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From faith to fashion: The real source of Indian human hair

 

The Indian human hair is fast gaining grounds among Nigerian women. Despite being pricey, it remains the most sought after human hair. In this report, TOYOSI OGUNSEYE examines the origin of this hair

Yanju Joseph (not real name) sashays into the room and flips her long hair. This movement draws the attention of her friends who stare at the long locks on Joseph’s head without attempting to mask their jealousy.

“What type of hair are you wearing?” they ask her. Joseph replies, “human hair.”

“Is it Peruvian, Indian or Brazilian,” her friends prod her further. “It’s Indian and don’t ask me how much it costs because I won’t tell you; but I can assure you that it is the real thing,” she says.

Joseph could not admit to her friends that the Indian hair she was wearing cost a sum of N100,000. After saving for the hair for more than six months, she gave the sum of money to her friend who was travelling to the United Kingdom to buy it for her because she wasn’t sure of getting the original brand in Lagos. Even at N100,000, she still considers the hair cheap because it was on sale.

Just like Joseph, there is frenzy for human hair among Nigerian ladies who would literally pay an arm and a leg for it, especially the ones from India which are considered to be silkier and longer lasting.

The love for the Indian hair among ladies in Lagos and Abuja is not in doubt, but they appear to be ignorant about the source of this much-desired hair.

A cross section of users told SUNDAY PUNCH that they believe that the hair was donated by Indian women who sell their hair for a price to human hair merchants in India. While this may not be totally wrong, it is not the complete truth.

In the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is the Tirupati Temple. Thousands of devotees throng the temple to worship Lord Venkateswara, a 2,000-year-old deity. To the 20 million pilgrims who visit each year, the statue is a living incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.

As a show of respect and appreciation, the visitors have their hair shaved as an offering to the temple. It is not the men alone who partake in this ritual; children and women of all ages shave their hair in Tirupati. It is estimated that more than 1,500 women partake in this tonsuring ceremony daily; and the number is higher during festivals or special occasions.

The tonsured hair from men is used to extract a protein called L-Cystein — an amino acid, one of a category of organic acids that contain a nitrogen-bearing amino group, and sometimes obtained industrially by hydrolysis of human hair. This protein is used in a range of products, including coat lining. The Chinese hair industry mixes this protein with hair from China to make cheap wigs and hair extensions.

These donations have, no doubt, made Tirupati Temple the wealthiest in all of India. As the devotees are busy shaving their hair as a symbol of reverence, hair merchants at the temple can’t just take their eyes away from the ‘gold.’

Hundreds of barbers work round the clock to meet the high demand of tonsuring, which is carried out at Kalyana Katta, an enclosure inside the temple where pilgrims fulfill their vow of tonsure. The hair is segregated in grades. Hair that is black and longer than 16 inches is of the highest quality. The second quality is the black hair in length between eight and 16 inches. Next is black hair that is shorter than eight inches. The next two categories are the lowest and consist of grey and other coloured hair

Apart from these worshippers at the temple, most Hindus, who make up 85 per cent of India’s billion-plus population, shave their hair at least once in a life time as prescribed by the scriptures.

Tonnes of the waist-length hair that are donated innocently make their way from the huge warehouse in the temple grounds to lucrative auctions and processing factories before being exported to Britain, America and France, where they will adorn the heads of women.

Exporters say buyers from countries such as the United States pay $1.50 for a strand of hair that expensive beauty salons may then weave into extensions or wigs that can sell for between $1,500 and $3,000.

Kishore Gupta, one of the largest exporters of human hair, boasts of an annual turnover of over $20m and he expects this figure to grow in coming years.

The demand in the UK, US and Nigeria for 100 per cent human hair extensions means that fashion is turning faith in India into big business. In fact, an average of $300m is generated by major temples and exporters of human hair in India yearly.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s foreign trade division reports that $47m of human hair was imported from around the world last year alone, mostly for wigs and hair extensions.

Even though there are no statistics to reflect the number of human hair that is being imported into the country, the surge in the number of Nigerian women adorning the hair and the increase in the number of retailers of this hair are an indication that the Nigerian market is a major stakeholder in the human hair business.

While the demand for Indian hair has continued to surge around the world because of its quality, it is believed that the hair is also well loved in the Western world because of the spirituality attached to it.

However, this may not apply to Nigerian ladies, many of whom are not aware of the religious connotations of this hair, especially in highly religious society like Nigeria.

Tinuke Badmus (not real name) a banker in one of the new generation banks in Abuja told SUNDAY PUNCH that she used the Indian hair because of its durability and not for any religious reason.

She says, “I bought mine over a year ago for $1,000 in America. When I have some money to spare when I travel for summer, I will buy another one. It makes me look sophisticated and I can use it all year round, instead of buying cheap hair weaves that I will throw away every three weeks. I can use this one for another two years and if I buy another one, I will interchange them and they will last longer. All the talk of spirituality is new to me; but I don’t care anyway. It’s simply a beauty product for those that can afford it.”

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One Response to “From faith to fashion: The real source of Indian human hair”

  1. Tayo says:

    No wonder!!! Our women are behaving erratic this days. Na the idol dey worry some of them..hahaha!!!!!

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