How to Donate Your Hair to Help People With Cancer

April 26, 2018
Sonja Hibbs

Thinking about donating your hair?share on twitter There are several organizations and programs that can turn your long locks into free or low-cost wigs for people with cancer. A wig can give self-confidence, strength, and hope to someone struggling with the emotional challenges of hair loss. Here’s how to make the kindest cut of all:

1. Choose where to send your hair.

Every hair donation organization has its own mission and goals. Do a little research to make sure that you’re comfortable with who receives the wigs and how. For example, Locks of Love, Wigs For Kids, Chai Lifeline, and Children With Hair Loss focus on children who’ve lost their hair from cancer or another medical reason. Some organizations serve specific states, such as Wig 4 Kids of Michigan. Other organizations provide wigs for people around the world, such as Wigs & Wishes.

Additional information could help guide your decision, and more details are often provided on an organization’s website. Here are some questions you may want to ask about each organization’s process so you’re comfortable with your donation:

  • What’s the age range of recipients?

  • What are the medical requirements for receiving a wig?

  • Are the wigs free to recipients?

  • How are the wigs made for each recipient?

2. Read the hair donation requirements carefully.

It’s important to follow an organization’s donation requirements if you want your hair to be used. All of them have a minimum length of hair that can be donated, commonly ranging from 8 inches to 14 inches. If you have layered hair, the shortest layer often needs to meet the minimum length requirement.

Adults and children can donate hair. You may need to find out if an organization will or will not take hair that’s been colored, permed, highlighted, bleached, or dreadlocked. Also, some organizations accept gray hair or hair with a certain percentage of gray in it, while others don’t accept it at all.  

What happens to hair that can’t be used because it doesn’t meet guidelines? Some organizations dispose of it. Others sell it to help cover the production costs of the wigs.

If you’re looking to donate a wig that you used during your own cancer treatment, instead of your hair, there are other organizations that will take them. For example, the EBeauty Community refurbishes wigs and provides them to women receiving chemotherapy. Or, contact a nearby cancer center or oncology office to ask about donating your wig locally.

3. Make sure that you and your hairstylist follow the donation cut instructions.

A hairstylist doesn’t need special training to do a donation cut, but be sure to tell your hairstylist the reason for your haircut and the guidelines of the organization you’ve selected. They’ll just need to follow a few simple but specific instructions so that your hair can be used. Some hair donation organizations offer a list of specific salons that will do the cut—sometimes at a discount—and package and ship the hair for you.

If your hairstylist hasn’t done a donation cut before, you can print out the guidelines from the organization’s website to bring with you. The website may also provide tips, such as cutting off multiple, smaller ponytails often provides more usable hair than a single large ponytail.

Before you head to the salon, make sure to:

  • Wash and dry your hair. After you wash your hair, don’t use any hair products, such as hairspray, gel, or mousse. Hair that’s donated must be completely dry before it’s shipped so it doesn’t mold and become unusable.

  • Pack your supplies. Bring the organization’s hair-cutting guidelines, a ruler, ponytail holders, and a resealable plastic bag.

  • Have a hairstyle in mind. Cutting your hair for a cause can make you feel great, but you also need to know what kind of style you want when you walk out of the salon. This can help you avoid having any regrets from donating your hair.

Once you and your stylist discuss what length you’d like your cut to be, use the ruler to make sure the hair being donated meets the minimum length requirement. Curly hair should be pulled straight for an accurate measurement. In general, organizations ask that donated hair be bundled into a ponytail or braid that’s tightly secured with rubber bands at both ends. Loose hair or clippings from the floor aren’t accepted.

Packaging and shipping instructions are usually as easy as mailing the bag of your hair and a donation form in a regular envelope. Just be sure to use enough postage.

After that, it’s time to enjoy your new ’do and the fact that you’ve made a difference.

5 Simple Steps to Donate Your Hair

5 Simple Steps to Donate Your Hair:
  1. Where should I donate my hair? Find an organization in your country that matches your passions, maybe a charity that provides wigs to children, or to people in your community.
  2. How long does my hair need to be? Donated hair needs to be a minimum length when straightened, usually from 8 to 14 inches (about 21 to 36 centimeters). Find out what the chosen organization requires.
  3. Are there types of hair I can't donate? Some organizations may not take hair that is colored/bleached, permed, dreadlocked, or gray. All other hair is allowed.
  4. What should I bring to my haircut? Give the organization's guidelines to your stylist to follow. Bring a ruler to make sure the hair meets the minimum length requirement.
  5. How do I send my hair? Each organization will have its own mailing address and guidelines for you to follow when sending your hair.

Revised December 9, 2022.

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