After seven years of growing out her hair, St. Albert resident Stephanie Cordova proudly held a freshly cut-off thick eight-inch lock last year tied with two elastic bands. Sealing it in a plastic bag, she shipped it across Canada to have it made into a wig.
“Why throw it in the garbage when people need it?” she said. “There are people who need hair and rely on real human hair for wigs, so why would I just let the hairdresser just throw all my hair in the garbage?”
The Canadian Cancer Society has been receiving wigs like Cordova’s through the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program since 2006. The hair company creates real hair wigs for the society to lend out to cancer patients.
But come the end of December, the program will no longer accept hair donations. Pantene is the only company the society is currently partnered with for its wig-lending program.
Joanne Stewart, regional director for mission and volunteer engagement at the Canadian Cancer Society, said more patients are turning in the natural locks for synthetic ones.
“As the technology improves, the choice for many is to go with synthetic, and it’s really important that we listen to what people with cancer are telling us,” she said.
Synthetic wigs continue to technologically advance, she added. The fake hair fibres of the wigs are now almost identical to real hairs, and some wigs can even withstand heat from straighteners and curlers.
Real hair wigs, on the other hand, are heavy and heat up the head quickly, while synthetic ones are light and don’t absorb as much heat.
The synthetic hairpieces are also much cheaper, Stewart explained. For those not wanting to rent out a wig, it can cost between $800 and $3,000 for a real hair wig. Synthetic ones, on the hand, generally cost under $500.
Even though the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program won’t be accepting any more hair donations, the company is still making the hairpieces for the society. Stewart said there’s enough hair to make wigs up until 2022.
The society is currently looking for a new partner to make real hair wigs. But even without a partnership, the society’s wig-lending program will still continue.
Stewart said people rent wigs through the Canadian Cancer Society for a number of reasons. While some are looking to boost their self-esteem, others are looking for privacy in having the disease.
“When people are living with cancer, and all of the changes that come along with that, hair loss can be really devastating,” she explained. “It’s just an amazing feeling to be able to alleviate one of the appearance-related effects of cancer.”
She said people should still consider growing out their hair for donation while the society searches for a new partner.
The program has received 70,000 hair donations since it started in 2006.
For more information about the program, visit: http://www.cancer.ca/en/get-involved/support-us/donate-your-hair/?region=on.