Hair  Extensions–The Tangled Mess and Three Tips to Buy Responsibly

There is a mentality that bigger is better: big hair, big lips, big eyes. What happens when the beauty industry’s demand outpaces natural supply?  When it comes to hair extensions, the answer is a tangled mess.  Beauty and ethics often collide with a terrible force and the casualties are hidden behind the allure of a perfectly coiffed blonde blow-out.  How can we reconcile our desire for head-turning, amazing hair with our conscience? And, is it even possible?

The hair extension industry is loosely regulated. This opens the door for many companies to exploit the weakest among us. Impoverished communities often bare the brunt of the creatively unethical companies that will do anything to make money.  Violent tactics include forcibly cutting women’s and children’s hair when they do not agree to “donate” it for the small sum they’ve been offered. Also disturbing, is the practice of procuring hair from dead bodies. Hair-harvesters are deployed from these big hair factories with a quota they must fulfill. When they can’t procure the pounds of hair they need through volunteer, they pillage poor villages–and no one is off limits, even the dead.  This might seem so difficult to imagine or so removed from you and your daily life.  You might come to the conclusion that you are powerless to stop these practices from happening. You would be dead wrong.

Taking a company at their word seems like a naive-Pollyanna sort of a gesture.  Here are some real tips to ensure you are dealing with companies who value ethical sourcing:

  1. Big companies=big problems. Large factories often do not know the beginning from the end of their supply chain. This is a normal problem when dealing with large quantity.  If they have mass production, chances are they are unfamiliar with how each batch is procured. Ensure that you are dealing with smaller companies that have an acute awareness of their sourcing. This might mean it could cost a little more or take longer to make, but it means that they have an operation that is capable of checks and balances and will increase the likelihood of ethics.
  2. Hair Extension companies that promise they can do everything and anything. They promise lowest price, fastest shipping, highest quality, any style you want or need.  There are many websites like this.  They are typically foreign factories who hide behind multiple website names and the face of a better known social media influencer. Be leery of a jack-of-all-trades hair factory. Inquire who they are and why they have a presence in the hair industry–know their “story”.  If it seems disjointed, it is typically a sign of a company that has unethical roots. People and ethics are an afterthought while money is the driving force.
  3. Ask where/how they source their hair. This is a trick question!  Many companies will swear they use only European hair, Brazilian hair, Peruvian hair, etc.  The fact of the matter is these terms are mostly used for marketing purposes.  It is a way to falsely appeal to the consumer’s desire for the best. If they are willing to falsely label hair as coming from a certain region, they will likely misrepresent how ethically it is obtained, as well.  An honest company will be transparent about the multiple ways they source and less beholden to marketing terms. Hair likely comes from various regions and last time we checked, there weren’t too many Europeans and Brazilians willing to give up their hair in mass quantity.

An educated consumer has power to make change.  Beauty and ethics can coexist and when they do it creates a powerful combination: Looking good and doing good.

Written by: ThinHairThick Contributor

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