A hair-raising experience

Disclaimer: If you are incredibly sensitive about food-related stories, don’t read this! On the other hand, if you’re that thin-skinned, you probably shouldn’t be reading my articles anyway.

Speaking of which, recently, a comment hit my blog (healinghospitals.com) that was, well, less than complimentary. It was from someone that who claimed to be called Francine. However, since every Francine I know is wonderful, sweet, kind and gorgeous, I’m suspicious that was really her name.  (I only know two Francines.) 

Anyway, the comment read something like this:  “Your writing is not funny. It never has been funny. In fact, usually your columns are distasteful and inappropriate.” (Or something like that.)  But because it is my blog and because I am the “master of my domain” so to speak, I did what every good writer does when criticized: I hit delete! What the heck, if I wanted to be criticized, I could just stand in front of the mirror and talk to myself.

 Today’s not hilarious and somewhat distasteful and inappropriate story is about hair. Chris Rock had an HBO feature show called “Good Hair,” regarding the $9 billion business and the enormous amounts of money that African-American women spend on hair treatments in the United States each year. In this special he alluded to the fact that the majority of the hair extensions used in the beauty shops that specialize in black women’s hair treatments come from Asia.

On average American black women spend about $1,000 each on hair extensions and products, and if they can’t afford it, they can put it on lay away.  In some ways, I was a little surprised at the costs and complexity of this industry, but having met the son of one of the founders of Paul Mitchell hair products and seeing that Paul, who was not the managing partner, was worth about $3.6 billion, things kind of fell into place for me.

One day last week, NPR ran a very offensive story featuring Scott Carney on the profitability of selling human body parts, including hair. He started with the big picture of organ sales in third-world countries and then traced the roots (so to speak) of this hair extension thing back to a religious ritual. Most of the story was not new to me because of a former physician friend who is Hindu.

The physician had explained to me that the tradition was to take your son to a Temple in India for his first real haircut. According to that flawless resource of sometimes questionable information, Wikipedia; “In Hindu tradition, the hair from birth is associated with undesirable traits from past lives. (It’s probably good that I’m going bald.)  Thus at the time of the mundan, the child is freshly shaven to signify freedom from the past and moving into the future.

It is also said that the shaving of the hair stimulates proper growth of the brain and nerves, and that the sikha, a tuft at the crown of the head, protects the memory. Generally, the cut hair is offered to the family deity, and it is cut at the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple which is the source of about 40 percent of the hair that is then sold at auction to the International market.”

So, this “cut hair,” is collected in big steel vats, washed, separated and sold all over the world to hair dressers.  Here, however, is the potentially “don’t read this” nasty part:  Anyone can have their hair cut there and the shortest hair is sold to chemical companies where it is turned into an amino acid compound called L-cystine that is used as a leavening agent in the baking business.  Ewww and yuck!  

So, the next time you chow down on baked goods, don’t fret if you find a hair in your food.

Now that, Francine was not funny but, it was disgusting and distasteful!

(Nick Jacobs, Windber, international director for SunStone Consulting, LLC is the author of the blog Healinghospitals.com.)
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2013 YEAR IN REVIEW
Look for this special section in your
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