Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

The Hair Raising Truth About Your Weave

Published on February 29, 2012 by   ·   4 Comments Pin It
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The use of hair extensions has become increasingly common in the last few years as hair lengths and hemlines go up and down with the fashion–even celebrities like Jessica Simpson have jumped into the game with their own lines of clip in extensions. The American market alone for hair extensions has been estimated at over $250 million annually–and growing.
But where does all this hair come from? The answers may shock you.
Several locales produce the majority of the hair that is collected, processed, and sold to women of better means all over the world; India, China, Brazil, and Russia/Ukraine. The common thread that binds these vastly different places together is the high levels of poverty most people endure in these places.
India and China by far produce most of the human hair available on the extensions market than any other place in the world. Over 10 million people shave their heads in India each year in a process known as “tonsure”. Tonsure has long been a cultural practice both as a right of passage and as a religious sacrifice for Indians of all faiths but especially Hindus. A child’s first haircut between the ages of one and three is an event with overtones very similar to a Christian baptism, with the haircut symbolizing a dedication and rebalancing of karmic debt by those who have been “born a second time” therefore carrying karmic debt from a previous life. Other less joyous occasions would call for tonsure; fifty years ago it was common for a widow to shave her head after the death of her husband, and the relatives of a loved one to shave theirs in mourning, particularly after the death of a father. In modern India, many maintain the traditions of shaving their heads for religious sacrifice as an act of supplication, but entire families will do it as thanksgiving for a good turn of events such as the birth of a son, a child’s acceptance into college, the curing of a long illness, or the happy news of a marriage arrangement.
Temples all over India that preform these ritual head shavings have relationships with companies that purchase and process the sacrificed hair for sale to extensions companies all over the world. The sprawling Tirumala Tirupati Devastanams temple is said to be the source of 30% of the world’s remy Indian hair supply. A few years ago, the going price for hair was estimated between $300-$600 a kilo, up from just $30 a kilo pre 2007.  As the hair trade continues to grow more profitable and demand climbs, concerns have arisen about how all of this human hair is being sourced. The proceeds from temple sales of hair are meant to be reinvested in the community from which the hair came, to help fund schools, nutritional services, and medical clinics.  The individuals having their heads shaved are well aware that their hair is being sold.  Funds from the sale of tonsured hair have helped communities around the temples set up health clinics offering services for the poor who require surgeries and procedures they would not be able to afford otherwise.
However, to date there is no industry standard ensuring ethical or consistent methods of sourcing of human hair. Hair that doesn’t come from the temples is obtained in a number of questionable ways, including men selling off their wives’ hair without  consent, razor wielding bandit style thefts, or simply collected from hair brushes and salon floors. The only company with any sort of process in place is Great Lengths, a major player in the high end luxury hair extensions market. Great Lengths oversees every step of the process to ensure that their hair is not just of the highest quality, but also that the temples are paid fairly for the sale of the tonsured hair and that the hair is given willingly.

In Russia and the Ukraine, girls as young as thirteen and women of all ages sell their hair to help support their families. Monthly wages in rural areas outside of Moscow can average about $200 a month, and with few prospects women and girls market what few assets they have to help bring in money for the family.  Sometimes, the hair is preserved from a previous haircut, usually after the birth of their first child, and stored away for a later date as a financial safety net for dire times. Other rumored sources of hair from Eastern Europe include the forced head shavings of female prisoners, and Tores, Ukraine  has been identified as a major source of illegally obtained hair. In 2006, one hair dealer was shot in contested sourcing territory by another, suggesting the involvement of organized crime according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant.

Scalping attacks have become a problem in Brazil where more than 26% of the population lives below the poverty line, and hair is forcibly taken from women for sale on the black market. Most of the human hair on the extensions market is sourced through brokers who may not necessarily know where the hair is coming from or if the person whose hair they are buying was treated or paid fairly, or even if the hair was given willingly at all. There are also rumors, though no one can say for sure how true, that some hair is even removed from corpses.

In short, a word to the wise; if you’re considering getting hair extensions, be wary of any claims made by the salon technician’s source.  Hair marketed as “Italian” hair is likely Indian hair processed by an Italian owned company.  Any hair labeled as European or Russian has most likely been filtered through a hair broker and may have been obtained unscrupulously! Do your homework and look into the sources of a distributor’s hair and learn to read labels and get familiar with pricing structures. “Remy” has become a marketing term meant to denote quality as truly remy hair processed in one direction and with cuticle intact is the most resilient and expensive, but any package of hair that is labeled remy (or remi) and costs less than a few hundred dollars is NOT real remy hair. If ethical sourcing of goods is an important element of your conscious consumerism, take the time to familiarize yourself with the practices of your beauty products, because exploitation for vanity reaches far beyond the use of animals and harmful chemical shortcuts!

Eden Di Bianco is a hair & make up artist, dedicated to cruelty free beauty services on location. Yes, she does weaves.

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Readers Comments (4)

  1. Stephanie Bain says:

    This would be where false eye lashes come from also?

  2. Natural fiber ones are made from wig and extensions remnants, yes. This will include the long lasting lash extensions, though some of them are made of animal fur like mink (gross & cruel! Jennifer Lopez famously wears this type.)

    Synthetics like the crazy color/festive lashes and the cheapies sold at the drug store are plastic & made from polymers.

  3. samuel says:

    S̶̲̥̅Ơ̴̴̴̴̴̴͡ is it advisable for people to still be buying the wevon from the sellers. What about the contact lens ♓☺ώ do they get it is in the same form?

  4. Mr Hallem Williams says:

    Dear Sales,
    How are you today my name is Hallem Williams the owner of Hallem Store Fashion i will like to order for some items in your store but before i proceed i will like to know if you can supply and ship to Ivory-Coast and if you accept CREDIT CARDS as payment. Kindly advise me ASAP so i can proceed with the list of items.can you forward your catalog to me so that i can select my need.
    Regards

    Mr Hallem Williams
    Hallem Store
    200 COCODY AGREE
    ABIDJAN 00225
    COTE D’ IVOIRE
    16 BP 0105 ABJ 16
    Tel-0022566337183
    Fax-00225 55378202
    hallemwilliams600@gmail.com




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