Where does the hair go?

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Continental_Hair_LogoWe have just shipped the first box of hair donations, and we hope there are many more to go before the 2012 season is out.

People always ask us what we do with the hair we collect during the Shave for the Brave, so we wanted to tell you a little about the other program you’re supporting by taking part in this event.

We send all the ponytails to Continental Hair for the Wigs for Kids-Hair for Kids program. They make real-hair wigs for children up to the age of 12 with hair loss issues caused by cancer and alopecia at no cost to the child’s family.

“We don’t ask to see people’s finacials, there’s no application form, we just get on with it,” said Michael Suba, Owner.

Suba is a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor himself. His bio on the Continental Hair website says he wasn’t interested in hair replacement until he was in the cancer centre and saw the impact they were making. The company has two salons in Toronto, one of which is in the Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre.

We had a chance to sit down with Owner Michael Suba to learn more about where our hair goes.

It all started with Greg Taylor and the American organization, Locks of Love. Canadians wanted to help Canadian children and they started sending their hair donations to the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS).

“I’ve worked with [CCS] on a number of occasions on things that they needed, so they called me up and asked me, ‘what can we do with this?’ I thought about it and I said, ‘There’s a lot of alternatives for adults that can’t afford high-quality wigs…there’s not a lot out there for children. Why don’t we use the hair to make wigs for children?’ ” said Suba.

“They started sending me hair–and I got a lot from Alberta–so we started putting it together and we’ve been able to make a bunch of kids really happy,” he said.

Suba says they have about 25 requests annually for wigs and it takes six to 12 donations to make one wig.

From one head to another

The road from your head to a child’s is a little longer than we expected. First, they need to take all the hair and separate it by colour and length. Then, they have to hackle it to get all the shorter hairs out.

“Even if it’s a long ponytail, you have to realize only about 10 per cent of the hair is that long,” said Suba.

When the ponytails are bundled with like donations, they send them to a different company that assembles the wigs and sends them back to Continental Hair. Once the wigs come back, the children come in.

Suba said, “We try some things on, we get colours, and sometimes we have to highlight. Because it hasn’t been processed, it’s easy to colour. A lot of the time, it’s the first time they get highlights so they’re really excited about being like Mom.

“A lot of it’s for the parents. As a cancer survivor, I know that a lot of the time it’s the one thing a parent can do to contribute to what’s going on with the child is to make sure there’s some continuity in their appearance and it’s important. It’s nice to be able to have that…It’s not just about the hair, it’s about how the kid feels.”

“They got them, they loved them”

Talking with Suba, one gets the sense that he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure a kid in need of a wig gets the one they want.

Most of the people who request wigs are from the Greater Toronto Area, but Suba does have a story about a time he helped out a teen from British Columbia on the Tyra Banks Show.

Tyra was interviewing a teenaged cancer survivor from Vancouver and the show asked the girl what would be one thing she would like to have. Not being that pleased with the wig she had, she said she would love a new wig.

A lot of phone calls were made until they were finally put in contact with Continental Hair, who were happy to help out. They FedExed two wigs down to New York, but the adventure wasn’t over that easily.

The short time constraints, paired with the FedEx pick up times, left Suba in a panic with the associate producer calling every hour to see where the wig was. Long story short, it arrived at 10:30 a.m. the day of the show, the guest chose her favourite, and the other was back in Toronto the next day.

“They got them, they loved them…Sometimes it all works out,” he said.

We want you to want to shave

Even though Suba gets a lot of joy out of the program, he makes it clear that he doesn’t want anyone to feel pressured to donate.

“Some people get a little overenthusiastic. They want to go into the school and really encourage all the girls to get their hair cut. No. Don’t do that. If a little girl wants to have her long hair, she shouldn’t be made to feel guilty. Let her have her long hair. If your little girl wants to cut her hair, that’s fine. It isn’t advisable to in any way pressure anyone into cutting their hair.

“I don’t want a little girl crying because she cut her hair! Heaven’s sakes! You get a parent who is really proud of their child and they want other parents to feel proud. They have enough to deal with without feeling guilty because they have nice hair.”

Tips for hair donations

If you are considering donating your hair at a Shave for the Brave, here are some things you should know:

  • A donation must be at least 10 inches long;
  • Hair should be clean, dry, and secured on both ends;
  • Dyed hair is acceptable, but they cannot use bleached, chemically processed (permed or straightened), or dreadlocked hair; and,
  • They cannot accept hair that has been swept off the floor.


Now that you know a little more about where the hair goes, we hope you’ll give it some thought and GET YOUR HEAD INTO IT!

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