An article published in the Wall Street Journal last
August may have been the trigger for the recent raising of
this important issue. The article portrayed an Indian woman
who "traveled 10 hours by bus to a temple here in southern
India to thank lord V. in the best way she knew: by shaving
her head" at the Tirupati temple, one of Indian's busiest
Some 20 million visitors come each year, and as many as
25,000 a day shave their heads. The hair cutting operation
(known as "tonsure") uses 1,800 barbers in three shifts
around the clock. The hair is shaved off with a straight
razor, and 1,800 barbers are capable of shaving many more
people if they come.
Long hair from Tirupati can bring $165 per kilogram. Shorter
hair brings only about $100 per kilo. The article reported
that the temple took in $5.6 million from sales of hair last
year. The total budget of the Indian shrine is around $120
million. Most of its services, including the haircuts, are
provided free to pilgrims.
The US alone imported around $47 million worth of hair last
year. Lately there are reports that many women in the USA are
cutting their hair and selling their locks.
The premium type of hair is called Remy hair, and it comes
from India, mainly if not exclusively from Tirupati. Indian
hair is much closer in structure to European hair due to the
similar genetic makeup of Indian people (Chinese hair, for
example, is about 30 percent thicker), and the Indian women
who bring their hair to the temple almost never treat their
hair with chemical processes of any kind such as dying or
bleaching or conditioning, so the hair has a natural softness
that is similar to European hair from young people.
Remy hair is almost always collected at temples. Indian women
cut their hair as an offering to their avodoh zora.
This is a very ancient tradition. They consider their hair as
an obejct of pride and they take meticulous care of it while
it is growing. Hair to an Indian woman is a symbol of beauty
and honor. The idea of cutting their hair specifically at the
temples and what they mean to say by offering hair to their
deity is that they are willing to sacrifice their beauty by
removing their hair, namely their most valuable and treasured
Indian women do not cut off their hair to sell for money
outside the temple because hair to an Indian woman is not
only a symbol of beauty but also of honor.
Collecting and using this Remy hair in hair products solves a
number of problems for hair product manufacturers. First, the
cuticle layer of this hair is still perfectly healthy and
intact since Indian girls rarely visit hair salons to get
chemical treatments. It is also usually woven into a plait
before cutting so that it is all aligned in one direction and
the hair is homogeneous in color and thickness.
Indian hair is of exceptional quality and this precious Remy
hair provides the best solution for use in hair products.
In addition to this Remy hair, millions of women of all ages
in other places collect their hair every day after brushing
it. This is called fallen hair. This can include dark hair,
grey hair, and hair of all lengths and thickness. This hair
is cheaper because as a result of this method of collection,
the hair is mixed up and misaligned with cuticles falling in
Because of the mixed direction of the cuticles, the fallen
hair has to be subjected to an acid process in order to
remove the cuticle to try to minimize subsequent tangling.
Hair companies in Korea and Indonesia specialize in
purchasing this type of hair and treating it with this acid
Because of the mixture of different hairs in this mass and
because some areas are particularly oily or dirty, it is very
often impossible to fully remove all the cuticles. To give
this acidized hair a more healthy appearance, the hair is
usually dipped in silicon to make it shine and to cover up
any cuticles that were not removed in the acid bath. The
silicon also adds weight which brings a better price since
hair is generally sold by weight. The standard of this kind
of hair is variable, and quality depends on finding a good
According to a large hair extender firm, Remy hair is at a
premium due to its limited supply. Remy hair is stronger,
softer and has a finer feel to it. It is the hair that people
who spend unlimited sums on their appearance use. Remy hair
lasts longer, keeps vitality and elasticity, colors better,
is easier to comb and curls and sets better. Remy hair is
also tangle-free and has a long life.
However, it is tikroves avodoh zora, and absolutely
forbidden for Jewish people.