health

Where your hair extensions come from

By Libby Hogan

Published May 17, 2018

Libby Hogan for CNN

Myanmar is a major source of human hair, feeding the global demand for wigs, weaves and hair extensions.

CNN

Myanmar hair is the softest, most sought-after hair in Asia."

Aye Aye Thein

Yangon, Myanmar, hair seller

Libby Hogan for CNN

The global trade in human hair was worth about $87 million in 2016. Myanmar was the third largest exporter after India and Tunisia.

Libby Hogan for CNN

In Myanmar, hair can be considered sacred. One of the mostly Buddhist nation’s holiest sites is believed to be built on strands of the Buddha’s hair.

Libby Hogan for CNN

It’s also not unusual for women and girls in the country to cut their hair during Buddhist New Year celebrations.

Libby Hogan for CNN

Much of the hair makes it way to China, where it’s processed and sold to hairstylists in the West.

CNN

Some traders in Yangon and Mandalay worry that demand is outstripping supply, because women in Myanmar are wearing their hair shorter in general. But that’s a complaint hair traders have had for centuries.

Libby Hogan for CNN

When you look at historical sources, you find that even in the 19th century, hair collectors were always complaining that hair supplies were running out.

Emma Tarlo

anthropologist and author

Libby Hogan for CNN