The “donation haircut after social distancing” may be one of the first beauty trends to happen as a result of COVID-19. Search #hairdonations on Instagram or Twitter and you’ll be flooded with images of people, many of them in salons in masks, proudly showing off their before and after shots, often holding the lobbed off ponytails and braids that will be sent off to charity organizations. The combination of longer times between salon sessions and the desire to do something altruistic while the world struggles under the psychological weight of a pandemic has more folks using this time to grow out, cut, and donate their hair.
The movement even hit Hollywood: Back in May, Jamie-Lynn Sigler gave herself a haircut under the guidance of Salon Nine Zero One’s Riawna Capri, then donated the hair to the charity the hairstylist co-founded, the beYOUtiful Foundation. But the actor is just one face in a sea popping up on social media in a bid to bring a feeling of positivity to this stressful time. And it’s welcome news for the charities that are now finding themselves having to make up for lost time to keep up with demand.
The Urgent Need For Hair Donations
When COVID-19 first struck, there was a bit of a lull in the hair donation world. There was uncertainty about the safety of handling potentially virus-contaminated samples, and the organizations that accept those samples had to shut down their offices. But over time, as research suggested porous material like hair isn’t a major carrier of the virus and with salons slowly reopening, donations have started to pick up again — some at a rate above and beyond what they were before the pandemic struck.
This huge surge of donations is necessary to make up for time and resources lost when the hairpiece-making industry paused at the start of the pandemic. Jeffrey Paul, founder of the Ohio-based Wigs for Kids, explains that the process of making a wig takes a minimum of 12 weeks. A pause in production means having to make up both that time and the dip in donations to prevent gaps in recipients acquiring new pieces. But, he says, he sees the potential to make it up and then some, as donations often go up after times of hardship. “After the [Twin] Towers went down [on September 11], we saw a major increase in donations and in ponytails in the months that followed,” says Paul. “So this time, there could be a real swell.”
In fact, Wigs for Kids has seen a slight increase in the average donations per week compared to the pre-shutdown average donations per week. Similarly, Maggie Varney, founder of Maggie’s Wigs 4 Kids of Michigan, estimates her donations are up by 30 percent. Across the board, members of organizations we spoke to are reporting a feeling of renewed energy, with donors reaching out and tagging them on social media. Long Island, New York-based Hair We Share has gotten so many inquiries during COVID-19, the staff put a special message on its site with instructions on how to donate right now.
The Feel-Good Factor
For many, the drive to participate comes down to doing something nice while so much of the world is in flux. That’s part of the reason Leticia Ochman of New York, New York has decided to continue growing her hair for a donation cut later in the year. “I’m not a doctor. I have a young daughter at home. I feel like I can’t do very much right now to help people,” she says. “But this is so easy — all you do is not cut your hair and treat it well for awhile and you can help someone else feel good about themselves.”