Caroline discussed donating her hair for wigs for cancer patients for quite some time. She settled on a particular program, but that program no longer exists. This post was originally about the process she went through to decide, what we learned along the way, and why she chose one particular organization. I’ve updated it to reflect that the hair donation world has changed quite a bit since 2017 so it is more just about her experience with cutting her hair and sending the donation off.
Caroline has had long hair since she was three. (She is now eleven.) Here is her three year picture with all the pretty natural curls she had when she was little. Sadly the blonde curls did not last. (Sniff!) You can see it growing in darker and straighter even at this age. But she has lovely light to medium brown hair now.
Other than pictures of herself as a toddler, Caroline’s never seen herself with hair shorter than half way down her back. Like many girls and women with long hair, a bit of her identity was tied to it. She frequently receives comments and compliments on her lovely hair. But after she learned about donating hair to help those who need wigs, she would bring up the topic again from time to time. Over the past few months she started discussing it more seriously and in the past month she became very serious about it and spent much time researching the different organizations that take hair.
(Her first desire was to donate her hair for my next wig. I tear up just writing this. She has such a kind and loving heart. I explained why it wasn’t possible, but that we would find a good home for her donation.)
Where To Donate Hair
The first question of where to donate hair is a personal one with many aspects to consider. There are a number of organizations that pop up when doing research. Each organization has a unique focus such as children with cancer, children with alopecia, women with cancer, etc.
Each group also has their own donation requirements.
- The donation length requirements vary from eight inches to twelve inches.
- Some groups will take no gray hair. Some will take up to 5% or 10% gray hair. It just depends.
- Each program wants the hair secured in a particular way. Some want it in a single ponytail, secured with a couple of rubber bands. Some want it in multiple smaller sections, secured with many bands.
- In all cases, the hair must be clean, dry, and free of products. Most do not want it if it has been chemically treated.
So whichever choice you end up making, it’s very important to read the directions on the organization’s website. When we went to the salon, I took with me a printed copy of the visual directions from the website to make sure we did it correctly. Every website indicates they throw away a lot of donations simply because people don’t follow the instructions and the donation is then unusable.
Caroline’s Decision Of Where To Donate Hair
The decision of how much to donate and where to send it was Caroline’s. I was not going to dictate to her how or what she should do. She’s eleven years old and she was the one driving this decision. I was proud of her not only for making this choice but also for how much time she spent researching the different options. We’re homeschoolers and I was thrilled to see how seriously she took this in terms of understanding what was involved, the pros and cons of different organizations, etc. So much learning, reading, studying, debating pros and cons, etc. in real life learning!
In the end, she sent in nine inches. I think this was a good choice. I believe if she had tried to do an entire twelve inches, the experience might not have been as positive. It would have left her hair much shorter and I think there would have been more of a shock with it. The important thing to me is she made the choice to donate to help women with cancer and she made a choice for her own appearance that she is happy with.
Caroline’s Salon Experience
So we were off to the salon where Sharon Jo was ready to help us out. (Honestly, this picture doesn’t do Caroline’s hair justice. It’s much prettier in person. I’m just not the best photographer. LOL!)
Putting in the ponytail holders…
Starting to cut!
The stylist says it is more like sawing. LOL!
And there it is! A ponytail to donate!
What have I done? (Not really!)
Ponytail donation packaged up in a clean bag for mailing to the hair donation program.
Getting a nice fresh cut!
Very pretty new hairstyle!
Dried and with finger curls!
Such a pretty finished product!
Then we had a bit of a bonus…
Caroline loves to do her nails in a variety of colors, with glitter, etc. I noticed that the nail stylist wasn’t busy so I asked if she could do a manicure on Caroline. Caroline has wanted to try a professional manicure for a number of years and this seemed like the perfect time!
The manicurist was great. She took a lot of time with Caroline, explaining all the steps, why they were important, etc. Caroline opted for a light green polish except for her ring fingers which got silver glitter polish. (As much as we’re the alike in many ways, we’re VERY different in other ways. LOL!)
The next day we put the bag with the donation ponytail in a padded envelope. Here we are all packaged up and ready to take to the post office! We included Caroline’s name, age, and address so we will hopefully receive a confirmation that they received it. There is no way to know who will benefit from Caroline’s hair, but we trust it will all work out for the best!
So there is Caroline’s hair donation story! At this point, she hasn’t decided if she will do it again. She likes her (relatively) shorter hair and I’m curious to see if she decides to keep it at this shorter length or let it grow out again. Whatever comes next, it was a great experience all the way around and something we would recommend to anyone else who is considering it!
Wonderful, Caroline! Thanks for sharing this experience with us, Sallie.
It is great to see kids reaching out to care for others!
Also, nice shirt, Caroline. Michigan State is my alma mater and purple my favorite color!
Thanks, Melissa! It was a great experience for all of us. And it’s always great to meet a fellow Spartan! Go green!
Thank you for sharing Caroline’s experience with us.
Today, I got my hair cut to donate. My first choice was to donate my locks to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. However, this evening, while reviewing its website, I learned that this program has been temporarily discontinued. Thanks to your donation chart, it made it easy for me to select my second choice, Wigs4Kids, which has a local salon that supports them.
In case you’re interested, below, I’ve pasted Pantene’s explanation of its program discontinuation.
Pantene Beautiful Lengths has been proud to partner with both the American and Canadian Cancer Societies to provide free, real-hair wigs to women living with cancer since 2006. Over the past 12 years, the program has been generously supported by people all over North America with their hair donations, and together we have provided thousands of wigs to women undergoing cancer treatment.
Over the last several years, synthetic-hair technology has vastly improved, giving synthetic hair wigs more of a “real-hair” feel, making them lighter, cooler to wear, and easier to style. With these advancements, synthetic wigs are now the preferred wig choice for cancer patients. This change in patient need has resulted in decreased demand for real-hair wigs at the American and Canadian Cancer Societies, and as a result the time has come to wind down the Beautiful Lengths program.
Hair donations will no longer be accepted after December 31, 2018. Through the passion and generosity of donors all over the US and Canada, we are pleased to share that we are able and committed to meet the future real-hair wig needs of the American and Canadian Cancer Societies for the next four years.
We sincerely thank all of the people who selflessly donated their ponytails over the years – we couldn’t have done it without you!
If you would still like to support women living with cancer, we encourage you to visit http://www.cancer.org to learn about the ways you can continue to support the American Cancer Society.