If you've ever been tempted to chop off your long mane of hair but can't find the courage to pick up the shears, there may be more incentive to sporting cropped locks than you think.
Salons around the country are donating freshly cut hair to the nonprofit organization Locks of Love, which creates hairpieces for children under 21 who suffer from long-term hair loss related to any medical diagnosis.
"I had always felt that my long, flowing hair was an important part of my femininity, and I was very hesitant to cut it," says Darci Baize, who works at Be Cherished Salon in Ashland. "But try imagining how it would feel to lose all your hair, especially as a child. It puts things into perspective pretty quickly."
The custom-made hair prostheses cost a pretty penny, generally retailing for between $3,500 and $6,000, so they may not be an option for financially disadvantaged families. But children are able to get the hairpieces free from Locks of Love, which is located in Florida.
"I knew firsthand that prosthetic wigs were expensive. My grandma lost her hair during chemo and had to buy a hairpiece. So I thought, 'How could I not donate?' " says Baize.
Donated tresses must be at least 10 inches long, in a braid or ponytail and unbleached because of the chemical reaction that occurs in manufacturing. And curly ringlets — even permed — that reach 10 inches when pulled straight still can be donated.
While it takes years to grow and only seconds to snip off, the drastic haircut is a freeing experience for many.
"Instantly after I cut it, I felt relief — if that makes any sense," says Baize. "I realized the length of my hair had nothing to do with my femininity."
And the process isn't always planned. A client may come in for just a trim, but after learning about the charity program, some people take the leap and cut off the whole 10 inches, according to Baize.
"I was planning on getting a trim, but I remembered hearing about Locks of Love and decided to cut off a lot more: 13 inches more, actually," says Alex DeSantis. "It was a wonderful and cleansing experience, and I plan on doing it again someday."
Lopping off nearly a foot of hair can be a shocking change, like losing a safety net, but the selfless thrill keeps donors coming back for more.
"I'm in the process of growing my hair out now so that I can donate it again, and I just convinced my cousin to donate her lovely blond locks this year!" says Baize.
The hairpieces help children around the country restore some of the normalcy to everyday life that most of us take for granted. And the process is hassle-free. After cutting that long braid for donation, most salons take care of the packaging and shipping.
"In the 10 months Be Cherished has been open, we've had about six donations," says Baize. "It's always exciting to see the transformation and send off the hair knowing it will change a child's life."
For more information, see www.locksoflove.org.