When I was twenty-one, living in Los Angeles and doing the waitress-actress thing, I made a friend named Linda at a restaurant where we both worked. She was a spitfire- a smack talking, no B.S. taking, teasing, fun-loving career server 7 years older than I.  She was one of those people who went out of her way to make others feel important, cared about, and rooted for. Droves of loyal customers would book reservations with Linda specifically, knowing she’d take great care of them, and even remember their special occasions and decorate their tables. She subscribed to a “what’s mine is yours” mindset through and through. She loaned her car out to my boyfriend & I weekly so we wouldn’t have to take public transportation to go on dates, handed over keys to her apartment to whoever needed them, and gave away anything anyone admired, no matter how valuable. She was also my greatest cheerleader. In the few times my face hit the big screen, even for a few seconds, Linda would rally a troop of supporters, fill up rows of seats, and scream like crazy. She was beautiful inside and out, with a gorgeous long mane of hair.

Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years after we met, had surgery, went through treatment, and lost her hair. And in spite of giving it everything she had, of having a troop of her own cheerleaders, and amazing doctors who tried everything they could, she lost the battle at only 32 years old. She left an indelible mark on many hearts, including mine.

A few of years ago I began growing my hair to donate in honor of Linda to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. They create wigs for women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments.  But I have to confess that as life got hard, my hair became a security blanket of sorts and I’ve had a hard time letting it go, or even cutting it. It seems out of character- I’m a gal who’s shaved/cropped her hair twice, has had every color and length of hair, often short, and yet here I am rivaling Crystal Gayle in the name of security. But then again, I think it speaks to exactly why it’s important for me to donate. As Pantene states on their site: “A real-hair wig allows a woman to look in the mirror and at least see a familiar face while she fights to regain a sense of normalcy in her life.” My challenges don’t have to be as big as battling cancer for me to relate to the idea that sometimes it’s not “just hair.” And in the end I think I can help someone and still feel like myself…perhaps even more like myself.

So I made an appointment for yesterday, Earth Day. I thought the day was a good one, as by donating my hair (recycling!) I’ll use less water and hair products, which also means less waste or recycling of hair product bottles. This Crystal Gayle impersonator has some atoning to do after all. ;)

So here’s how it went:

My awesome hair stylist Tracy whom I- ahem- hadn’t seen in awhile, measured my hair and then snipped off some split ends

She added a hair band (donated hair must be bound) making sure there was at least 8 inches of hair beneath it

Whack! Tracy made the cut above the hair band

Voila! 9 inches of hair ready to donate

I got to check out my new do after just a little more snip snip, wash, and blow dry

Then I went to an Earth Day birthday party, where friends and I wished the new owner of my hair a full and speedy recovery and a long, happy, healthy life.

There are a handful of organizations you can donate hair to, but I chose Pantene Beautiful Lengths because they provide women’s wigs free of charge to the American Cancer Society, who also provides resources and emotional support. They felt like the best fit for honoring Linda. Their minimum ponytail donation length is 8 inches (other organizations range from 8-12 inches) and you don’t have to be a woman to donate.

It felt so good to do, I really wish I hadn’t waited so long, and I’m sure I will do it again. And it doesn’t take nearly as much as you might think. For example, donating another 8-inch ponytail now would still leave me with a chin-length bob.  In other words, you don’t have to have Crystal Gayle hair to donate. ;)

So what do you think? Ready to shed 8 inches or more? Or maybe you already have? Tell me about it!

116 Responses to “Donating My Hair in Honor of a Friend on Earth Day”

Comments (116)
  1. Wow, heart warming story. I can just imagine how traumatic the lost must be. I’m so sorry to hear that. I admire your act. It’s really impressive work and the effort! I know how hard to grow hair.. (That’s why the photos only you can see are me in short hair :) ) And I think you look good after the haircut!

    • thanks so much juno! the loss was really tough when it happened, and all these years later i’m still learning about how to be a good person from her. i’m trying! :) thanks for the thumbs up on my new do- i dig yours too! :)

  2. What a most excellent thing to do in memory of a friend…you are one very sweet lady… :)

  3. Wow, your hair was LONG! And it still is, after having so much chopped off!
    Linda sounds like such an amazing person. It’s so sad that she’s not with us anymore but the fact that she’s still remembered shows that she made a difference. That’s something I think we should all try to do.
    I hope your hair does give someone a lift. It sounds like an amazing charity.

    • thanks d.o.! i know, right? lonnnnnng! linda was so incredible- really. and so much more than what i could convey here. and i agree- we should all emulate those we admire. i know there are so many wonderful women out there having to be brave and stay positive like she did and i’m so grateful that there are organizations like this working to help them :)

  4. I never imagined you with such long hair – and what a great way to donate it. Sounds like your friend was a very special lady and that was a lovely thing to do in her honour! :)
    Julia

    • thanks julia! truthfully, i never imagined me with such long hair either- ha ha! one of our fellow travel blogging pals pointed out recently that he had no idea what i look like from this blog- oops! guess it’s as good a time as any to remedy that. linda was so special :) and there are so many other amazing ladies out there who still have a chance. i know we’re all rooting for them and this is just a tiny gesture to demonstrate that :)

  5. Darling, You LOOK marvelous! and…you done good!

  6. Really nice thing to do in honor of your friend.

  7. I love this post. I lost my mother 4 years ago to breast cancer and I think that what you are doing is such a wonderful thing. Linda sounded like an amazing woman and what you did for her is heartwarming. Thank you.

    • oh pete! i’m so sorry about your mom. we really need to find a cure. we’re losing too many beautiful people. thanks so much for your kind words. :)

  8. Ah, Lorna – such a great idea… so thoughtful. Not surprising AT ALL coming from you. Oh, and, we just saw you a couple of months ago. Was your hair really almost that long? Holy cow.

    • thanks k&c! so sweet. and yes! but you saw it in it’s natural state- curly! for donating, they let you blow dry it straight for a cleaner ponytail :)

  9. Touching story, Lorna. Such a wonderful way to honor your friend!

    • thanks cathy! i know you know about honoring loved ones. we have to find some way to do it when lovely people come and go from our lives, right? appreciate all that you do too :)

  10. You have such beautiful hair – I’m sure the recipient is going to LOVE her wig. I’ve always wondered about hair donations (though I struggle to grow my hair – I don’t think it’s ever been as long as yours is after the mini-chop); beautiful post =)

    • thanks andrea! i hope so! i was shocked at how small it looked. it takes about 6-8 ponytails to make a wig, so i can’t do it alone. nice to think of all the possible folks my hair with join with in this :)

  11. Lorna,
    What a truly heartwarming story. Your generosity will give someone the courage to come out into the world and live again. It’s value (though it can be measured in inches) can’t be measured in terms of the good that it will do for one person who needs a fresh start. Thanks for giving that to him or her and for giving yourself a fresh start of sorts of your own.

    • thanks so much renee! i truly hope you’re right! in the end, i expected it to feel more drastic- like more of a sacrifice to be honest. and that’s what i was ready for. i’d built it up in my head, clung to my hair, and didn’t realize it would feel so freeing and easy. just another lesson in not forecasting feelings! i just hope that the person who receives my hair recovers and lives a beautiful life surrounded with people who love them. :)

  12. That’s very generous of you. What a great thing to do to honor your friend.

  13. Several friends and I did this is college…. except all of them chickened out when it came time to actually cut their hair! yours was so long, you still have long-ish hair after the cut! You look great and for such a great cause too!

    • thanks so much jade! i can see why they’d chicken out to be honest! i booked several hair appts in the past years thinking “this could be the time!” only to end up with a trim. for me being on the other side of it now, it feels like one of those things that gets built up and made bigger than it is (as far as sacrifices go) and then you just do it and it doesn’t seem so big anymore. kind of like a metaphor for going RTW! only hopefully this really benefits someone other than me :)

  14. My hair is about an eight of an inch long! Congrats though.

  15. Great work. My wife is in chemo now and found she could make a “halo” of her own hair to be able to go out in public. It makes all the difference I. The world when everything else seems to be falling apart. What a great way to remember your friend!

    • oh glenn, i’m so sorry you and your wife have to face this. I’m really glad she’s found a way to feel confident enough to go out. i can imagine that would, as you say, make a huge difference. thanks so much for your kind words. i’m sending all the warm healing thoughts i can your way :)

  16. Awesome job donating your hair and like the new look! What a great way to help out – I will never have enough hair to do this!

  17. So sorry to hear about your loss, but wonderful that you did this. By the way, your hair is gorgeous! I’m planning to do this after my wedding as I can not imagine how difficult having cancer would be and then losing your hair on top of it. I would think that having real hair would be a way of bringing back a little normalcy into a life that had turned extremely difficult.

    • thanks laurel! so great that you’re going to donate as well! have you chosen an organization to donate to? it’s a win no matter who you give to- it’ll help someone who needs it. and i bet doing it after your wedding will give your hair extra healing energy :)

  18. Linda does sounds like one of those true friends that are very rare to find. It’s so sad she’s not here anymore.

    But, what you’re doing here not only honors Linda, but will help someone feel better. That’s your cheer and your belief that someone will win the battle.

    I’ve never donated hair since I barely have an inch or two in my head. But I think I would do it if I was patient enough to grow my hair that long.

    • thanks norbert! it’s true- linda was a gem! and i know she’d encourage me to help someone else’s gem in this situation :) totally understand the challenge of growing hair, and don’t think everyone has to do this to help others. we all do that in different ways :)

  19. i think these hair donating programs are such a good idea. and you get a fresh new look out of it as well!

    • thanks jamie! me too! think especially in instances where someone wants a big change just because, that having their hair help someone instead of on the salon floor and then in the trash is such a win-win. :)

  20. hey lorna,
    that’s a great story. It always blows my mind when I meet people that are so special that they make me want to be a better person. and it equally blows my mind when people are being made wanting to be better, like you.

    i’m just getting to know this blog, but you seem like a kick-ass kind of girl, you don’t need long hair to hide behind. this coming from someone who had long hair all her life and at 26 chopped it off for good (and feeling much better :)

    • aw, thanks katja! linda definitely did inspire me to be a better person- and i’m still working on it! it’s been a pretty crazy year for me, which i think makes now the perfect time to do this- it shifts my perspective! really appreciate the kind words and go you! happy to connect :)

  21. Well, Lorna, once again you made me cry! You are a beautiful friend and you are beautiful as well!! Love the “new do.”

  22. Fantastic story! It’s amazing to think how much this simple gesture will impact someone else’s life. To steal a line from Martin Lawrence, “You go girl!”

    • thanks randy! i hope so! oh, and i will go! ;) and i love that you generously credited M.L. :) i’d forgotten he was the one who started it!

  23. Wow, what a beautiful story! It makes me want to donate my hair, too. It’s a simple but really meaningful thing you can do to make a difference.

    • thanks jana! you should do it! it really feels good, and it’s a temporary sacrifice (hair grows!) if at all :)

  24. wow, what a wonderful and heart-warming gesture! and as lovely as your friend Linda seemed to be I bet she would have done the same…

    • thanks yvonne! you’ve got it exactly right! linda had amazing hair and we teased her because she never had a hair out of place. but she would have cut it off in a minute to help someone else. :)

  25. WOW! what a great story and what awesome person you are!! You inspire me!!

    • thanks kay! just trying to emulate those i admire (like linda) and hopefully help someone in the process! :)

  26. You are an angel with the most gorgeous hair!

  27. the acorn dosen’t…
    years ago a friend held an auction to see who would get to cut his hair, the money and locks to go to people battling cancer. as long as i had known him he had hair half way down his back. over a beer in the vfw the conversation turned to how great a thing he did. i thought i could do that, and many beers later ( as these things go) the dare was accepted. we can get attached to our hair. locks of love the recipent of my hair
    needed 12″. well as it turned out 12″ of hair is about all i can grow. it maxed out about two and a half years into trying to live up to the one second it took for me to say ” i’ll do that”. my hair never grew any longer, falling out as fast as it grew. it took a very gifted young lady in pheonex to tie groups together so when all the the little locks could be put together they would all be the required length. the down side was a shaved head.
    when i say that i know just how you feel, in this case it’s literal.
    so proud of you. love you

    • thanks dad! wow, i had no idea you’d done that! so nice that a child who lost their hair got yours. and by the way- thanks for giving me your hair! ;)

  28. That saddened me reading how young your friend was when she lost out to cancer, but then I brightened seeing you do something selfless for someone else.

    You just contributed to someone feeling good, even sane in an insane situation. Awesomeness. :)

    • thanks so much jeannie! i really hope so. it’s weird- linda felt quite a bit older than me at the time- that age felt far away, and now it’s far away in reverse. really hope the lady who gets my hair enjoys many more birthdays :)

  29. What a lovely honour for your friend and what a great thing for you to do all up. I have another friend who has been able to grow her hair for this (mine is too thin:-( ), too, and just between the two of you there will be some amazing wigs out there. Hopefully these examples will encourage others to donate. What a personal and heartfelt gift. Good on you!

    • thanks so much marie! that’s great that your friend is donating too! it takes on average about 6-8 ponytails to make one wig, so the more ponytails donated the better! i’d love to see more folks donate, and in fact am going to write a follow up post with more details about various organizations accepting hair donations. so many great orgs are collecting and helping donators give to people of all ages & genders in need :)

  30. Love the new ‘do! I have an attachment to my hair as well… then I get sick of it and chop it to my shoulders. Then, I regret it because I don’t look good with short hair! Haha, at least it grows back. Yours looks great though and it’s for a great cause. Your friend would be touched no doubt.

    • thanks laura! i hear you! while it would seem easier to have even shorter hair, the shorter mine gets, the curlier it gets and it’s more work than when it’s longer, so i try to strike the right balance. and we’re lucky that like you say ours grows back! thanks for the kind words- i feel like you’re right- linda knew how to appreciate a gesture :)

  31. really lovely and heartwarming story. I had seen news articles about donating hair, but I think you are the first person I have ever know that has done it. Bravo.

    • thanks so much michael! i’m hoping that i can encourage others to do it as well. i think it’s like so many things before you’ve done them for the first time- it seems like it would be more complicated than it is! and in the end, it feels so good thinking that someone might feel better during a really rough time. :)

  32. your awesome sweetie!

    • thanks darlin’! really appreciate your sending off warm wishes to the new owner of my hair with me :)

  33. That’s really awesome. Twice in my life I’ve cut off at least 6 inches and always felt bad that I couldn’t donate it, but they always have these minimum length requirements :( It’s hard to believe they couldn’t do something with 6 inches, but oh well…

    • thanks scott! yeah that’s tough- you would think they could be able to use it somehow. think i’ll do a little research on this and see if anyone can. sweet that you’d consider it though :)

  34. What an awesome and inspiring thing to do!

  35. Hey Lorna, you’re awesome! Your friend sounded like a great woman and that was the perfect way to honor her. My mom is a breast cancer survivor, one of the few lucky ones, and I really appreciate what you did.

    • thanks so much david! i am SO glad to hear your mom survived. i’m sure it must have been so tough to deal with. i really appreciate your kind words :)

  36. I chopped off my hair and gave it Locks of Love about 5 years ago in honor of someone in my life who had passed away. It felt great! What I really loved is that, even though I normally feel vain about my long hair and don’t like being a short-haired gal, this changed that feeling. I didn’t feel sorry for myself that I didn’t have the long hair I love when I looked in the mirror; instead, I thought about ho lucky I was to be alive. :-)

    Your haircut looks totally awesome, by the way!

    • thanks so much angela! and i’m really sorry that you understand where i’m coming from on this, but i LOVE how you reacted to donating- really selfless and admirable. and i completely agree- we are lucky to be alive :)

  37. What a wonderful & beautiful thing to do to honor your friend!

    • thanks so much ali! she was beautiful and wonderful, so i’m happy to do it and hoping it helps someone just as amazing :)

  38. You are so brave! I have an unhealthy attachment to my hair. I feel so naked without it. This is actually very inspiring and a heartfelt donation.

    • thanks grace! believe me- i get it! it’s something that can become such a part of our identity. that’s what made me want to do this even more, but i can see why others wouldn’t. really appreciate your kind words :)

  39. Well done, bravo and you still look gorgeous. Your story about Linda touched my heart, I’m sure she was an angel and now is…again.

  40. AMAZING! Such a beautiful thing to do for someone. :)

  41. That was a really great thing to do, so special and important. Your friend is living on through you as you share what you have with others in need.

  42. Nice story, sometimes it feels so good to help others :)

    • thanks alexandra! it does, for me especially in honor of someone i know would have done it herself if she could :)

  43. Your new hair cut looks gorgeous! I bet you feel a bit lighter now. I don’t think my hair is long enough to do this, but it’s a great cause and I think it’s awesome that you did it.

    • thanks so much christy! i do feel lighter! and i can’t believe how much less time, shampoo, conditioner, etc. it takes :) win-win!

  44. I did that the last time I lopped off my hair into a mohawk! I have taken my hair for granted so much with the bleaching and dye-ing that I felt as though I needed to give back to someone who doesn’t have that luxury. Your hair looks amazing and I’m sure the new owner will love it. Love the haircut. Super cute!

    • thanks so much erica! that’s so awesome that you did it! and love your reasoning. so nice to step outside of what we take for granted and help other folks. i felt a bit guilty keeping so much for myself, but with so many major changes happening in my life right now, i thought it made sense to hold onto a little familiar. and i can always give again when things are calmer. glad you likey :)

  45. Fabulous. And your hair is still pretty long! I’m glad you donated to Pantene; I read that Locks of Love sells extra donated hair to wig companies for a profit.

    • thanks so much jennifer! wow- i heard something similar! that locks of love sells wigs to kid’s family’s on a sliding scale instead of offering them for free. i love the idea that it goes to children in need though, but for me, since i was honoring linda, i really wanted to give to a woman. :)

  46. Great story. What a wonderful thing to do in honour of your friend. Your new hair cut looks amazing as well. You have made some beautiful lady very happy.

  47. Look at those long, luscious locks! I love how you cut that much hair off and it’s still so long! Gorgeous. And such a cool thing to do for a friend.

    • wow, thanks kristin!- so kind :) she was such an awesome human that i feel like i should do so much more! :)

  48. Lovely story Lorna. After years of bad haircuts in Korea I’ve been growing mine. When I decide to go short again I’ll definitely donate.

    • thanks nancie! it’s so wonderful that you want to donate! and yeah, i hear you on bad haircuts! had a few myself while traveling and tried to go really simple here to try to make it easy for others to follow when i hit the road again! ;)

  49. Bravo to you! that is so brave and wonderful :)
    My hair is getting to quite a length that maybe I should consider this too in a few months? :)

    • thanks so much cailin! that would be great to donate in a few months! you know, if you’re considering it at all, i’d suggest putting your hair in a ponytail and then taking a measuring tape and sliding the hair band to where your hair would end if you cut off a 9 inch (just to be safe since they need 8) pony tail. you may be surprised like i was at how much you’ll still have left even now :)

  50. What an inspirational story – very touching and heartfelt sentiments :) . And what long hair you had! I couldn’t grow mine to that length without the ends splitting.

    • thanks so much corinne :) i know! it was super long! i did have some split ends though, but tracy was able to snip those off so they wouldn’t go to the new owner :)

  51. A lovely thing to do and a beautiful reason for doing it – here’s to Linda!

    • thanks robin! and YES here’s to linda! i got the hugest compliment from a friend this week. he said that he’d noticed how much i cheer on all of our friends in all their creative endeavors and it makes him want to do the same. there’s no question who i learned that from :)

  52. A great way to remember your friend, and a moving story. I’m glad you got to keep some of your hair, though.

    • thanks so much theodora! i feel really fortunate to be able to grow it! hoping to donate again sometime :)

  53. Hi! I read your post because I’m thinking of donating my hair and I’m searching for information, but I’m in Europe and I don’t have a clue which organizations I can go to or where to cut my hair (mine is going to be really short after the cut, so I’m a little bit afraid. I have my hair long since I’m like 13…).
    I don’t know any hairdressers here… I love my hair and ever since I moved from Portugal to The Netherlands I only cut it when I’m back on holidays to Portugal to go to the same hairdresser… It’s going to have to end one day, right? Hehe!
    I really loved your post and it gave me more courage to go ahead with this!

    • thanks so much magali- this is wonderful! i have some friends from the netherlands- some really cool peeps! i’ll see if i can have them recommend a great hairdresser there and email you a referral :) loved reading your sweet words here and so excited that you’re donating! i understand the fear- really! but you can do it! :)

      • Done! I couldn’t wait and asked my boyfriend to help me! Now all I need it let it dry and send it by post!
        I just don’t like my fringe but hey… it grows back!

        • that’s awesome magali!!! LOVE IT! so brave you are :) you’re right- it grows back and what you gave will make another lady for whom it doesn’t very happy! hope you’ll keep in touch here. :)

  54. Thank’s! I will keep in touch, I like your stories and the way you tell them! :)

  55. Your hair is still long and beautiful after the cut, wow :) Congratulations on this. I keep thinking want to donate my hair one day, but I never have enough patient to grow it, except for when I was in elementary school.

    • thanks so much dina! i get it- so much easier when it’s short, right? but i was totally surprised at how if you can just even grow it to your shoulders, that you could probably donate and still have a bob! :)

  56. I am donating my hair (hopefully next week). This will be my first time. I am 21 and in the past 3 years I have lost 3 family members to cancer. My aunt was just diagnosed with cancer and when she undergoes her first treatment she will lose all of her hair. Im not sure on all details of how the donation works but I was told you can donate in honor of somebody. Not sure what that really means or how it works. Do you hve any more information that would maybe help me understand a bit better? Thanks in advance.

    • oh emily, i am so sorry about your loved ones. i’m sending the warmest healing thoughts to you and your aunt right now. how beautiful that you are donating your hair in their honor. i did this for linda, but not formally, just on my own. i will do a little digging around tomorrow to see if i can come up with more info on formally donating for someone and will share it here. thank you so much for your wonderful comment, and i’ll do my best to get you some good info. :)

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