Perhaps you recall the moment in Les Misérables when Fantine chops off all her hair? The destitute young mother sells her long locks, then her teeth (a detail often excluded from child-friendly adaptations) before she actually is eventually forced into prostitution. It would be nice to think that her experience was will no longer possible, the business of human hair had gone how of your guillotine – however, it’s booming. Modern niche for extensions created from real human hair is increasing with an incredible rate. In 2013, £42.8 million amount of human hair was imported in the UK, padded by helping cover their a little bit of animal hair. That’s a thousand metric tons and, end to finish, almost 80 million miles of hair, or if you want, two million heads of 50cm long hair. And our hair industry pales when compared with that from the united states.
Two questions spring to mind: first, who seems to be supplying this all hair and, secondly, who on earth is buying it? Unsurprisingly, both sides of your market are cagey. Nobody wishes to admit precisely where they are importing hair from and women with extensions want to pretend their brazilian hair could be the own. Websites selling human hair will occasionally explain that this locks come from religious tonsure ceremonies in India, where women willingly swap hair in exchange for any blessing. At Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in southern India, tonsuring is customary and it’s one of the more-visited holy sites on the planet, so there’s plenty of hair to flog.
It has been described as ‘happy hair’ – and it’s certainly a suitable story to inform your client as you may glue another woman’s dead hair to her scalp. But countries like Russia, China, Ukraine, Peru and Brazil also export a lot of hair, so where’s that from? The truth behind this hair may well be a grim one. There are reports of female prisoners and women in labour camps being required to shave their heads so those in charge can sell it off off. Even when the women aren’t coerced, no person can make certain that the hair’s original owner received a good – or any – price.
It’s an unusual anomaly inside a world where we’re all passionate about fair trade and ethical sourcing: nobody seems in any way bothered in regards to the origins of the extra hair. But then, the industry is challenging to manage along with the supply chain is convoluted. Bundles of hair can pass through many different countries, that makes it difficult to keep tabs on. Then your branding can be purchased in: Chinese hair is marketed as Brazilian, Indian as European. The fact that some websites won’t disclose where their hair originates from is significant. Hair is sourced ‘all over eastern Europe’, says Kelly Reynolds, from Lush Hair Extensions, but ‘we would not know specifically’. Several ‘ethical’ extension companies exist, but in many instances, the client just doesn’t would like to know where the hair is harvested. Inside the FAQ sections of human hair websites, most queries are such things as ‘How should i maintain it’ or ‘How long can it last?’ rather than ‘Whose hair could it be anyway?’ One profoundly sinister website selling ‘virgin Russian hair’ boasts that this hair ‘has been grown in the cold Siberian regions and possesses never been chemically treated’. Another site details how you can distinguish human and artificial hair: ‘Human hair will consider ash. It will smell foul. When burning, the human hair will demonstrate white smoke. Synthetic hair will certainly be a sticky ball after burning.’ As well as not melting, human hair styles better. Accept no imitations, ladies.
The most costly choice is blonde European hair, a packet in which can fetch over £1,000. So who buys this? Well, Beyoncé for one. Her hair collection used to be estimated being worth $1 million. And also the Kardashians have recently launched an array of extensions within the name ‘Hair Kouture’, designed to provide that ‘long hair don’t care attitude’.
Near where I reside in London, there are a variety of shops selling all sorts of wigs, weaves and extensions. The signs outside advertise ‘virgin hair’ (which can be hair that hasn’t been treated, as an alternative to hair from virgins). Nearby, a local hairdresser does a roaring trade in stitching bundles of hair in the heads of girls planning to 33dexjpky like cast members from The Only Method Is Essex. My hairdresser tells me she has middle-aged, middle-class women seeking extensions to ensure they look ‘more like Kate Middleton’. She even suspects Kate may have used extensions, and that is a tabloid story waiting to happen: ‘Kate wears my hair!’
Human hair can be a precious commodity because it will take time to develop and artificial substitutes are considered inferior. There are women willing to buy there are women ready to sell, but given the size of the industry it’s time we determined where it’s all from and who benefits. Fantine seemed to be fictional, but her reality still exists, now over a billion-dollar global scale.