Solidarity, Wigs, and Pantene Beautiful Lengths


Last week we announced that our very own staffer Liz would be shaving her head and donating her hair to help make wigs for women who are battling cancer. You guys rallied around her and, as a result, made her feel a whole lot braver about taking the plunge and going bald. But what we didn’t tell you was that thanks to a generous partnership with Pantene Beautiful Lengths (an organization dedicated to providing free real-hair wigs to women battling cancer, and who Liz donated her ponytail to), I (Maddie) got to fly to Philly to witness and document the whole thing.

My eight-year-old sister was diagnosed with terminal cancer almost fifteen years ago, and since then, hair donation has been one of my personal causes. And women who shave their heads to support people who are battling cancer hold a special place in my heart. My sister was a brave little woman, facing her diagnosis with a staunch resolve to remain hopeful and optimistic, even when things got really, really bad. But losing her hair was one of the few things that left her feeling vulnerable and insecure. When you’re battling cancer, and your body is being ravaged by drugs and therapies and the cancer itself, having your hair fall out can feel a little like the universe is kicking you when you’re down. Way down. The thought process is something like: As if the chemo and the radiation and the horrible, horrible steroids aren’t enough, now I get to look like a cancer patient instead of just feeling like one. Great. Thanks. Because there’s nothing more awesome than being confused for a boy in the airport on the way to my Make-A-Wish trip, right?

When you’re battling cancer, you’ll take any small victories you can get. So to help my sister feel more like herself again, my family did two things. First, we got my sister a real hair wig. (And let me tell you, real hair makes all the difference. No twenty-dollar wig from Ricky’s is going to restore anybody’s dignity.) And second, my mom decided to shave her head in solidarity, so that on the hot days when my sister didn’t feel like wearing said wig, she wouldn’t feel so alone. My mom also decided to let me do the honors. Because that’s what you do when you’re a mom helping your kids cope. So armed with three of my friends and a pair of buzz clippers, we took turns shaving my mom bald.

It’s funny how the things you don’t think much about as a kid follow you through to adulthood. Shaving my mom’s head fundamentally changed the way I perceive beauty, hair, and the power that we as women can have in making other women feel supported and whole. So much so that a little over a year later, after my sister had passed away, I found myself in the salon chair, chopping off thirteen inches of hair, and donating it so that it could be made into a wig for someone else.

Donating my hair was a tangible way for me to support my sister, and others like her. It was the ultimate nod to female solidarity, a way for me to say, “Oh, cancer took your hair away? Here, have mine.”

I’ve been a staunch advocate for hair donation ever since. But it wasn’t until I started working for APW that I realized I had the power to do something about it. You see, when I cut my hair off, I wasn’t just supporting my sister’s struggle (though that was certainly the motivation). Subconsciously I was also symbolically shedding all of the horrible stuff that went along with losing her. Essentially, I wanted to be someone new, and cutting my hair let me do that.

And you know where else I see that? Weddings. After I began working for APW, I noticed something. Readers that I followed on Twitter commenting about how they were going to cut and donate their hair after the wedding. Friends who were recently married suddenly showing up in my Facebook feed minus about twelve inches of tresses.

So when we had the opportunity to work with P&G Beauty and Grooming last year, I immediately began scheming ways to work with Pantene Beautiful Lengths. Actually, the truth is, I’ve been wanting to work with them since they were founded in 2006. Because unlike most other programs that turn hair donations into wigs, Pantene Beautiful Lengths is the only one I’ve found that focuses exclusively on supporting women who are battling cancer. Plus they always give away the wigs for free and they never ever sell your hair to raise money. In short, they champion the pure altruism of women supporting women (well some men donate too, but they are a class of awesome all their own). Like APW, they are about the sisterhood.

I know from watching and reading your stories that there are a ton of you out there who are growing long, beautiful locks right this minute with plans to cut it off after the wedding is over. (I know, I did the same thing.) If you do, we want you to tie your hair in a ponytail first, and donate your hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. That way, maybe someone else in this community who doesn’t have any hair right now, can have a chance at feeling a little more like themselves when they walk down the aisle. We’ll have more on exactly how to do that coming up next month, but for now, just hold on to your ponytails.

If seeing my bald mom and sister taught me anything, it’s that this cause isn’t just a way to support women who are battling cancer. It’s also a really powerful way to challenge our culture’s standard notions of beauty through sisterhood and solidarity. Because as much as I think wigs are a really important way to allow women to reclaim their beauty during their battles with cancer, I also think that seeing a woman voluntarily go bald or even just cut her hair short can be just as powerful. I know that getting rid of a lot of hair can be really scary. It’s why wigs are important to begin with. In fact, Liz will probably tell you next week that it was no small thing for her to do. But watching her get her head shaved, for no other reason than to support the cause, extended the, “Oh you’re losing your hair? Here have mine,” to include, “And let me throwdown in a big scary way so that you know how supported you are.” And to me, that’s been the most rewarding piece of this whole thing. I don’t know if she realizes it, but knowing what Liz is willing to do for someone in my sister’s position makes everything a little less horrible, in a way that few other gestures can.

If I learned anything as a kid, it’s that cancer sucks. Getting a terrible prognosis sucks. And when you’re faced with the most horrible thing you can imagine, something with no discernible way out, sometimes all you can do is try to make it a little better for someone else. And there’s nothing I’d love more than to watch APW make it better on a big, big scale for a whole lot of women.

So thank you to Pantene Beautiful Lengths for making this possible. And for allowing me to witness one of my dear friends do something very brave for the sake of making someone else’s life a little better. Next week you’ll hear her side of the story, followed by photos from the event (plus the big reveal of Liz’s new look!). And then coming up we’ll give you the scoop on how you can donate your hair and help APW leave its mark on National Donate Your Hair Day.

In the meantime, some of you might remember our Facebook poll on this a few months ago (back when this partnership was just a seedling of a dream), but now we want to know: How many of you are considering cutting your hair after your wedding? What would it take to make you brave enough to go short (let’s say…eight inches shorter, like the Pantene Beautiful Lengths donation requirement), if that meant helping another woman feel beautiful? Would you be willing to make the cut? What if we did it together?

Photo of Liz getting her ponytail cut, taken by me.

**This post was sponsored by Pantene Beautiful Lengths. Thank you Pantene helping make the APW mission possible!**

Featured Sponsored Content

  • I LOVE Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program — thank you for bringing them more attention, as they absolutely deserve it. When I cut off my hip-length Eowyn hair a few years ago, they were the organization I turned to, because I felt I could be totally on board with their ethics and focus (see: “Plus they always give away the wigs for free and they never ever sell your hair to raise money.). (I swear I don’t work for them, I know this comment is sugarysweet.) This post makes me so happy.

  • Teresa

    I cut my hair a month after my wedding. The reason I was brave enough to cut as much as I did was because my hair dresser said, “If you cut just a little bit more than you want, you can donate it!” So, I did, to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths. It was super easy to find the info on their website. A few months later, I got a really wonderful letter from them, thanking me for donating. It was scary cutting so much hair off at once, but as soon as she said I could donate it, it felt like the right thing to do.

    • COSarah

      I did the same thing! Exactly 1 month after our wedding, I chopped 11 inches off and donated to Pantene Beautiful Lengths! The kicker for me was that when I told my work partner that I was going to donate it (before I did the deed,) he told me how terrible and ugly I was going to look. His exact words were that “(I) was going to look like a boy.” In any case, donating and receiving the letter from Pantene made everything so worth it. Thanks Pantene!

  • Another Meg

    “Oh you’re losing your hair? Here have mine.”

    Crying without shame in my cubicle. APW, I know I’m already engaged….but will you marry me? I’m a part of so many weddings right now where brides are growing out their hair, and I’m sending this to each and every one of them.

    Let’s all make the world a betting f*cking place with our weddings.

    • “Oh you’re losing your hair? Here-have mine.” Oh, I’m with you on the crying without shame in public camp.

      This weekend, my grandma is coming into town to visit, and a friend is doing a portrait session of us, because we don’t have any recent pictures together. For the last year and a half, she’s been very self concious of having her picture taken because her hair fell out when she was going through chemo, but she’s excited to show off her new, totally different colored, completely different textured, post-chemo hair she grew herself.

      She’s one of the toughest women I know – she was performing in these amazing costumes in dance competitions well into her 70’s, and she didn’t teach herself to dance until after her divorce in her 40’s! It was so hard to watch her struggle so much for so long, and it’s amazing how much happier she was when her hair started to come back.

      My hair is dyed, very short, and grows out pretty badly without the benefits of dye, so I don’t meet the donation requirements, BUT I want to help all you amazing people who are making “the world a better f*cking place!” If anyone in NYC decides to donate their hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, I want to donate photography!

      This community is amazing!

      • Granola

        I was just thinking earlier today that I need to get my hair cut, but I perhaps I’ll wait a little longer and see if I can meet the donation requirement.

        I also got my hair cut after my wedding and I wish I’d thought to donate it.

    • New banner!

      APW: Making the World a Better F*cking Place

      • KC

        Especially appropriate after the open thread and posts on sex. ;-)

  • This makes me sad that I only have shoulder length hair that barely makes a ponytail.

    • Maddie

      Let’s form a team of next year donaters! If I can keep my scissor happy self under control, I should have enough to donate myself. :)

      • Mer

        I’m game. My hair is the longest it has been in literally years because I am attempting to grow it out for my wedding. Been debating whether or not to chop it off because I like ti shorter. Now I have a much better reason to grow it as long as I can manage.

      • Samantha

        Yea! I’ve been thinking about this a bit and watching Liz’s story and now being introduced to this awesome organization I would like to do it! But my wedding is in September and want to keep my long locks until then. We should do a Christmas donation! Whigs for Christmas!

      • I would be on this team!!

      • Sam

        I would join the team too!

        Plus, I have a ponytail on my dresser waiting to be donated! I had planned on sending it to Locks for Love when I cut my hair months ago now. But never got around to it, so PERFECT! I will send it to Pantene instead! Can’t wait for the details on donations!

        I am growing it back from the last hack, but I would need super long hair to cut 8″ off without causing my partner heart palpitations! So next year sounds perfect!

        Um, wow that’s a lot of exclamation marks…

        • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

          I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s procrastinated on mailing a past ponytail. Need to measure to make sure mine are long enough. But motivation to send them in.

          Also, so happy you documented this Maddie. One of my favorite pictures is of my friend chopping off my ponytail at camp. The time when I went to the hair dresser for the first time in …. years without telling anyone wasn’t as fun. Yay solidarity!

          • kyley

            I waited like 8 months to actually mail mine in! We were moving, and my partner was like, “Look, this is awesome that you want to donate your hair, but if you don’t mail this ponytail before we move, it’s going to get thrown away.” Of course he I’d never let it get thrown away, so it was just the motivation I needed to walk (the 3 blocks) to the post office.

      • MIRA

        I’m in!

      • So count me in on the crying camp.
        Cancer…cancer sucks man.
        I actually wrote a piece about how I can’t listen to or participate in the walkathons or anything pink ribbon related because it takes me back to a really really dark place. It’s too scary.
        But this….this I think I might be able to do.
        If I can stop myself from cutting it all off out of sheer frustration. Is it really only 8 inches? I might be able to do that.
        I love this idea Maddie.

      • kyley

        Dude, I’m so on that team! I’ve got a long way to go before it’s long enough for donation, but in a year it’ll be just the right length!

      • Jecca

        I read this post and instantly thought that, Maddie. I’m getting married in Sept 2014. Plenty of time to grow it out! Let’s do this.

      • Alexandra

        I’d join this team. I’m making a serious effort to grow out my hair for my wedding in November, but I do like my hair short. I may even have 8 inches already, but we’ll see how long it gets and if I can slingshot back to my usual haircut after the wedding.

        EDIT: Nevermind, my hair is already dyed, and therefore not eligible to be donated. Oops.

      • Claire

        I’ll join your team, Maddie. And I also have a ponytail of hair from my last cut that I never got around to mailing to Locks of Love. I’ll just hold on to it until you give us the scoop on what to do with it.

      • Martha

        I’d like to join this team. It’s something that I’ve considered before, but have never done. I think the extra push of a team effort would really encourage me. Also, I have really nice thick hair that’s never been dyed, so I’m a little ashamed I’ve never donated.

      • I’m in for next year! My hair isn’t quite to my shoulders, but if I start growing it now for my October ’14 wedding, I bet I’ll have something awesome to send to Pantene after my honeymoon.

  • Oh wow, this is just so amazing. And Liz… so kind, and such an inspiration.
    And Maddie your words are so beautiful. This is incredible.

    • I just read the requirements… I would have to start growing my hair now, because basically most of my hair is dyed / highlighted. Will find other ways to help. This is so noble.

      • meg

        I can’t donate either! My hair is dyed because it’s more than 5% grey. So! I just have to help by working on campaigns like this.

        • Me, too. I am glad that Pantene weeds out the unusable hair. Other companies don’t, and let you “feel good” about your hair getting thrown out, which bothers me. I tell most of my friends who donate to use Pantene as opposed to other outlets for this very reason.

      • Perhaps we meet again next year with our grown out hair? I am starting over with a short cut so I’m several months away from having enough hair again.

  • I sold my hair a couple of years back. At the time, the only donation organization I knew about was Locks of Love, and I’d heard many negative things about their administrative structure. So instead of donating the hair, I sold the hair and made a donation to Community Shares, which is a local organization that channels money into many good local groups like shelters, community centers, etc. (so I didn’t have to choose just one). I did keep a portion of the proceeds myself (towards my eventual house downpayment) but it felt good to be able to write that check.

    If I ever do it again, I will probably go the Pantene route. (I don’t think I’ll ever again have 2 feet of hair to cut off and selling it was a little bit of a pain.) Don’t sell and give the wigs for free is a winner for me.

  • Alison

    I love these photos, and I was so glad that I could be there to witness that amazing night at Fado! <3

  • The timing is amazing. I didn’t cut my hair for over a year after my wedding because the last time I saw my Mom and she knew me, I had long hair. A trim four months ago was traumatizing, reminding me of her all over again. But this last week I finally felt like it was time, even if I wasn’t ready. The thing that made me feel right about it was knowing I could save it to donate. All that remains now is to select a donee. Thanks for making the choice so much easier!

  • In 2001 I cut and donated 18 inches of my hair to Locks of Love. It was fine, I felt good about it, and I let my hair grow long again. In 2006 I got engaged. 8 weeks later, I got unengaged. A year later I realized that my ex-fiance had been emotionally abusive and manipulative; he had told me I didn’t wear enough makeup, that my hair wasn’t pretty enough, that my clothes weren’t stylish enough, and that I was essentially not good enough at the same time he had been telling others how lucky he was to find me and crying over how incredible we would be together. I wanted to cut my hair off when he broke up with me, but decided it would be a reactionary decision that I’d regret, so I waited. I waited until my hair was at my hips and I could make a rational decision about it. That’s when I stumbled across Pantene Beautiful Lengths and remembered how many people around me have been touched by cancer. I remembered that it would be almost more devastating than the diagnosis to lose my hair. I thought about how cutting my hair off would symbolically remove some of the bad energy and depression after my awful breakup, at the same time it would make a profound difference in an even more difficult struggle. I thought about how much it means to feel human during a dehumanizing time.

    I donated 14+ inches to Pantene Beautiful Lengths in 2008. Instead of angrily cutting my hair off as a kind of rebellion, I was able to happily (and a little tearfully) give something I had to someone who didn’t have it anymore. I hope it’s made a difference for someone else, because it changed MY life.

    • Rockstar!

    • Jecca

      Beautiful. What a wonderful way to be “born again” out of that experience.

    • You’re the one who introduced me to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. Thank you.

  • Woohoo! Go Liz! A friend of mine shaved her head a year and a half ago for St. Baldrick’s, and it was AWESOME.

    I recently chopped off a massive amount of hair post-wedding, and reeeeeally wanted to donate it… then found out I couldn’t because I used to have highlights and apparently hair that has been bleached can’t be used. :-( So keep that in mind if you want to grow your hair out to donate!

  • Jashshea

    Out-f’ing-standing. YAH.

  • Mallory

    I got married nearly a year ago and haven’t cut my already-long hair since due to pure laziness. I’ve been playing with the idea of chopping it all off a la Anne Hathaway for years. Doing so with the APW community, and knowing the hair was being used for something much larger and more purposeful than a hot haircut could be just the motivation I need to take the plunge! Excited (and a little nervous) to learn more! Local SF event, anyone?

    • meg


    • YES! I second that SF idea. I would love to have internet friends around for a chopping :)

  • Emma

    This makes me wish my hair had grown back enough that I could donate another ponytail.

    I don’t know if I’m allowed to mention this due to the link with Pantene but when I donated my hair a few years ago in the UK, I sent it to the Little Princess Trust. They make wigs for children who’ve lost their hair to cancer. I got a nice certificate back and they seem like an honest charity. So if you’re in the UK they’re a good option.

    I like the idea of doing it after a wedding. I found it a really good way to signify and embrace a change. I cut mine two weeks after I’d finished university, a week after I’d turned 22, and a week after my long term boyfriend left me for good (he’s suggested a break the day after our exams finished then ended it on my birthday… fab). Even though I didn’t like my short hair very much – I don’t think it suits me and I felt weird, I’ve always had long hair – I never regretted it. Even though, if I’m honest, it was partly fuelled by the fact that my ex boyfriend liked my hair. Which seems heartbreakingly trivial compared to a close experience with cancer, but there you go. My first-love heart was utterly shattered and I needed to show it somehow – to do something that made me (as a person and as an identity) feel both in control and physically cut apart.

  • kyley

    I donated my hair about 3 years ago to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. I’d been growing my hair out, and I felt bored and ready for a change, so I measured it: I was still 3 inches away from the requirement. And I figured that being patient, growing it out a bit more so I could donate it was the least I could do for women facing cancer.

    And now I’m growing my hair out again (because I’m ready for another change and also for the wedding) and I am again committed to getting it long enough for a donation before I chop it off. Because, seriously, why not? What else am I doing with this hair?

    If anyone is nervous, but interested, having a bad-ass hair stylist makes all the difference. Also what others said to Liz about buzzing it off holds up for short hair: invest in excellent, flashy jewelry.

    • Maddie

      AMEN. To all of it. A badass stylist is all the difference.

      And for real – my earring collection is ballin’ these days.

      • carrie

        dude, it *is*! I have always noticed the earrings in photos of you.

  • Margaret Thatcher

    I have thought about cutting all mine off, but it’s coarse and has been dyed a billion times. It’s not fried, but if their standards are anything like Locks of Love’s, I am not sure they’d take it. :(

    • meg

      Yup. No dyed hair. But don’t feel badly, I’m in the same boat, and you can pay it forward in other ways.

  • Lauren

    I’m growing my hair out because my fella likes long hair and I am the benevolent arbiter of beard, so he gets to be the benevolent arbiter of hair (obviously in cases where we each really care about our hair, the person who it is attached to wins). I am also lazy, lazy, lazy, although I love my hairdresser and she just had a little nugget of a baby! But I digress.

    I am really enjoying having crazy long hair – longer than it’s ever been in my entire life! – but I think donating to Pantene would be a great way to get back into my “normal” look. And my hair is so crazy now that even 8 inches off will still be longer than normal. Yay hair! Hair for all!

    • When I cut 14 at Christmas to donate my hair was past my waist and it’s still plenty long. I really like that, if your hair is long enough, you can easily cut 8 inches for the donation and still have long hair to play with.

  • Catherine

    When I was a senior in high school my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Losing her hair was harder for her to come to terms with than the cancer was in some ways. I felt so helpless that for mother’s day I made an appointment with my hairdresser to shave my head. My hair was much too short to donate at the time. When I got to the salon and told the hairdresser what I wanted, she called my mom and while my mom was touched by my efforts, she did not want me to be bald for my high school graduation. Luckily my mom was able to beat the cancer and has been in remission for 11 years. Since her diagnosis I have donated my hair 3 times and am almost ready for the 4. My husband and I also found ways to incorporate charity into our wedding by purchasing a dress from Brides against Breast Cancer and making donations to the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association with some of our gift money.

    • KB

      I had to laugh because I could see my mom doing the same thing, as in “Sweetie, that’s so lovely – but if you are bald for your graduation photos, I will be seriously displeased.”

  • I’m so excited to see APW supporting this cause. I’ve chopped my hair three times for donation since high school, but it never became personal until a friend was diagnosed with cancer last year at 27. It felt pretty awesome to chop off 15 inches of wedding-and-then-some hair this past fall to send it in to Pantene.

  • Oh, what a relief!

    When you said you were donating your hair to help with cancer, I was afraid it would be to Locks of Love, whose wigs rarely go to people with cancer. (Not that people who lose hair in other ways don’t need wigs too, but I’ve just heard so much criticism of LoL).

    Pantene’s program looks much better from my research!

    (I hope that’s okay to say! If not, I understand if moderators delete me!)

  • Yes!!! I cut off 14 inches of hair about two and a half years ago at a Beautiful Lengths event, and it was the best thing ever. I was so nervous, but it turned out that I absolutely love having short hair and have kept it pretty short ever since. I think this is such an amazing way to help other women, especially if you are cutting your hair off anyway.

  • Every time I’d get my composure as I was reading this, I’d get to another part and start crying at my desk all over again. Jesus, what a post. I don’t have anything constructive to add except that like…everything about this post is why I love APW.

  • Jenn

    If the minimum is 8″, I will donate mine after my wedding. I’ve been growing my hair out for over a year and I would love to see it go to someone who needs it.

    My mother is currently battling cancer. I had to shave her head two summers back and it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. In the end however, she was so beautiful without the hair. I learned a thing or two about beauty that day.

  • I feel a little guilty. Particularly after reading such an amazing post about it.

    But I am pretty sure I am never going to donate my hair.

    I adore my hair. Like crazy obsessed love for my hair. It is currently “classic” length, which is to say it grazes the bottom of my butt. I love having it long, I want it even longer. I go to extremes to care for it from washing only once a week to not using shampoo at all.

    It’s mine and I don’t want to give it away. Which sometimes (like today) makes me feel like an awfully selfish and vain girl :(

    • Anon

      You are entitled to your feelings! There are plenty of other ways to help, if you feel moved to do so.

    • KC

      This is okay. I think it’s important to be a global citizen and not just totally optimize Everything For ME ALL THE TIME, but our time, money, energy, and, um, hair don’t all have to be 100% given away, yes? So, balance the things that work for you and the things that you’re okay with sharing in a way that works. And, duh, keep the hair. :-)

      (and if people say the equivalent of “oh, but you’re totally obligated to donate your hair, because it’s long!”, I think this is kind of the stupidest thing ever, and would be tempted to respond with “oh, so you’re going to donate your favorite designer bags/shoes/jewelry/money-for-lunching-out/makeup budget/vacation budget, and spend all your free time at a soup kitchen, and then grow your hair out and donate it? That’s very considerate of you!” But that might be snarky.)

    • Maddie

      What everyone else said!

    • Oh I totally I understand, and I think it’s really frustrating to have long hair that’s really visibly extra-uber long, because it happens all the time that strangers come up to you and ask, “WHY haven’t you donated that?” — I had it happen every few weeks when I had classic length. It was the WORST because it felt like I was constantly being finger-waggled by people who I was pretty sure hadn’t just recently cut off classic-length hair of their own, and who were looking to me to do a good deed that they could then feel good about by proxy. (I may have read into it too much, but since it happened all. the. time. I did a lot of thinking!)

      It is not selfish or vain to take pride in something that makes you feel like *you*.

      (Edit: and now I see this shame-cycle-dichotomy is talked more about in comments below so I’m just echoing others who say it better than me!)

      • (to Hayley if this doesn’t nest properly): I’m sorry you get all of the “why haven’t you donated” questions. That seems like such a strange thing to say to someone when *complimenting* their hair.

        I’m just super happy to donate my hair because I’m hopeless at long hair and I cannot donate blood or marrow. But that doesn’t mean that you MUST just because you have it.

    • Milla

      I feel the same way (although I henna my hair, so it wouldn’t be an option anyway).

      Funny story, though— when my mum was diagnosed two years ago, she of course lost all her hair. I asked her if she wanted me to cut my waist-length hair in support or to give her my hair as a wig. She looked absolutely horrified and forbade me to do it, and then went around rocking the bald head.

      Instead of a wig, you can consider donating hats (there are fantastic hats for cancer patients— my mom had a ‘hat party’ where she registered for hats and dozens showed up at the house), earrings (feel pretty and frame your face without hair!), or makeup (lipstick, mostly, although I begged my mum to draw on heavy 60’s-style eyebrows. She never went for it).

      Which is not to say, of course, that wigs aren’t fantastic things for the ladies who want them. But not all ladies want wigs! So there are plenty of other ways to help out too.

  • Wow, this is a beautiful post. I’ve been donating my hair for years to Locks of Love after having a camp counselor back in Junior High school who donated hers. I actually just cut ten inches off this past weekend. Having read some of the comments about Locks of Love on this post, I looked into it, and wow, I never knew some of the horrible criticisms about them! I think I’m going to send my hair to Pantene instead this time around. I’m glad I read this post before sending it in!!

  • Sam

    Maddie, what an incredible post. I am endlessly amazed at how vulnerable and open you ladies can be with the community. Thank you. And a freaking hells to the yeah for Liz. You rock lady!

  • Anon for this

    Fighting back tears at my desk. What a beautiful idea. Come this August, count my hair in!

  • Christina

    Ha, what a coincidence! I’m lopping my 8″ off in a week and a half and had decided on Pantene’s program. This story is wonderful (sniff!) and I’m eager to see Liz’s new look. You go, girl!

  • Anna

    I would absolutely cut off my hair (I’m on growing it out a bit at the moment) but because I dye my hair they would accept it which sucks

    • Anna

      *they would not
      sorry for my crappy typing

  • I have to admit, this post is very difficult for me. I have alopecia areata, which is a disease whose only symptom is hair loss. I also have hair down to my tailbone. And people are constantly telling me to donate my hair, or assume I’m only growing it out to donate it. They tell me to donate my hair to Locks of Love, which in turn donates wigs to people who have the disease that is causing my own hair loss.
    While donating hair and cutting it off can obviously benefit those who are suffering from cancer or alopecia (and is something I have done in the past, before I got alopecia), I think there’s also a strange pressure on women who choose to have long hair just because they like it, as if choosing to keep their hair long is somehow selfish. This pressure is more potent on me because I am dealing with hair loss on my own.
    I am not cutting my hair because I plan to keep my tailbone length hair as long as I possibly can. But people see my hair down and say “Oh! Your hair is so long, you should donate it!” And I go home and cry because people trying to be altruistic are trying to take away the same thing my disease is trying to take away.
    On the other hand, my sister grew her hair out for my wedding and is growing it long enough that she can cut off a 12 inch ponytail for me to keep in case I ever need a real-hair wig. And I appreciate that so much, and the love that I know comes from it.

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      I want to give you a hug. There is the annoying/frustrating pressure of people repeatedly asking if you’re going to donate your hair when the truth is, “Nope. I like it long.” I can’t imagine the added emotions you have related to alopecia.

      After my last cut, I decided I liked my hair short. But have been lazy about getting it cut over the winter. It’s not near donation length yet (unless I pull a Liz and shave it), but I’ll occasionally get queries of whether I’m growing it out to donate again. “Nope. I like it this length.” *sigh*

      All to say. I’m glad you like your current hair length and hope you get to keep you own hair far into the future.

    • KC

      I don’t understand why some people think it is selfish for others to keep long hair long rather than donating it, but it’s not selfish for them to decide to not grow their short hair out to donate it. (I don’t have a problem with either; it just seems really, really weird to say “because you have chosen to have this particular hairstyle, you have a moral imperative to choose a different hairstyle which you do not like as much and donate your hair, whereas my preference for my own hairstyle is enough to make donating my hair not a moral imperative”)

      One of the things I love about APW is that I haven’t seen any of *that* in the post or comments, nor any shaming of those who have dyed their hair and hence can’t donate (okay, except some self-flagellation here and there). It’s wonderful when people donate hair, take care of foster kids, do GED tutoring in prisons, donate lots of money to charitable organizations, volunteer to pick up trash off the freeway – but we don’t need to feel guilty for not doing All The Things; we’ve each got our own piece of the puzzle, and yours (obviously) does not have to be hair donation!

      So, I guess: I’m sorry both about your condition (that sucks) and about the people who unknowingly and stupidly make it feel worse. I hope things go well for you!

      • In my over enthusiasm to “exactly” your comment I accidentally hit “report” instead. I hope the comment moderator Gods realize it was a gross sin on my part and will forgive me.

        But I love what you said about people making a moral issue out of hair-styles. There are so many good causes to support and so many ways to support them. In my poorer days the only way I could support many causes I believe in was by simply raising awareness or volunteering time. Maybe some day I’ll be rich enough to donate money. But just because some day I’ll have money with which to write checks from doesn’t mean I can’t also keep raising awareness and volunteering time, or that I’m earning money solely so I can donate it either.

        Supporting causes you believe in is what’s important, not how.

      • Last year, I started Couch to 5K because I wanted to try something different and therefore I thought I could make a point of running charity 5Ks. I’ve actually since found I really enjoy running and have signed up for a 10K later this spring and am planning a 15K for the fall (and, hopefully, a 1/2 marathon next year – no desire to run a marathon, but if I can run a 15K, it is less than 4 more miles to do a half). But, I’ve made a point of signing up for 5K races where they are causes that are important to me, which is a fun way to stay active and keep running.

        I think it’s the same idea, though, right? I dye my hair *and* I like keeping it long for a number of reasons, and while most people don’t tell me I should donate it, what’s worse is when people say, “Oh, what lovely hair you have! My [insert relationship here] had really pretty hair she recently DONATED.” *shifty eyes* Um …?

        But, yes to the All The Things. I give back in other ways, and we can’t all give back in every way. You are not selfish for not training for a 5K just like I am not selfish for not donating my hair. For some women, this is an IDEAL way for them to give back, kind of like the 5Ks are for me.

    • meg

      Falling into an either/ or dichotomy is bad news, and sends women into a shame spiral. Some of us want to pass along our wedding dresses, some of us don’t. Some of us donate our hair, some of us don’t. I’ve always had long hair, and never donated it, which is totally fine. Now I can’t donate it, because it’s dyed with grey. So it goes. We all have our own ways to pay it forward.

      And you have your own tough road. Focus on self care, lady.

    • SD

      My sister has just been diagnosed with alopecia. She is, understandably, very upset about it. To add to that she will be a bridesmaid at my wedding in just under 2 months time. A wedding where people will be looking at her and there will be pictures and, well, its creating a perfect storm of body image issues. Its impossibly hard for her. And, other than reassuring her constantly that all I care about is her showing up, there’s nothing I can do.
      So here’s to hoping it improves for both (all!) of you and that you get to keep your beautiful hair.

      • KC

        This may not be at all possible or a sane option, but I’m just going to throw it out there in case: would bridesmaid headband fascinators help? (something fun that partially covers or distracts or otherwise takes the focus off Uniform And Unadorned Bridesmaid Hair; this ( might be a bit much, but there are options out there…)(major caveat: I don’t know if headbands or clips are okay to use for people with alopecia, or if scalp irritation would be a problem)

        • Samantha

          Side Note: These are fantastic and I want to rock them all everyday. Thanks for sharing that link.

      • Salena

        My alopecia came in in the lead-up to my wedding, so I know how she feels. In addition to all the regular wedding worries and the regular alopecia worries, I was also having “I’m going to be bald at my wedding! I will be hideous!” worries. I went ahead and got a wig (not an expensive one or anything). It did wonders for my sanity, actually. I wasn’t at a point I needed it, but alopecia is so unpredictable, and it was helpful to know that it was there in case I woke up one morning and couldn’t cover the spots anymore.

        It turned out alright. But tell your sister I understand how hard that is, and that most people’s hair comes back. And also, I’m with KC–look into bridesmaid hats. I wore 3 inch wide headbands for a year because my worst bald spot was a 2.5 in diameter patch right at the top-center of my head.

        • Andi

          Thanks so much for posting this comment…

          I’m working on planning my July wedding after having a craniotomy, and while I had dealt with the fact that I’d have to be careful to cover the scar and the strip that was growing back, I just found out yesterday that the surgery triggered alopecia which is spreading away from the scar. I’ve been a tearful mess because I’m proud of my lovely long hair and I’m terrified I’ll be bald at my wedding. It’s good to know someone else has gone through this and survived.

          I’m hoping I wont have to get a wig, but I’m wondering anyway: where did you get yours?

          Thanks thanks thanks! (I’m glad I read through the comments and found yours!)

          And thanks to APW for writing about couples who go through the tough stuff before (and after) their wedding and survive!

  • ali

    I love this! After the wedding I will seriously consider donating my hair! Its down to the middle of my back, so there is plenty!

    Also- how did I not know that Maddie and Liz were literally down the street from my house!!?

  • Geneva

    Love Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program and have donated a few times to them. My hair is currently way too long (haven’t cut it in almost 3 years), so I plan on cutting 8 in this week to donate. Then after my wedding (July), will let it grow out some more and then donating again.

  • I did cut my hair after my wedding & I wish I had known about awesome programs like this. With short, dyed hair now, I’ll need to find other ways to support the cause.

  • I am so in love with this campaign it’s probably not healthy. But I’m going to be cutting off my hair and donating as well! Not a post-wedding haircut, but hey, whatever works.

    If anyone is thinking of cutting off their hair and they live in the Atlanta area let me know! We will totally have a party! It may be the must unofficial party ever….but party!

  • Vanessa

    I was just talking to my fiance about cutting my hair after the wedding. I want to cut it all off mostly to challenge the idea of female beauty and my own perception of myself, because every time I talk about cutting my hair off there are several people who chime in “But you look so beautiful with long hair!!!” I can look beautiful with little to no hair also! (even if it is scary…)

    I am so glad to read this post and learn about Pantene Beautiful Lengths. Count me in!

  • I donated my first ponytail to Pantene Beautiful Lengths about a year after our marriage – 14 inches.

    Two years later I cut another 14 inches when I got pregnant. I need it long enough for braids during labor now, but will probably be donating again next year some time.

    This – “Oh, cancer took your hair away? Here, have mine,” is exactly why I donate. It’s why I run races to benefit cancer research, “Oh, cancer made you tired and achy? Here, let me run several miles for you.” Too many women in my family have died from cancer complications (I think two is two too many). Too many of my friends have fought with, and sometimes lost to, cancer. Cancer sucks.

    And I love Pantene Beautiful Lengths. They are one of my favorite charities and the only place I will ever donate my hair to.

  • Hannah Smith

    I was already planning to cut off my hair right after the wedding and donate it. Now I know where to donate my hair to. Thanks so much for this post!

  • Elizabeth

    This is such a beautiful story, and sentiment, and I so admire what you’re doing. It takes a lot of courage!

    I would like to raise awareness that not all bald women or girls necessarily want to wear wigs. Some of them are okay with being bald, and don’t feel the need to cover up, or appreciate messages that they need hair to be feminine.

    There is a r eally touching music video out there made by a teen, Oliva, who has alopecia. She got help from a local college to put it together a few years ago. The gist of the video is that she just wants to be accepted and considered great as she is. I’ve seen some interviews with her – apparently she wanted to stop wearing her wig in grade school because she felt she was hiding her true self. Go see it!

  • I wish I could donate my hair, but it doesn’t grow long enough. It’s very thin and it breaks off when it reaches my shoulders. Those of you about to rock/with long hair that can be donated, I salute you!

    That said, my 9 year old, who is also my MOH, is easily at the donation length, so she might just be able to pull off an APW donation for the wedding after all.

    • Kathryn F.

      I know I am saying something that is totally DUH, and I don’t want to imply that you would do this, but please don’t put any pressure on your daughter to donate her hair. Donating hair is a lovely thing to do, and certainly something a 9-year-old is capable of understanding and wanting to do, but I think it needs to come from her, not from anyone else. And it is never too early to teach girls that they have control of their own bodies. I love what Jada Pinkett Smith said about her daughter Willow’s hair:
      “The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women,girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.”
      Even though Smith is defending her daughter’s right to cut her hair and I’m saying your 9-year-old, and every 9-year-old, should get to keep her hair, if she wants, the key point is that it should be her decision.
      I hope me posting this isn’t stepping on any toes or sounding holier-than-thou, I just feel strongly about personal choices especially vis-a-vis young girls.

      • Oh, no, I totally hear you. :) We’ve actually been talking about this for a while and she’s been growing her hair out because she wants to “help other kids.”

        • Kathryn F.

          Awww yay! She sounds like a delightful young woman!

  • Megan

    I have donated twice, the process of which strikes me very deeply. I tend to grow it out (which takes awhile) and keep it long for a little while. Then I just start to feel like “it’s time.” This results in a very short cut, (not “beautiful” by traditional standards, you know) but sassy, and fun, and liberating. Being able to give is something I love…it’s a very small act, but to me it says big things. And, I hope, it does to whoever gets the wig made from my hair too.

    I think I know where I’m donating my next ponytail. Thanks for this post.

  • Donating my hair is something I had always wanted to do… In Sept. of 2010 I finally had enough length to do it and I chose Pantene for two reasons- 1. I love what they stand for and 2. They were (interestingly) the organization with the least amount of hair required for donation. I liked having long hair and had been unintentionally growing it out for years but I knew I wasn’t going to get much more than 8″. So in September, away it went to Pantene! And it felt amazing.

    After I got engaged this past May, I started intentionally letting my hair grow out again and have already planned to donate once the wedding is over. It’s amazing to me that something I take for granted can mean so much to someone else. I’m looking forward to donation #2 sometime this October!

    PS- Go Liz! Can’t wait to see the reveal!
    PPS- Maddie- your mom (and you) are amazing. What a selfless thing to do!

  • Kiera

    This is beautiful. The gesture, the love revealed behind the locks, and this community. I donated my hair almost a decade ago now when I was 13. I love my hair long and cutting it short was something I had never considered, but I read about Locks of Love somewhere and knew it was right for me to give in that way. It was hard to go from my long wavy hair (let’s be honest, my long hair was my shield, this being middle school and all) to a short, awful, curly/frizzy bob. I’ll admit it, I cried. My hair really did look atrocious. But it grew back. And giving it away is something I will never regret. I’m slowly beginning to learn that self sacrifice is the surest way to build character. Thank you for reminding me of this awesome way to give without any expectation of return.

  • Eenie

    I love Pantene beautiful lengths! I’ve already donated my hair twice to the campaign. I thoroughly researched all the options and Pantene is clearly a great one to choose. I love the fact that all of their wigs are free. Some other organizations use a sliding scale to discount the wigs and make them affordable, but to people with all those medical bills a free wig must be awesome. Most places will give you a free hair cut after donation too!


    Just FYI, the Little Princess Trust in the UK accepts hair from anywhere in the world, and allows coloured/bleached/highlighted hair. (Since they make childrens’ wigs they don’t accept primarily grey hair, though.)

    They don’t sell hair, and give all the wigs that are made for free to the recipients. Possibly an option for those who dye their hair?

    Personally, I’m still on the fence. I love the idea, but had shoulder-length hair when I was a kid and HATED it (curly/frizzy hair nightmare)….so I’m a bit nervous about going that short (or shorter, and having to go through growing it in that phase). I could do 7″ pretty easily, though, so might do that post-wedding rather than going super short.

  • Tears, so many. Ladies, you are such an inspiration. Come on hair, grow damn it!


  • Tears, so many. Ladies, you are such an inspiration.


  • This is the best, best, best thing ever. It’s such a perfect partnership – so many brides cut their hair off after their wedding, this makes so much stinking sense!!! Maddie, you are a genius and an inspiration. This is my favourite thing that APW have done so far (and I *really* loved Yay New York, so that’s saying something).

    Huge hugs to all of you, and especially to Liz – cannot wait to hear your thoughts on the experience and see more of these incredible photos. So much love for this community right now xx

  • Jeanine

    Welp, this morning I was considering a serious trim for our October wedding…nevermind! Thanks for being the best, APW.

  • Dana

    I’ve donated 10 inches of hair twice before and am currently in the pre-wedding grow grow grow phase. I’ll have a good 10-12 inches ready to donate in January 2014. :-)

  • I cut off a foot for Pantene Great Lengths in August 2011, and I think this collaboration is a great idea. Very true that women often cut hair to mark life transitions like weddings. Mine, however, was an “immigration cut,” but I decided to cut more than planned to do something useful with it by donating it. Now I have more grey hair coming in and started using henna on it recently, so I guess I’ll be a cheerleader for others donating hair.

  • Melanie

    What a beautiful post. Nearly 20 years ago, my 9 year-old brother passed away due to cancer. Before my brother died, my dad (who had a full head of hair at the time) shaved his head bald for many of the same reasons (solidarity, we’re in this together, screw you cancer!). I’ve never given much thought to donating my hair, but now I will. Thank you for sharing!

  • so, so great, and so beautiful. I can’t wait to hear from Liz & Josh about the experience.

    GO Y’ALL!

  • Amber

    I donated about 14″ to Locks of Love a few years back. At the time, I was ready for a change, and there was someone out there that needed my hair more than I did. My hair then got progressively shorter over a couple of years. Now, I’m growing it out again, partly for my wedding, but eventually to dinate it again when the time is right.

  • Nora

    I’ve donated twice and always really enjoyed the feeling of the dramatic transition from long to short hair. I also shaved my head once, for many reasons, but mostly to reduce the amount of sexual harassment I experienced while travelling. It worked like a charm, by the way. It was truly the most liberating and empowering thing I think I’ve ever done in regards to physical appearance. If it wasn’t for my fear of potential financial repercussions, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

    It’s a shame that as a female, career success (especially when you’re searching for a job) is still so intimately tied to appearance. A buzzed head is not easy to cover up for an interview. People make so many assumptions about your beliefs, attitudes, abilities, etc. based on what you look like, especially if your choices are “alternative” to the mainstream in any way. I wish that I was brave enough to say f*ck ’em if they don’t like the haircut, but unfortunately after several years in graduate school I feel like I don’t have the option to take that kind of risk. It’s sad that sometimes you have to choose between being fully yourself and being able to pay your rent. Maybe someday the world will have less judgement and we will finally be fully empowered to embrace our own bodies, however we like them to look.

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  • em_perk

    Unfortunately, I am also unable to donate to Pantene because I color my hair (I’ve had grays since 18…not fair!). I recently chopped off quite a bit of hair and am donating it to an organization called Children With Hair Loss. They give wigs to kids who need them for free. While I do not wish to take away from the amazing work APW is doing here, I just thought I’d toss out an option for ladies like myself. Hope that’s ok!

  • meaganep

    I’ve donated twice and have been thinking about doing it again. The first time I was 14 and cried for 45 minutes after losing 13 inches. The second time I was practically screaming with joy at losing 11. This time I’ll probably just feel so grateful for a) my health and b) the amazing community that APW has built of supportive, creative, strong women who are ready to help strangers. I’ve grown my hair out for my April wedding and plan to chop it off afterwards. If anyone in the Boston area wanted to do a May or June cutting party, I’m in!

  • Heather

    I’m definitely doing it!

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