Split ends, fried curls and overgrown tresses have become a welcome sight at Kutters Hair Salon.
The more hair on the cutting room floor the better.
Kutters has been collecting hair to help the cleanup effort in the Gulf of Mexico, where an oil rig exploded a month ago allowing millions of gallons of oil to spew from a broken wellhead hundreds of metres below the surface of the ocean.
Hair that would normally make its way to the garbage is being swept into a growing mountain of curls and locks in the corner of the salon.
Kutters isn’t the only salon contributing to the effort.
In a do-it-yourself show of support, hair salons across North America have been bagging up discarded hair to send to the Gulf Coast.
The hair is stuffed into old pantyhose legs to make sausage-like hair “booms”. The booms are encased with a mesh-like covering and then are floated on the surface of the ocean to stop spilled oil from spreading.
It’s a cheap and effective way of mopping up oil while allowing people to help out from afar.
Kutters started collecting hair last Friday and in just three days managed to gather half a kilogram of hair.
An indiscriminate mound of grey, colourless hair, it sits in a blue, plastic garbage bag stretched around a discarded shampoo box. A long enough look at the pile threatens to produce a gag reflex with passersby.
“I actually expected that there would have been more hair,” said one of the hairdressing assistants who paused to sift through the hair clippings with her hand.
In the same way that hair on your head collects oil and needs to be shampooed, discarded hair can suck up extra oil from a spill. A kilogram of hair can draw up two litres of oil. The cleaner the hair, the more it absorbs.
The idea came from hair stylist Phil McCrory following the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989.
For the last 10 years, the ecological non-profit group, Matter of Trust, worked with McCrory to make hair mats and hair booms especially for oil spills.
Kutter’s owner Melanie Graham heard about the idea from a friend who saw it on the news last week.
“Enough hair goes down the drain and into the garbage each day we figured we may as well do something with it,” said Graham whose hair salon has been involved in previous fundraisers.
“You’re helping the environment, so why not?”
Last week Graham sent out e-mails to friends in her address book and has so far been overwhelmed by the response.
“There’s been an amazing amount of phone calls from people,” she said, explaining that other hair salons in Whitehorse have already started contacting her to drop their excess hair off with her.
Kutters is also accepting clippings from dogs. In other parts of North America fur from llamas, horses, sheep and even feathers from birds have been collected for the effort. Animal hair is often even more absorbent than human hair.
DHL Express, a local shipping company, has offered to send the boxes of hair South for free.
The first batch of hair gets shipped out of Whitehorse this week and will be postmarked to Florida.
Contact Vivian Belik at