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Indian Hair: The Next Hot Beauty Trend?

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Indian Hair: The Next Hot Beauty Trend?

Business

Indian Hair: The Next Hot Beauty Trend?

Indian Hair: The Next Hot Beauty Trend?

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Small salons and beauty supply shops around Los Angeles advertise the prized hair from India. Amy Walters, NPR hide caption

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Amy Walters, NPR

Colorful posters stapled to utility poles advertise wholesale Indian hair. Amy Walters, NPR hide caption

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Amy Walters, NPR

In most big American cities, almost any luxury item can be had for a price — real champagne from France, truffles from Italy, and in Los Angeles, human hair from India. Whether it's individual clumps or full wefts, true human hair is available in beauty salons across the city, and selling very well.

Take, for example, Vared Valensi. The walls of her salon on a busy corner of Melrose Avenue are plastered with pictures of Valensi with some of her celebrity clients, including Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Tara Reid and a nest of Playboy bunnies. Each one is cute, skinny and has someone else's hair attached to her head. Valensi put it there.

Hair extensions have long been popular in the African-American community, but Valensi says the popularity among her clients really grew with the premiere of the Paris Hilton-Nicole Richie show The Simple Life. "Most girls saw that they have [extensions], or knew that they have it, and all of a sudden at that point it really became popular."

The physics of hair extensions are fairly simple. Groups of long strands of someone else's hair are attached to a client's own hair near the scalp. Within hours, a client can have long hair flowing down her back.

But the look isn't cheap. A full head of extensions can run up to $3,000. What brings clients to Valensi's salon is the quality of the hair she uses, and its origin.

Her so-called "temple hair" comes from India. It is a byproduct of a religious practice many faithful Hindu women have observed for generations. Pilgrims cut off their hair as an offering to the gods. The hair is then cleaned, processed and exported.

Tiripati temple is where most of the Hindu offerings take place. The hair trade is a boon for the temple, now commonly known as the richest temple in India. Much of that money is coming from places like Los Angeles, where advertisements for Indian hair dot utility poles and storefront windows across the city. With demand for Indian hair growing, more and more Indian companies are advertising to Americans directly, hoping to cash in on the trend.