In 2017, an estimated 26,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer—the most common cancer diagnosis among Canadian women. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, approximately one out of every eight Canadian women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and here at FLARE we wanted to do something to help those battling this disease. To kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Erinn Stewart, our assistant editor of fashion and beauty, and Ishani Nath, our associate editor of features, decided to chop off their hair and donate it to make wigs for women undergoing cancer treatment.
In case you missed our Facebook live haircut broadcast from Toronto’s Redken Studios, here’s everything you need to know before you donate your hair, plus some final before and after pics of our editors.
Why we did it
Why not? I have (well, had) long hair that isn’t dyed, bleached or chemically treated. I needed to cut my hair, so why not give it to someone who needs it more than I do? Since I had cut my hair in high school for the same reason, I was waiting for the right time to do it again, but I wish I had done it sooner. It’s just hair! It grows back!
Seeing someone battling the disease can make you feel extremely helpless. This is my way of helping and giving back, in a tangible way. Plus, in doing so, I hope that I encourage others to do the same.
In the past, I’ve rocked short locks and my hair has often been dyed various colours (for years, I had a white-blonde lowlight hidden in my ‘do), so donating my hair hasn’t really been an option. I’ve done the CIBC Run for the Cure and supported breast-cancer related causes in other ways, but this is the first time that my hair has been long enough and eligible for donation. A big part of why I wanted to donate my hair was because I have seen firsthand what a wig can mean for someone going through cancer. When my mum had ovarian cancer, I went with her to try on wigs. My mum was of Indian descent and one of the wig experts mentioned that not a lot of naturally black hair gets donated—and I remember wishing in that moment that I could donate my hair.
For my mum, finding the right wig meant that when we went grocery shopping or out for dinner, we weren’t viewed as a bunch of people with a cancer patient, we were just a normal family. That ability to blend in and feel like her normal, beautiful self was so important while she was going through the toughest time in all of our lives. My mum passed away from her cancer a few years ago and since then, numerous friends and family members have donated their hair in her memory. I figured it it was about time that I did the same.
What you need to know before making the cut
When it comes to donating your hair, not all ‘dos will do. Part of the reason our editors had to grow their hair for so long is because, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, the minimum acceptable donation is eight inches (both Erinn and Ishani donated a little over nine inches). Not only does your hair need to be long, but it must be all natural hair—meaning it can’t be permed, treated or dyed at all. Speaking of colour, hair donations must also not be any more than 5 percent grey.
As you can see in the video below, when you donate your hair it must be clean and dry and then separated into ponytails and cut above the elastic. Fun fact: it takes eight to 15 ponytails to make a single wig.
Once our hair was cut off, we placed our donations into a plastic bag and sent it to the following address (for the program recommended by the Canadian Cancer Society) in a padded, sealed envelope:
Pantene Beautiful Lengths
2-1055 Middlegate Rd
For privacy reasons, you can’t find out who your hair has gone to, but if you include your name and address on the envelope, you will receive a note to acknowledge that your donation has been received.
How to keep your hair strong while growing it long
Redken hair stylist Cindy Duplantis stresses the importance of protecting your hair against heat styling while it grows. She recommends Redken’s Pillow Proof Blow Dry Express Primer Cream and Spray to help protect your locks against your straightener, blow dryer and curling iron. She also suggests using the Extreme line that infuses your hair with proteins that help fight against breakage and damage.
See what it was *really* like
To find out where to get these awesome 8008135 shirts and watch our editors go through the hair donation process, here’s the full video that was broadcast live on FLARE’s Facebook page. Shout out to superstar stylists Cindy Duplantis and Laura Travosi for making Erinn and Ishani look chic AF.
*Note: In the video, we quote that one in nine Canadians will get breast cancer in their lifetime. That statistic is from 2016. It is now one in eight. Also, when we mention that one in every four women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, that refers to one in every four women diagnosed with cancer. For more, check out the Canadian Cancer Society.