17:28 02 November 2016
The demand for human hair across the world is enormous. Although hundreds and thousands of individuals are using wigs, weaves and hair extension, very few really understand where the hair comes from and the journey they take before they are offered at salons.
China is the biggest exporter and importer of human hair harvested from its own population. However, the country does not bother in advertising this fact.
Emma Tarlo, Professor of anthropology, said: "People who work in the industry are conscious of the fact Made in China is viewed as a negative label and market it in more glamorous ways instead,"
Among the types of hair available in the market, European hair is considered the most valuable. "European hair is the most valuable, partly because of its fine textures, the variety of its colours and because it is in shorter supply." Most of this hair comes from countries in Eastern Europe, such as Russia, Romania, or Ukraine.
There is a whole industry around untangling, sorting and treating comb waste. Tarlo visited workshops and homes in Myanmar and India, where dozens of women untangle other people's hairballs before sorting them into bunches based on their length.
This process is followed by processing where the outer layer of the hair is removed. “By the end of this process it can look fantastic, like prize pony tails. You wouldn't know what a journey that hair has been on."