Showing posts with label hair. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hair. Show all posts

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hair again


The Guardian today reports on a story Socialist Courier posted about back in March - the business of selling human hair.

 Hair extensions sales are up to £60m a year and growing (pardon the pun).  Last year HM Revenue and Customs recorded more than £38m worth of hair (human, with some mixed human and animal) entering the country, making the UK the third biggest importer of human hair in the world.

Yet behind the profitis what hair historian Caroline Cox calls the "dark side" of the industry. Most hair comes from countries where long, natural hair remains a badge of beauty - but where the women are poor enough to consider selling a treasured asset. Much of the hair on sale comes from small agents who tour villages in India, China, and eastern Europe, offering poverty-stricken women small payments to part with their hair. As one importer, based in Ukraine, told the New York Times recently: "They are not doing it for fun. Usually only people who have temporary financial difficulties in depressed regions sell their hair." More worryingly, back in 2006, the Observer reported that in India some husbands were forcing their wives into selling their hair, slum children were being tricked into having their heads shaved in exchange for toys, and in one case a gang stole a woman's hair, holding her down and cutting it off. Moscow Centre for Prison Reform admitted warders were forcibly shaving and selling the hair of prisoners.

In temples in south India devotees travel for hundreds of miles and queue for hours to have their hair tonsured, or ritually shaved. Some have prayed for a child, others for a sick relative or a good harvest, and when their prayers are answered they offer up their hair. According to one report, most are rural women whose hair has often never been dyed, blow-dried, or even cut and is worth around £200. The hair is then sorted and sold, often by online auction. Last year Tirumala temple, apparently made 2,000m rupees (more than £22m), from auctioning hair.

Cox points out that such exploitation has underpinned the industry since false fronts and hair pieces became popular in the UK in Edwardian times. "It's taking advantage of those who are disadvantaged," she says. "Working-class women's hair is used to bedeck the head of those who are more privileged. It's been going on for hundreds of years." According to Cox extensions, like long fake nails, are status symbols. "If you have long nails, there is a suggestion you have a lot of leisure time. If hair costs a lot to do, and to keep up, there is the same suggestion. It's almost as though you are living the life of a The Only Way is Essex girl or glamour model."  Cox explains that "The fashion for such a long time has been about the glorification of artificiality. Fake tans, fake teeth, fake boobs and fake nails – and you need fake hair to go with all that. The whole idea of beauty is [now] predicated on artificiality and getting rid of humanness – waxing every hair from your body but putting fake hair on your head."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

selling yourself

The UK's wig making industry is estimated to be worth up to £18 million according to the National Framework Agreement of Wig Supply. There are no official figures for the hair extension industry; however recent estimates put the value at £65 million. In 2009 nearly £15m worth of treated human hair - it has been washed and sometimes dyed - was imported into the UK, according to Customs and Excise.

Brazil, along with India, has long led the way in the lucrative global market in human hair. In the past few years, demand from UK businesses for human hair extensions has increased significantly, according to industry reports. The UK is now the third-largest buyer of human hair worldwide, behind the US and mainland China.

"As the demand outweighs supply, the price for the hair has increased. Which is one reason more people consider selling their hair as it is now considered a valuable commodity." says Emma Furlong, spokesperson for the UK's biggest supplier of wigs to the NHS, Trendco

Quality is an important factor. What is known as "virgin hair" - hair that has not has any treatments or colouring - is the most sought-after. A lot of Indian hair - known as remy hair - falls into that category, and has long been popular in the US, China, the UK and other parts of Europe. Ninety-five per cent of human hair is imported. In terms of Europe, a lot of it is sourced in Poland and Italy. Recently, however, there has been an increase in the appetite for "European hair". Trendco, says there is a shortage of the "softer" European kind. "European hair is finer in density and texture than Asian hair and so is very popular for human hair wigs and extensions, especially in EU countries where this integrates better with a client's own hair," says Emma Furlong. It is difficult to get natural, adult hair that is blonde. About 90% of the world's population has dark brown hair and the rarity of the hair colour will dictate the price. Blonde hair can cost up to three times as much as dark hair. The price for 100g of blonde, European hair is about £1,000. Graham Wake, owner of Bloomsbury Wigs in central London, says he has noticed a two-fold increase in the number of people from the UK selling their hair for money.

Human hair can be used to make an additive that is found in foods such as the dough for pizza crusts and bagels. It is a rich source of L-cysteine, an amino acid that can be extracted from hair and used as a flavour enhancer or flour improver. It is sometimes listed as E920 on food packaging. As well as being found in dough it can be used to give food a meat-like flavour, especially in dog food. Ten to 15 years ago human hair was a main source of L-cysteine, mainly produced in China. As more people found out where L-cysteine came from they thought 'yuck, human hair, don't fancy that'. More Chinese people also started perming their hair, which made extracting the amino acid more difficult. Now L-cysteine comes mainly from chicken and duck feathers, which can be collected in larger quantities than hair. In recent years it has also started to be manufactured synthetically.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17043055
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8753698.stm

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