How to make money from selling your hair

Every year we import over $2 million worth of human hair into New Zealand.

Most of it comes from China, where an unregulated trade has sprung up to feed the growing demand for hair extensions and wigs in salons across the western world.

But a Dunedin-based, family owned business has come up with an ethical alternative - paying Kiwis who are willing to donate their hair.

Freedom Hair offers money to individuals and charities based upon the colour, quality and length of their locks - with blondes fetching the highest price.

"We only take from charities where they knew that the hair that was given to them was by choice," says sales representative Libby Beattie. "We're not using people's hair to make money for ourselves."

The trade in hair is worth a billion dollars worldwide. It's this high demand and lack of regulation which can leave people at the bottom of the economic heap exploited for their coveted locks.

For sufferers of alopecia and similar conditions, the use of a wig is a welcome disguise to allow them the freedom of anonymity those of us with full heads of hair take for granted.

Freedom Hair offers people with these conditions an ethical alternative.

Like all other Freedom sales reps worldwide, Ms Beattie has alopecia.

"All our agents across the world have alopecia. We do require you to have empathy around this condition because it's an incredibly hard condition to go through."

Ms Beattie says for people with such conditions, losing their hair can be as shocking as the loss of a limb.

"People say it's only hair, but not many people would want you to go in and shave their head every day. It's not an aesthetic choice, it's something to replace something you shouldn't have lost."

Freedom tailors every wig to the individual's unique specifications in a top secret process that can take hundreds of hours. They're long-term solutions to an as-yet incurable illness.

"They give the security that a lot of wigs don't. You could pull on my hair, you could basically lift me up by it, and it wouldn't come off."