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Many years ago, when first moving to California, one of the singular most amazing things I remember is how different the supermarkets are here. Fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world and aisles and aisles of more choices than I’d ever seen growing up in India. Over time however, in the late 90s and early 2000s we started to question those choices…because we mostly didn’t before. “Is it healthy for me, my family and children? Did this food come at a cost?” Words like ethical, sustainable, clearer identification and disclosure on origins of the foods appeared.
Beauty has been slow to catch up. When we love how something tastes, feels or looks, we care about our need…our desire. Hair is no different. You want thicker, fuller hair, or maybe it’s thinning and you want to reclaim what has been stolen from you. We don’t question it, we just enjoy it. For millennia human hair has been used to make products like human hair wigs and hair extensions for fashion and statement purposes, it’s only been the last few decades that it’s become less discretely worn. Instead of hiding the fact that we are wearing hair that isn’t ours, we’re embracing it! It’s more accessible and has grown to become a beauty accessory in every woman’s wardrobe, as common as makeup. It boosts your confidence, makes you feel in control of the hairstyle you want to wear and even allows you to change it up seasonally depending on your mood. This surge in popularity and demand has led to a booming global market, but one that has a dark side to it.
Where Does All This Hair Come From?
Have you ever wondered where the human hair in your extensions, wefts or wigs come from? In July of 2020, we shared a horrifying story of $800 million dollars worth of illegal hair taken from people in Chinese internment camps seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. I believe that beauty should never come with consequences, not for the planet and most especially not for people. It’s up to us, as women, as sisters, daughters and mothers, to ask questions about the origin of the hair we wear and the products we use, because this product isn’t made…it comes from a person. The first question you should ask is, “is this hair ethically sourced?”
Ethical sourcing means getting hair (or any product really) in a manner that respects the person, process or planet and does harm to none. One of the reasons that hair from India is highly coveted is because the export of human hair has been done for centuries in an ethical manner. There, mostly Hindu women donate their hair lovingly to temples as part of their religious beliefs, a gift to other women. Since hair is perceived as a God given beauty asset, shaving and donating it to the temple is considered letting go one one’s ego and showing gratefulness and humbleness in front of a spiritual power greater than us. In exchange, they often make vows and ask for blessings in return, humbly requesting for help with some of the many challenges in life.
Originally, the temple would collect all the hair and simply burn it as they had no use for it, only in the past half century has this donated hair found a meaningful purpose. The technology of hair products had improved in China and they began exporting hair products all over the world, driving up interest and demand for human hair. China entered the Indian market and start importing unprocessed human hair to meet its growing demand. As the Indian market matured, they seized the opportunity to begin directly exporting finished goods in their own country. Today, India exports over $220 million U.S. dollars worth of hair every year to over 106 countries.
Today, the journey of ethically sourced human hair begins after the hair is collected in the ritual of Tonsure at the temple. Once collected and bundled by the temples, they are auctioned off right on site. Once hair is purchased at auction, it is then brought to factories to be processed, but what makes this commercial process so remarkable is that it has become an industry for women.
For many, it’s their first job, empowering them to be independent and care for themselves and their families, rising out of poverty. Villages have even found light economic development due to the jobs created by this booming industry. This process and industry brings much needed foreign money to the local regions and directly goes back to the community. It is used to feed the needy, provide hot meals, as well as build schools and provide free education and even develop housing and supporting other local businesses.
This hair that was once burned, is now bringing in meaningful value to the very community that donates it, it’s a beautiful synergy of letting go, women the world over being given a gift of love to feel good, and in return the people and their community thrive. This humble offering of letting go and giving their hair away to other women all over the world helps them and their families and lights their very homes. This is ethical sourcing, a continuum of respect, of giving and getting back, a positive experience and energy throughout. It’s what we believe in.
To read more about Ethically Sourced Hair Extensions and even how to spot fake hair, it's important to understand the importance of ethically sourced hair extensions.