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Nicci Davis
English 2010
Proposal Paper
Beauty at a Price
Beautiful hair comes at a price, but what is that price? When an individual visits a salon
they frequently have an end goal in mind: to look and feel their best. Clients seek to leave the
salon with a new found confidence, ready to face whatever comes their way. When a guest visits
a salon, they are paying an expert for their knowledge, opinions and advice, trusting that they
have their best interest in mind. Often, a salon visit includes a brilliant color, a flattering cut, or
possibly even lengthy hair extensions.
With lengthy extensions comes a price tag that some do not fully understand. Hair is a hot
commodity. It is donated, traded, sold and sought after; it is even commonly referred to as
Black Gold. The worldwide demand brings forth many different types of entrepreneurs; most
want a quick financial gain by the cheapest means possible. This financial gain is incentive for
many to push ethical boundaries, hiding behind corruption and extorting countless individuals.
The controversy in the hair trade industry runs deep, as there are several problems in the
hair trade process: the way the hair is obtained, how it is traded and sold, who gets the hair, and
for what price. My intent with this paper is to propose change by suggesting rules and
regulations that can improve the hair trade industry, including the ways hair is collected and
cleaned. And while taking the time to educate individuals on the hair trade industry, alerting to
unscrupulous practices by well-known United States based organizations, this will further show

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the need for a group to oversee the hair trade industry and to ensure that individuals are not being
exploited, and that ethical trade is being practiced.
There must be complete change in the entire process. We could start by implementing the
Fair Trade Act, and boycotting sellers that obtain hair unethically, to putting polices in place that
protect the poor from being exploited. By forcing the buyers and sellers in the hair trade to take
more responsibility of the hair they are obtaining, it will take away the anonymity of poor by
having them document all the hair collected, and who is selling the hair as well as the price,
showing that the individuals were given a fair price for their hair. I believe that establishing an
organization that will regulate the hair trade process in its entirety would be the most effective
option as it could help keep people accountable by placing the true responsibility where needs to
So, the first step I propose for change is to address the need for an organization to
oversee, evaluate, and establish standards for the industry, not just within the United States, but
worldwide. This group could take things into consideration like ethical trading, and the Fair
Trade Act.
There is a strong need for this group because the hair industry is a large multi-billion
dollar global industry, and not only affects the economies trade but also exporting and importing.
According to the journal review by Ankush Gupta Human Hair Waste and Its Utilization: Gaps
and Possibilities, research shows that a considerable amount of the hair used in the United
States is obtained from poverty stricken nations. It is imported to the United States from destitute
countries such as India, China, Russia and the Ukraine. The hair is obtained at any means
necessary, from both the living and the dead (Gupta 8).

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The group would establish boundaries and basic principles that everyone can live with on
a global scale, because without standards in place, individuals will continue to be exploited. Dan
McDougall, author of, Trade in Hair Forces Indias Children to Pay the Price, from The
Observer found this to be true when he interviewed E.V.K.S. Elangonvan, the minister of state
for textiles and commerce in Tamil Nadu, who acknowledges this issue as well by stating, In
many cases we fear women are being exploited. There are growing concerns over the Indian hair
trade. There are no specific restrictions on the import and export of human hair and can be done
freely. This is obviously an environment that breeds illegality (McDougall). This is a direct
result of having no restrictions and no guidelines.
My next proposal for change would be regulating the hair collection process. Due to the
differing aspects of the process the regulations would need to be detailed. It would need to have
standards of what is considered ethical as well as legal. It would need to place emphasis on what
are universally acceptable means of collection. There is considerable ethical ramifications and
potential serious health consequences associated with the acquisition of hair through currently
unregulated means.
Kaliaperumal Karthikeyan shows the need for change and shows that there are
consequences for unsanitary practices in the article, Tonsuring: Myths and Facts published in
the International Journal of Trichology. Karthikeyan states, Tonsuring [has been known to be]
associated with secondary bacterial infections if clean blades are not used. Further tonsuring is
associated with the risk of transmitting HIV and Hepatitis B virus infection if the blades are
reused without sterilizing (Karthikeyan 34). These consequences are something that could
potentially be avoided policies were set in place.

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This policy on the collection of hair would not stop here, it would need to address the
collectors who meet the supply and demand. So many distributes and buyers rely on collectors
which drives the collectors to seek out the areas where poverty is high, exploiting and taking
advantage where they can. The corruption, crime, and lack of financial means push individuals to
gathering hair by any means. Even if it means affecting and causing harm to the people closest to
them. Erin Bile, a writer for, confirms this in her article, Cashing in on Indias
Luscious Locks. As it is a common practice for hair collectors to prey on individuals who are in
dire situations, the collectors talk to the husbands and convince them to sell the hair of their
wives and children for a monetary sum of about ten dollars (Bile). The need for this guideline for
how the hair is collected would help to protect individuals who face situations similar to these
from being abused.
Additional motivation to establish a guidelines in the collection process would be to
prevent the exploitation of the collectors. It is not uncommon for the distributors or buyers
exploits the collectors, as Deborah Moules from explains in her article,
Investigating the Human Hair Extensions Industry. The Collectors are paid very little to gather
dead hair, yet they still go door to door seeking hair as well as scavenge through
the trash and sewer (Moules). Not allowing the buyers to push the collectors to dangerous
measures is something that can be avoided if there is a policy in place.
In addition to establishing guidelines for the collection of hair and setting up a group
which would regulate the hair industry, there would need to be strong procedures that regulate
the sale, exportation and importation of hair, as well as standards that the hair is cleaned and

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The guidelines for cleaning and processing the hair would need to vary as there are many
different end results for the hair, as detailed in the journal review by Ankush Gupta, Human
Hair Waste and Its Utilization: Gaps and Possibilities. Guptas research explains that along
with obvious products such as wigs, hair extensions, and toupees, hair is also used in products
like L-cysteine, which is used in food, bug repellent, fertilizer and even toys. (Gupta 3-7). While
hair provides the means for many products, there is a lack of consistency once the hair is
Even though hair is used in many products, there is not one standard cleaning process for
it. According to K. Jagannathan and N. Panchanatham, the authors of The International Journal
of Engineering and Management Sciences, An Overview of Human Hair Business in Chennai,
the majority of the hair that is used in the hair trade and for extensions is exported and imported
from underprivileged countries such as India (Jagannathan and Panchanatham 199). Many of
these economically poor countries do not have the best sanitation practices or ethical standards.
Ethical standards and sanitation practices affects everyone from the individuals who are
cleaning the hair, the individuals who process the hair, and the individuals who package and ship
the hair. Ultimately even the consumer is affected. If the process was streamlined and standards
set, it could potentially save lives, give more opportunity for jobs, protect the environment, and
could provide better working conditions for those who are processing the hair. This would in turn
show consumers that the products are worth much more.
I have suggested several areas in which rules and regulations could be implemented in
order to bring change in the hair trade process. However, this change would not be complete
without addressing the area of exportation, importation as well as the sale of the hair. While there

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is a definite need for standard rules and regulations to be established on a global level, there is a
strong need to things more closely on local levels as well.
Currently in the United States, there are no rules. The book, Hair and Justice written by
Carmen Cusack, concurs with this by going into detail stating, The Governmental agencies
regulate hair differently (e.g. tariffs or disease control) depending on the purpose of the
importation (HTS 1151 & 12.57, 2015). For example, human hair may be imported into the U.S.
without any restrictions if the purposes of importation is interment (CDC, 2014)... (Cusack 170)
This extreme freedom to export and import allows hair to be traded sold without consequence,
and could lead to hair being sold unlawfully and potentially on the black-market, thus the sale of
hair would need boundaries.
The margins on the exporting, importing and the sale is not something that would be as
easily standardized as each country would need to evaluate their rules and directives which may
differ from another, but if there were a baseline established, it would help to eliminate some of
the crime that takes place without having rules on the hair that is imported or exported. The hair
would hold more value to those seeking it because there would be an organization overseeing the
process, ensuring quality and ensure that the standards were met.
It is advantageous to have global guidelines in place to protect people who take part in
the process and to help discourage exploitation, crime, and corruption, all while keeping the hair
off of the black-market. I understand that change is not something that happens over night, but
the first step to change is recognizing that the problem exists. It is important that that the issues
involving the hair trade industry are acknowledged and that as individuals do not disconnected
from the inhuman situations involving harvesting, trade and sale of human hair.

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Until change is brought about on any level, It is so important that we also need to take the
time to research and really know where the hair is going to or coming from. It is important that
each of us are willing to ask the difficult questions, such as, by what means the hair was
obtained? Was it forced or given freely? Was the hair sold legally or was it smuggled? Each
change could start in something as simple as spending a little more money for ethical hair,
boycotting black market hair and unethical hair. If we all do our part, we help bring justice to
those who are wronged in a broken process. All of these are a great first step to keeps beauty at a
price we can all afford to live with.

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Work Cited
Biel, Erin. Cashing in on Indias Luscious Locks The Yale Globalist. 22 May 2010. Web. 20
Mar. 2016.
Cusack M. Carmen. Hair and Justice: Sociolegal Significance of Hair in Criminal Justice
Constitutional Law and Public Safety Springfield. Charles C. Tomas Publisher, LTD.
2016. Print. 23 Mar. 2016.
Gupta, Ankush.Human Hair Waste and Its Utilization: Gaps and Possibilities,
Journal of Waste Management, vol. 2014, Article ID 498018, 17 pages, 2014.
Google scholar doi:10.1155/2014/498018. Web. 17 Mar. 2016
Jagannathan K. and Panchanatham N. An Overview of Human Hair Business in Chennai.
International Journal of engineering and management sciences. I.J.E.M.S., VOL.2 (4)
2011:pag.199-204. Google scholar. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.
Karthikeyan, Kaliaperumal. Tonsuring: Myths and Facts. International Journal of Trichology
1.1 (2009): 3334. PMC. Google scholar. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
McDougll, Dan. Trade in Hair Forces Indias Children Pay the Price The Observer. Jun 24.
2006. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
Moules, Deborah Investigating the Human Hair Extensions Industry. 30 Apr.

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2014. Web. 21 Mar. 2016. <>