It turns out, you might do more good selling it than donating, according to one industry insider.
Carol, a professional hair broker, shared the hairy details on Cracked. The human hair market is weird, to say the least.
If you’re interested in profiting from your luscious mane, here are some strange and useful facts to keep in mind:
1. Why People Sell Their Hair
Most people are selling their hair out of desperation.
Carol says few people resort to selling hair just for a few extra bucks. “Some people are obviously living paycheck-to-paycheck, and some are homeless.”
Sometimes, she admits, “some of the best hair comes from people with nowhere else to turn.”
That’s because the best hair is untreated and undyed — and in plentiful supply. People who are desperate for money generally haven’t dyed, treated or cut their hair in a while, so they may have the best stock of highly sought-after natural colors.
2. What Happens When You Donate Your Hair
If you’re feeling altruistic and think you’re better off donating your mane to an organization like Locks of Love… think again.
“The odds of your hair actually becoming a wig that actually gets put on a sick person’s head are pretty slim,” writes Carol.
The charities tend to be much less efficient than businesses selling wigs for profit, which are diligent about standards for the hair they accept and have access to a wider client base who can use the hair.
Locks of Love receives more than 2,000 donations each week, and tosses as much as 80% into the trash, reports the New York Times.
Donating to the charity makes people feel warm and fuzzy, company president Madonna Coffman told the Times. But many don’t know the hair donation guidelines and send in unusable hair.
“Even hair that survives the winnowing may not go to the gravely ill, but may be sold to help pay for charities’ organizational costs,” the Times reported.
3. Your Hair Probably Isn’t Good Enough
“You need pristine hair to turn a profit,” writes Carol.
If your hair is permed, dyed or bleached — even by the sun — it’s useless. Treated hair just doesn’t make good wigs.
Even if your hair is burned over time from regular blow-drying or straightening, it could be too weak to make a wig.
“We even know when sellers don’t eat meat, because of how much less hair they have.”
So if your hair is thin, dull or damaged, think about staying inside and taking your vitamins before trying to hawk it.
4. Even Hair Is Cheaper From Overseas
Around the world, black hair is in the highest demand, but it’s also in the highest supply.
“There are so many people selling their dark locks in Brazil, China and India that it’s devalued the hair,” Carol explains.
India exports more than $300 million in hair every year, and the industry is tainted with questionable standards and practices. Those factors drive prices for dark human hair down.
This saturation means in the U.S., straight hair from white women in other colors will fetch a better price than dark hair. Carol points out the “weird nuances of the global human-hair market” mean fewer opportunities for black and Hispanic women in the market.
5. They Know When the Hair Didn’t Come From Your Head
The market, in general, is looking for human hair.
“If I can stop just one person from needlessly shaving their pet or farm animals, this whole article will have been worth it,” Carol writes.
Don’t send in pet hair, and especially don’t send in pet hair and try to pass it off as human hair. They’ll know.
Finally, Carol cautions, they only want hair that comes from your head. “I field at least two emails a week from women trying to peddle their (pubic hair).”
Your Turn: Have you ever considered selling your hair to make extra money?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).