In a previous article, “Disadvantaged Donors: Untangling the Truth Behind Locks of Love,” I revealed how a large percentage of hair donated to the charity, Locks of Love, is actually sold to commercial wig makers instead of being directly processed into wigs for sick or dying children. Additionally, I discovered that parents must enter an income-based payment arrangement to receive a wig for their child—the free hair donations do not translate into free wigs.
The original article, citing 2013 reports by ABCNews and Forbes, has received heavy traffic and an influx of engagement recently, and readers have shared anecdotal accounts of their experiences with Locks of Love. Some have expressed apprehension at donating their hair altogether, while others have expressed the desire to learn more about the process and alternative charities where they can begin or continue to donate their hair. Hopefully this article answers most of the questions raised by readers. I also have attempted to clarify submission requirements for those who still wish to donate to Locks of Love, and I have passed along alternative charities with similar missions which were shared by other readers.
The Nonprofit Investor Analysis
Both the ABCNews and the Forbes articles cited above and in the original article received their statistical information from an analysis done by the firm Nonprofit Investor. Their 13 May 2013 report on Locks of Love is the only “SELL” rated organization among 62 non-profit companies they evaluated. The “SELL” rating indicates, according to the Nonprofit Investor website, “serious questions about operations or finances.” Specific concerns addressed by the Nonprofit Investor investigation include: a serious discrepancy between the amount of donations which go into one wig compared to similar charities, inefficient use of capital funds, an overly complex application process, and an unnecessarily limited beneficiary pool.
Criteria for Donated Hair
One reason hair donations do not become wigs for the imagined recipients is that those who donate are not aware of or are not following the strict criteria set by Locks of Love. One of the first things that donors must understand (and one point Locks of Love was criticized on), is that Locks of Love does not provide wigs made of donated hair to patients who temporarily lose their hair due to cancer treatment, even though some critics claim they receive donations enough to do so. This fact, and the statistic that close to 80 percent of hair donated to Locks of Love is discarded or sold, is covered extensively in a 2007 New York Times article by Elizabeth Hayt.
So, to prevent your donation from being among this 80%, here are the criteria which must be met for the hair to be used in wigs for children:
- Donated hair must be 10 inches in length and submitted in a ponytail or braid.
- Donated hair can be colored or permed, but cannot be bleached. Bleach causes hair to dissolve during the wig-manufacturing process, and this includes hair with highlights.
- Gray hair will, obviously, not be used to make children’s wigs.
Hair that does not meet these criteria will not be used in children’s wigs, per the FAQ page on the Locks of Love website. They also cannot accept dreadlocks, extensions, wigs, or synthetic hair. Locks of Love insists they only throw away hair which is wet, moldy, or loose (not bundled in a ponytail or braid). All other unacceptable donations are sold to offset manufacturing costs.
If you would just as soon send your donations elsewhere, there are other charities with a similar mission and better reputations. Blogger Maggie Golden shares information about WigsforKids.org and Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which were also suggested by readers in the comments section of my original article. Another charity suggested by Golden is ChildrenWithHairLoss.us, while another reader suggests Wigs4Kids.org.
Please share with us in the comments below if you have had personal experiences with any of the charities listed.