Locks of Love is a volunteer, non-profit organisation based in Fort Worth, Florida, that provides custom-fitted wigs to financially disadvantaged children across the United States. Since its beginning in 1997, Locks of Love has helped over 800 children with long-term medical hair loss.
Some of the children helped by Locks of Love have faced serious burns, radiation to the brainstem, or a multitude of dermatological conditions, but the majority of children have alopecia areata, a disease that affects 1.7% of the people in the world - including four million people in the United States. Alopecia areata ranges in severity from splotchy spots of missing scalp hair to the loss of all hair on the entire body; onset usually occurs during childhood. This can be psychologically devastating to a young child, especially because alopecia areata is not a well-known condition.
In alopecia areata, hair follicles are mistakenly attacked by the body's own immune system, which profoundly slows the growth of new hair. No visible hair may grow for months or even years. All follicles remain alive, however, and they are ready to continue producing hair whenever they receive the appropriate signal. Hair regrowth can occur at any time, with or without medical treatment. (Medical treatment does not cure alopecia areata, but rather stimulates the follicles to produce hair again. To keep one's regrown hair, treatment needs to be continued until the body fixes itself. Treatment is most effective in mild cases.)
Alopecia is not medically disabling, but it can be difficult for children with the condition to cope. Locks of Love helps children between the ages of six and 17, because the heads of children under the age of six grow too rapidly for this expensive hairpiece to be useful in the long-term. The website of Locks of Love contains a page here with before-and-after pictures of some of the children it has helped.
Locks of Love's wigs are made out of donated human hair, which comes from across the country. The wigs are hand-assembled by the manufacturer, requiring about four months and ten to 15 individual ponytails. The wigs are vacuum-fitted to the wearer's head, but easy to remove. This silicon-based hairpiece is designed for people who have experienced a complete loss of scalp hair and doesn't require tape or glue. Pricing would begin at $3000 retail, but Locks of Love provides these wigs free of charge or on a sliding scale to children whose families meet the guidelines set up by the Board of Directors.
The hairpieces are made from donated human hair, an estimated 80% of which comes from other children. Everyone's hair is needed however - young or old, male or female, of all races and colours. Hair that is grey, too short, or unsuitable for children may be sold at fair market value to offset manufacturing costs, but if you send this type of hair, please include a note to this effect.
Donated hair should be natural and a minimum of ten inches long measured from tip-to-tip (curly hair may be pulled straight). Most children who approach Locks of Love are female, and they want long hair. The manufacturing process takes two inches, which leaves an only eight-inch long wig; most girls would like 12 to 14-inch long hair. Hand-separated shorter lengths are used for boys.
Layered hair can be put into more than one ponytail, but hair that has been swept off the floor is not acceptable. Hair should be bundled in a braid or ponytail, placed in a plastic bag with the length marked on the outside, and then mailed in a padded envelope to Locks of Love. The specific guidelines, a form to fill out, and the mailing address can be found at this page.
Locks of Love is a very worthy charity which helps children across the United States with a commodity that is usually thrown away without a second thought. If your hair grows, it grows - and there isn't much you can do to stop it. Why not give the excess to someone who needs it? All hair is useful, from all parts of the globe.