Friday, 12 July 2013

Ever Wondered Where Hair Extensions Come From? I Wish That I Hadn't.....

Every weekend I keep VERY busy doing hair for people's weddings. And every weekend I put in AT LEAST one set of clip-in hair extensions. And MAYBE a couple of times a year I get into a discussion with someone about where all this beautiful hair comes from.

I've always shrugged it off and said that it is likely from India or China. In truth, I was just too nervous to search for the real answer. 

Turns out, I had reason to be....

The truth is, it is an industry that preys on the poor, sometimes desperate, sometimes hungry and sometimes religious women that are living on the other side of the world from the women who end up purchasing their beloved locks.

According to Female First, "the best quality hair comes from Asia or Eastern European countries where poverty is high and work is poorly paid. These women often see it as the best way to make money and feed their families."

"The 'hair factories'...have strict conditions under which the hair must grow" 

When it is long enough and time to be harvested these women are shaved bald and begin the process again. This may sound horrific to us in North America (especially since we will PAY big bucks in order to have MORE hair), but to these women (and sometimes entire families), it is simply a means to provide for those they love.

Unfortunately, not all women that give up their hair reap rewards of any kind from it. There is a ritual that originated in a temple in South India called tonsuring. According to several reports that I read, women will have their hair shaved as a symbol of surrendering their ego- most often to the God Venshi. Alternatively, a women may sacrifice her hair if her family is going through a particularly tough time in hopes of pleasing this God.

According to Bella Life , over 9 MILLION men and women practice tonsuring. Once warehouses of hair are filled, the hair is then auctioned off to the highest bidder. "In recent years, one temple sold 3 million kilos of hair for $1 million." 

(I'm sorry.... what!?!?!?!?)

"There is some sense of irony in someone sacrificing their hair as a holy ritual, then being sold for millions of dollars in the name of vanity"

(I couldn't have worded it better myself.)

Photograph from  The Guardian

Russian hair is considered the "best of the best" when it comes to hair for extensions. It is the most similar to North American hair and doesn't need to be stripped, bleached, coloured and treated like hair that comes from India and China.

Again, according to Bella Life, some Russians decide to sell their hair in answer to ads in the newspaper for around $50. But- on the dark side of the Russian hair-trade industry- female Russian prisoners in Moscow are having their hair chopped off for pure margin.

Apparently Victoria Beckham stated in 2004, "My extensions come from Russian prisoners, so I've got Russian cell-block H on my head."


So... now the hair is removed from the it is processed. In sweat shops- WHERE ELSE?? In 40 degree heat......

Hair processing factory in India. Photograph from The Guardian

Hmmmmmmm...I am beginning to wish that I had never opened this can of worms.

Basically, our vanity and over-indulgence here in North America causes people in poorer parts of the world to shave their heads in order to be able to feed their families.

It preys on women's deep seeded faith and belief in something larger than themselves.

It steals from women in prisons.

To me- this is the same greed that causes people in Bangladesh to work in unsafe factories, and some to lose their lives, because we don't want to spend more than $5 on our t-shirts.

Is it just me, or is something wrong with this picture???

Now, I'm not saying that we should not be able to 'add to' what we already have and bulk up our own heads of hair. I just believe- in my core- that we should be paying the TRUE price of what we purchase. Then, there wouldn't have to be SO many corners cut. Maybe....

I wonder- if it would cost us more in order to not steal from women on the other side of the globe- would we pay it??

I really and truly hope so....

My only desire is to 'plant a seed' and to get people thinking. And discussing. And then, hopefully, acting.

Blessings friends.


  1. Wow. Now I'm really glad I've never even considered using hair extensions of any kind. This is extremely unsettling. Things like this shouldn't be allowed to happen in our world.

    Great post, Melissa!

  2. I've never even seen hair extensions up close, but that's because I've never had an interest. If women want hair extensions, they should definitely pay for what the hair is worth. None of this stealing from prisoners and the poor woman shaving their heads as a sacrifice.

  3. Thanks for the comment,Leah! As far as I can tell, tonsuring has been around a long time, and will outlive this hair-obsession- I'm sure. I only wish that the millions of dollars paid went to these women who were giving up their hair, or to social service programs. As it stands right now- unfotunately, that doesn't seem to be the case. :(