Stylists donating hair to oil spill

Published 8:24 pm Thursday, May 20, 2010

The solution to the oil spill troubles in the Gulf of Mexico could be right on top of your head.

It’s suggested that human hair serves as a potential help to absorb and clean up the remaining oil spillage throughout the gulf area.

Apparently, hair collects and holds oil and, once bunched together in individual nylon stockings and used as mats and booms, is put into action.

Contributing to the cleanup is local hairdresser Virginia Steward, a self-employed stylist who rents a booth at The Master Touch in Clanton. So far, Steward has filled two large garden garbage bags full of hair swept up from her salon.

Steward and other stylists simply sweep up what’s on the ground around their stations and pour it in a bag until it’s time to ship it off. She is even stuffing the hair into her own former pantyhose to send. She said any type or length of hair is acceptable.

“When it’s in the panty, it just kind of wads up and holds the oil,” Steward said. “They can dip the panty into the water and the oil just soaks up and makes it easier to clean.”

Steward learned about the method and that donations were being accepted a couple of weeks ago, which quickly prompted her to participate. She soon opened a garbage bag, and she and other stylists immediately began filling it. If anyone in her studio forgot to toss hair into the donation bag, she’d dig through the trash, pull it out and stuff it into the right place.

She tells her customers where their hair will soon end up, which she said comforts them.

“I know they might think I’m crazy, but it’s a worthy cause,” Steward said. “Not only will this help animals, it will affect us, too. This is life, to me.”

Steward acknowledges many people who don’t live in the Gulf area only think about how it might affect their vacations at the beach without considering those who live with the problem every day. Citing her heritage as a potential influence on why she took some initiative, she’s also thinking ahead.

“I have Native American blood,” she said. “I believe in taking care of what’s around us. This is all we have. This is a generational thing, too. This is for my kids and grandkids. I believe in taking care of our environment.

“I don’t do too much, but every little thing helps.”

Steward also frequently donates to Locks of Love, a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

She also saves hair in case a friend needs it for a garden. Human hair also fends animals, especially deer, away from gardens. Steward said the human smell deters the animals at least for a short while.

Employees at Miracle’s Hair Salon are also currently collecting hair for the oil spill.

BP recently announced it would soon use the donated hair-filled booms to clean the affected areas.

For more information on where to send hair, visit