EXCLUSIVE: Here’s What It’s Really Like To Chop Off 17 Inches Of Hair
Our reporter Kristine is making a big style change, and donating her locks to help those in need.
Every time I feel stuck in a rut, I switch up my hair. It’s one of the quickest and easiest ways to give yourself a fresh new style: after all, with a simple haircut, you can look like a whole new version of yourself. But this time, I wanted to make a difference with my haircut. And cut it ALL off, to support a cause.
For this big makeover, I wanted to support the Pantene Beautiful Lengths campaign, which I had never participated in before. The project, started by one of my favorite haircare brands, has a campaign called #8Or8, which encourages donors to either send in at least 8 inches of donated hair or $8 as a contribution to the organization’s wig-making efforts. Pantene, along will HairUWear, turns hair donations into free, real-hair wigs for women who’ve lost their own hair while battling cancer.
I have been intentionally growing out my mermaid waves for about a year and a half now, with this donation plan in mind. (See the before pic above!) That means I’ve been taking extra care of my split ends, and trying to avoid excess heat styling (that I’m usually very guilty of.) But I’ve actually learned a lot about myself in the process. You see, when I was in high school, I straightened my hair with a flat iron every. single. morning. I wanted perfectly straight hair, and not the frizzy, uncontrollable curls that I have naturally. But not just that: I wanted to convince people that I had a whole different hair texture altogether, since I thought it was more desirable. I didn’t want to take care of my hair, I wanted it to look perfect all the time. But now that I was growing out my length to donate to someone else, it was suddenly so important to me to nourish those strands. Especially since they’d be soon working to make someone else feel beautiful again — despite harsh medical treatments she would be facing.
My hair has always just been hair. I’ve cut it super short, grown it out down my back, tested out hair chalks and temporary colors, and had fun with glamorous updos. I know a lot of people get emotional about haircuts, because your hair can be so closely tied with your identity, your comfort, and your sense of self. But that’s why it was so comforting to me to be donating my hair to a cause that matters: because to me? It’s just hair. It grows back. But to someone else, who may be losing her hair AND her health at the same time? It’s an important part of her normalcy and dignity that she should retain during her health battle.
Believe me, I didn’t think I would make the 8-inch donation minimum: it sounds SCARY. But when I went to my hair salon and the stylist started tying up my ponytail to measure out the cut, it ended up being 17 inches long total. That’s more than double! I showed my stylist several photos of some of my favorite stars — like Selena Gomez, Olivia Holt, and Veronica Dunne — who’ve recently gone short and inspired my own new style. Then she chopped off three mini ponytails (and I filmed the whole thing.)
It was exhilarating!
Suddenly, I felt so much lighter physically, with all of that hair gone. As my hairdresser continued actually styling what was left of my hair, I couldn’t believe how much was left after the big chop. But also, I started brainstorming all of the ways I’d be making over my wardrobe for spring, because I look like a different person!
And with this cut, I’m already making a big effort to keep taking care of my hair’s health, for me this time.
If you want to be part of this cause yourself, here are some of the basics: your hair donations have to be at least 8 inches in length, excluding those fuzzy split ends, but there’s no maximum. Your hair can’t be dyed, bleached, or in any way chemically treated.
On the day of your haircut, make sure your hair is shampooed clean and dried before making the cut, which is done after you tie the entire length with a rubber band and cut it right above the elastic. You can also tie the bottom tips of your ponytails to keep the entire length together. I chose to flat iron my hair the day of my haircut so that it was easier to tell the precise length. Then, mail it in to the organization, where it will join several other people’s donations to become a beautifully styled wig for someone in need!
Written by Kristine Hope Kowalski