According to Lisa Gautier, president of Matter of Trust, there are about 370,000 hair salons in the U.S. and, on average, at least 1 pound of hair is cut in each salon every day. That means that at least 135 million pounds of hair is cut in a year.
Not only is that number huge, but it also presents a great opportunity to do some either selfless (or somewhat strange things) with the cut strands.
1. Wigs for Patients
Amanda Peebles received her wig from Wigs that Make U Smile, a service through Children’s Hospital, after she was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia on Feb. 4, 2008. Aplastic anemia is treated similarly to leukemia in that it requires a bone marrow transplant as well as chemotherapy treatments, which made Amanda’s hair begin to fall out.
“It was hard,” says Michelle Peebles, Amanda’s mother. “It started falling out at first a little bit at a time but then they decided to cut it all off so she wouldn’t have to see it all fall out.”
Amanda was the first to receive a wig from the program started by Colleen Ward, owner of A Positive Illusion, a salon in Arvada, Colo.
“Amanda smiled ear to ear the day that it was delivered and she would have slept in it if she was given a chance,” says Michelle. “She felt beautiful and love flipping her hair!”
It can take anywhere from 12 to 25 ponytails to create a single wig, even for a child. But Michelle says that if she could ever speak to those who contributed to her daughter’s wig she’d say more than just thank you.
“The wigs give children normalcy,” says Michelle. “You just have no idea how much [the wig] made Amanda feel like any other normal 10-year-old.”
2. Oil Booms
The 1989 Valdez oil spill inspired Phil McCrory, a hairstylist from Alabama, to create natural fiber oil spill booms with the leftover hair clippings from his salon. The thinking behind the seemingly bizarre idea was actually pretty simple. Hair is washed because it collects oil, so why couldn’t the left over hair thrown away each day be used to soak up the oil from spills?
McCrory’s idea flourished and he is now partnered with Matter of Trust in the production of one of the most cost-effective ways to clean up the mess, OttiMats. The simple design combines hair, wool and fur clippings that are stuffed into nylon or mesh and float along the surface of the water collecting oil. They collect the oil and are then rung out and reused over and over again.
3. Plant Food
Additionally, the concept of producing something out of potential waste gave way to Smart Grow, the other brainchild of McCrory. The company sells products that put hair into the ground, where it acts as a fertilizer and weed deterrent. The mats retain moisture and enhance plants’ growth through their unique design and proteins from the human hair.
If all else fails and you happen to be tired of beads and jewels, try hair instead. Leila Cohoon operates Leila's Hair Museum, which she claims is the only museum in the world devoted to hair. This museum is dedicated almost entirely to jewelry and works of art made of human hair, includes rings, bracelets and necklaces.
An outfit of human hair? Yes, clothing made from human hair has been spotted on more than one occasion. A dress, modeled by Simona Gotovac, was worn down the runway after Croatian designers used 165 feet of hair to make the ensemble. Lady Gaga even wore her own version of one out in New York City and an entire line from human hair was created by Julia Reindell for an awards show at the Royal Academy of Art in Piccadilly. But will human hair dresses start popping up at local retailers? It’s unusual but possible.