have Locks of Hope (not to be confused with Locks of Love, from US), an NGO that accepts hair donation to be turned into wigs for cancer patients.
You may have heard of Locks of Hope events before. During CNY 2019, they made Malaysia Book of Records when 22.8k people donated their hair. In 2017, YouTuber Jared Lee from Velinai (previously Grim Film) donated his signature long locks as well.
If you watched the video, you’d see that the process is really simple. You go to a saloon (any saloon will do if you send in yourself). Tell them you want to donate your hair. They may or may not be familiar with the process but it’s fine. You can guide them.
After all, it’s just tie, snip and send. That’s it!
My intention was to donate my hair right after the wedding since my hair was already long enough (min. 6 inches); trimming 6 inches off would get me a mid-length bob, which would still be within my comfort zone.
However, I quickly learned that hair for donation cannot be chemically treated in the recent 6 months. Locks of Hope accepts permed, dyed and rebonded hair past 6-month-old, as long as it’s not bleached or damaged. Don’t worry if your hair is curly or dry — it’s accepted. Some NGOs have requirement about accepting grey hair but I don’t see it specified for Locks of Hope.
I dyed my hair on 2 July 2019 so I had to wait at least until 1 Jan 2020 (6 months) to donate my hair. You bet that’s the first thing I looked forward to in 2020.
On the first weekend of 2020, I walked into my usual saloon. The stylist was informed about my intention to donate so she tied two low pigtails and snipped away. She put my snipped hair into a plastic bag and voila! I took the bag of hair home to courier it to Locks of Hope myself because the saloon wasn’t a partner saloon. The mailing address is on the donation form, that can be found on their Facebook album here: Donation Form.
Alternatively, you can drop the hair at their office in Kajang; there’s a donation bin but remember to attach your form if you want it registered!
Besides that, Locks of Hope has saloon partners. If you go to the saloon partners, you can just leave the hair and donation form there. The list can be found on their website here: https://locksofhope.myfreesites.net/information.
The hair-cutting process felt really quick compared to the months of anticipation and care for my longer-than-usual hair. During the wait-out, I grew a few more inches of hair and ended up donating 10 inches! On average, hair grows 0.5 inch per month so 10 inches is 20 months worth of hair growth! 😱
I got sentimental after realizing that I donated 20-months worth of hair because that’s literally the first fresh head of hair I grew after completing chemotherapy. I completed chemo in Sept 2016 and had a mid-length bob. Assuming it’s about 9 inches long, it’d have taken me 18-months to replace. The whole process until my hair donation was 38-months worth and it’s been 39 months since the end of my chemotherapy. #goosebump
Anyway, I read up a fair bit doing research about hair donation. Here are some additional information consolidated from various sources, not limited to Locks of Hope’s:
- Locks of Hope’s minimum is 6 inches but prefer 8 inches. I’m guessing it’s because while your longest may be 6 inches, often times there are many layers way shorter than 6.
- To protect the donated hair, Lock of Hope advises to keep the hair in a sealed plastic bag before couriering, dropping off at donation bin or leaving it behind at partner saloon.
- Make sure your hair is dry and clean. Moisture in hair can cause hair to turn moldy; it’d be a waste before it gets turned into wig! Do not apply any products in your hair before donation e.g. wax, gel, spray, mousse.
- Tie your hair securely and neatly before cutting. I don’t think loose hair (e.g. swept up from the floor) is accepted. So those who bald their head do so more for advocacy purpose than for donation since the hair fall to the ground during shaving.
- There are organizations that sell donated hair. I can’t verify how credible Locks of Hope is as there’s not much transparency and accountability; even the website and Facebook are not well-maintained. But it’s the only one we have in Malaysia and they seem established enough to sustain with years of partnerships with governmental organizations and private brands.
- To add on, Locks of Love (the US one that’s plagued with hair donation scandals) admits they do sell hair but it’s done to cover manufacturing expenses. According to Snopes, Locks of Love Said “Hair that is short, gray, or otherwise unusable will be sold to help offset manufacturing costs. Locks of Love DOES NOT throw hair away unless it is wet and moldy or not bundled in a braid or ponytail when it is received.” Sounds fair to me.
- On the same note, Locks of Hope (Malaysia’s) has manufacturing costs that they welcome cash donations to cover as well. It costs RM820 to make a wig in China so feel free to attach a cheque of RM820 if you’d like to donate money and/or hair.
- Every year, Locks of Hope distributes wigs to Kuala Lumpur Hospital and the National Cancer Institute in Putrajaya, according to The Star.
- If you’d like to get a wig from Locks of Hope, email them cancer patient’s IC and medical report. Email address can be found on their website.
Hope you learned a thing or two from my experience. I definitely learned that it’s less scarier than expected; I was nowhere near bald or having a pixie cut after the donation. At least for me, keeping my hair for a 6-inch-long donation was pretty easy; in fact, that’s just slightly longer than my usual length. I just never thought that it’s so easy to qualify. Also, I think it’s a great idea for girls who want to do charity at young age and feel like it’s a harvest of their hard work.
It’s World Cancer Day today. I hope that the next time you’re getting a haircut, pause for 3 seconds and check if you have at least 6 inches of hair you’re willing to part with to contribute to cancer patients needing wigs.