Ethical issues with human hair extensions

Hair extensions become as normal as throwing on mascara and blush before you leave the house. It feels like you can buy them anywhere these days, from the corner store in the form of a thin ponytail to the beauty salon for hundreds of dollars. While Synthetic hair has its problems (it is made of plastic and cannot biodegrade), human hair is no better. Where does all this hair come from? And is this just another example of the exploitation of desperate women to support their families?

Women give up their hair

Most human hair is grown by women in countries where their hair is part of their identity. Having long, luscious, silky hair is a sign of beauty for these women. Selling it is an act of desperation.

How do companies find women ready to cut their hair? Agents roam small towns in Vietnam, India, China and Eastern Europe looking for women with hair that matches the bill. They are exclusively looking for women in incredibly poor areas because they know these women will be more likely to sell. Refinery29 clearly states that “the more women are deprived of their rights, the less these dealers have to pay for good hair that it can easily return.“The price for getting one of these haircuts varies and can range from a few dollars to around $ 100. They sell for several times more than when they are processed and packaged for customers.

But it’s not just women who need a lump sum who feel pressured to have their hair cut. There have been instances children being tricked into buying toys, husbands forcing their wives to agree to sell their hair, Russian prison guards shaving and selling prisoners’ hair, and even the case of a woman held and unwittingly cut off by a gang.

Forced labor camps

Human hair has been called “black goldAnd has been the center of several labor camps and smuggling scandals. Human hair products are exported from Xinjiang, China to all over the world, asking the question, “Where does all this hair come from?” »In 2020, a sea container filled with 13 tons of human hair valued at $ 800,000 was seized from Lop County Meixin Hair Products. While the company declared that the sale of hair “provide[s] opportunities for local ethnic minorities to get jobs and help people get rid of poverty, ”the company is under criminal investigation.

Uyghurs, along with other minority groups in China, have been arrested and there are allegations that their hair is cut and sold as an expensive commodity all over the world. It is often difficult to know exactly where the hair is coming from, and internment camps in China are starting to look more and more like a possible source of hair.

Stop wearing human hair

Why aren’t more people talking about human hair issues? Not only is this a humanitarian crisis, but it also encourages the abuse and exploitation of women. While synthetic hair is certainly not environmentally friendly, it is a lot more ethical than allowing big agencies and corporations to buy hair from desperate women for little or nothing just because they know what to do with it. ‘they can get away with it.

Next time you’re in a salon or store where they sell human hair, take a second and ask them where it came from. You might be surprised how little knowledge they have about the origins of their expensive and labor-intensive products.

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David R. Brewer

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