So where does it come from?
China is known as the world’s largest hair exporter. If your hair is labelled Brazilian or Indian, chances are, a small or large percent of it is from China. Brazilian hair is in high demand, but scarce as there are very few mass collection sites, unlike India. Millions of Indian men and women of all ages sacrifice their hair to the gods in a sacred ceremony called Tonsure. The hair industry has taken advantage of this mass collection point, and turned it into a 7-million-dollar revenue stream. The hair on your head could have been donated to you through a religious ceremony in India, or the exploitation of a woman in China.
Image via BBC
Alternatively, your new luscious locks may be made from a mix of plastic, and what is known as ‘fallen hair’. Fallen hair is sourced from drains, floors, and hairbrushes, detangled, processed with chemicals, coated with silicon, and sometimes even mixed with animal hair to make it go further. This plastic-coated hair attempts to mimic ‘virgin remy’ (natural, real hair), so hair brokers can make their millions from a fake product that cost them nothing.
Yep, that’s right, your hair could have come from the drain. Perhaps that’s embracing zero waste living, but the chemicals involved in turning drain-hair into locks passable to go on your head, are not the environment’s friend.
How to shop ethically
Fair-trade hair. Along with your fair-trade bananas, fair-trade hair is traceable, and sourced ethically from the beautiful human-being who made the decision, on their own accord, to have their hair cut and used by someone else. But this won’t happen if we don’t ask.
Look for companies like Great Lengths and Woven Hair, who strive to source fairly.
“Our prices are anywhere from five to ten times our competitors, which is why we’ve recieved dangerous threats.” – Dan Choi, Founder of Remy New York
Hair is empowering, it is expressive, and it is part of who we are. Using hair extensions isn’t a crime; it’s just another way to artistically express ourselves. But it shouldn’t come at the cost of another person’s dignity and humanity. Developing countries continue to suffer from westerners wanting to look good, and it’s not okay. The best thing we can do it ask questions, and increase the demand for fair-trade hair.
Feature photo by Ömürden Cengiz on Unsplash