Cars, clothes, textbooks … and hair? A newer item in the cyber marketplace, hair has quickly become a hot commodity in making prosthetic wigs and extensions.
Until the launch of TheHairTrader.com in November 2006, finding a Web site specializing in hair sales would have been difficult.
“I figured I had a niche market going,” said Jacalyn Elise, founder of TheHairTrader.com. “Here I’m providing a platform for buyers and sellers to connect.”
Elise said she first thought of creating the Web site when she suggested to her close friend that she sell her long hair to earn money.
“She was a single mom going through some financial difficulties, and she was supporting herself and her children,” Elise said.
Elise’s friend agreed to her posting an advertisement online for her hair.
“She was surprised when I showed her the initial ad,” Elise said, “but she said, ‘OK, we’ll see!’”
Weeks later her friend’s hair sold, and TheHairTrader.com began receiving national attention for its services.
We ran with it, and it just kind of evolved,” Elise said.
News of TheHairTrader.com spread through word of mouth and a spot on a local radio station.
“The great thing about it is you can access the Web site no matter your location,” Elise said. “It is an international service.”
TheHairTrader.com provides details about hair that buyers want to know such as length, color, texture and whether it is “virgin” hair.
“Virgin hair, or hair untouched by electric styling appliances and chemical treatments, is preferred,” Elise said.
Elise said processed hair has been sold on TheHairTrader.com before, but not for as high a price as virgin hair.
“Natural hair that has not been washed every day is best,” Elise said. “Over-washing strips hair of its natural oils.”
Other factors that contribute to higher sale prices for hair include whether it has been cut, its volume and its overall appearance in quality.
Hair must be a minimum length of 10 inches, but Elise said 12 inches and above is more appealing to buyers.
“Uncut hair usually sells for higher prices because there are more options for length,” Elise said.
Hair has been sold on TheHairTrader.com for as much as $3,000.
“Something that catches someone’s eye will probably sell before something that does not,” Elise said.
Elise said the majority of buyers on TheHairTrader.com are sales representatives for custom wig and extension-making companies.
Sellers, on the other hand, span the spectrum and include college students.
“College students are great candidates for selling hair,” Elise said. “They sometimes need extra money for expenses and might not have full-time jobs to pay for everything.”
“It’s relatively harmless because it’s your hair, but I’m on the fence about it for ethical reasons,” said Audra Creech, a sophomore in psychology.
“I’m not going to begrudge anyone who needs to sell their hair—we are college students,” Creech said, “but I also believe there are better ways to do it.”Elise said she advocates donating hair if someone feels they should give rather than sell.
“We’re just educating people that you have something of monetary value,” Elise said. “(TheHairTrader.com) gives you another option.”
Ashley Terry, a sophomore in animal science, said she would like for background screenings to occur between buyers and sellers before hair is sold.
“Since it’s online, you’re not sure exactly who or where the product (hair) is coming from,” Terry said.
Katie Willoughby, a sophomore in equine science, agreed.
“That’s a part of you that you’re giving to someone else,” Willoughby said. “I think the process should be regulated.”
Elise said TheHairTrader.com is one of the first Web sites that has appeared on Google searches for selling hair.
TheHairTrader.com is also on Twitter and Facebook.