Donating hair will be more difficult as focus shifts to synthetic options

You can still shave your head in solidarity with cancer patients, but finding a place to donate that ponytail will become a lot harder by the end of the year.

The Pantene Beautiful Lengths campaign, which has been collecting donations and creating wigs made from real hair for the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) since 2006, announced in a statement on its website that in the new year it will no longer accept hair donations in Canada and the United States.

The campaign noted the technology behind synthetic wigs has vastly improved — which makes them lighter, cooler to wear and easier to style — and has driven down the demand for products made of real hair.

Kerry Bishop, owner of Pink Tree The Fitting Shop, says the Canadian Cancer Society’s decision to move away from hair donation in favour of synthetic wigs is a good move as customers choose synthetic wigs “98 per cent of the time” due to their quality, longevity, ease of use and price.

Although donations will close, Carly Schur, national director of corporate partnerships with the Canadian Cancer Society, said the Beautiful Lengths program already has enough donations to continue creating and donating real hair wigs for the next four years.

“Patients have been providing feedback that synthetic wigs are now actually the preferred wig choice for many,” Schur said. “So we have time now to educate our community about this change and also look for ways to help people donate their hair to other organizations.”

Kerry Bishop, owner of Pink Tree the Fitting Shop, which stocks wigs and other products for women battling cancer, said the move makes sense.

“We mostly only sell synthetic wigs for lots of reasons — we might only sell one real hair wig a year,” she said, adding that staff usually advise against purchasing real hair wigs for a variety of reasons, including the high cost and that they lack the longevity and ease of use that synthetic versions offer.

While hair shaving fundraisers are popular among many groups to raise funds and awareness for cancer research, Bishop said she doesn’t think the decision to move away from real hair products will negatively affect these efforts, noting that for most people the decision to shave their head is generally to show solidarity with someone battling cancer.

Kerry Bishop the owner of Pink Tree The Fitting Shop takes a portrait inside the her store. Bishop who says the Canadian Cancer SocietyÕs decision to move away from hair donation in favour of synthetic wigs is a good move as customers choose synthetic wigs Ò98 per cent of the timeÓ due to their quality, longevity, ease of use and price in Saskatoon,Sk on Friday, November 9, 2018.

Laddie James, general manager of the Hairstyle Inn, who works with C95 to organize its head shave fundraisers, agrees. He said the awareness and attention a head shave event draws won’t be degraded by the fact that it will become more difficult to donate the hair.

“There are still other options that people can do with the hair that they can’t source out,” he said. “It can also be utilized and recycled for other purposes — anything from making oil absorption buoys to making mats. Hair is an incredibly tough fabric, and as a result it can be used for a number of different things.”

People who get their heads shaved for the C95 marathon can rest easy knowing all those donations end up with Locks of Love — a non-profit that creates high quality hair prosthetics for financially disadvantaged children. The nonprofit’s office in Florida confirmed it has no plan to stop accepting donations.

Every year, the Canadian Cancer Society provides about 2,500 wigs free of charge to cancer patients across the country, Schur said, noting that each wig takes between eight and 15 ponytail donations to complete. The Beautiful Lengths campaign has accepted more than 100,000 ponytail donations since its inception.


Sonni Peters shaves Arlo Jeancart’s hair for charity during the C95 radiothon which raises funds for breast cancer research at Centre Mall in Saskatoon on Oct. 26, 2018.


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