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Tonsuring and the Western Wig and Hair Extension Market

Barry Ladizinski, MD; Niharika Ganta, MD, MPH; Scott A. Norton, MD, MPH, MSc
Arch Dermatol. 2012;148(1):88. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2011.346.
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Tonsuring is a ritual hair offering that is performed worldwide by pious populations, particularly some Hindu groups in South India. As recently publicized by comedian Chris Rock's HBO documentary, Good Hair, devotees customarily donate an entire head of shaved hair in return for purification, honor, and good fortune. Each day in South India, more than 50  000 men, women, and children flock to the temple in Tirupati to partake in Chudakarana (tonsuring ceremony).1 The temple's authorities auction the collected hair, which is then cleansed, processed, and sold in the West for wigs and hair extensions,1 an industry that generates more than a billion dollars annually. Many tonsured participants know of the entrepreneurial market for their tresses, yet the tonsuring tradition prevails among certain Hindu communities, which expect followers to complete the saintly task.

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