You know how people are always chopping off their locks and donating the hair to people with cancer? According to today's New York Times, cutting your mane in the name of do-gooding is growing in popularity. And the most recognized charity, Locks Of Love, is not for people with cancer. It's for children with alopecia. And 80% of the hair donated is unusable. The organization has guidelines, and throws away hair that is gray, wet, moldy, too short or too processed. (I once had about ten inches of hair chopped off and wondered aloud about donating it. The hairdresser shook his head and said, "No one can use it when it's this damaged, sorry." Ouch!)

Young girls, bikers, athletes and celebs have all donated tresses to people in need. Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which is for women with cancer, started in June of last year and has received 18,000 ponytails so far. But Wigs For Kids, the oldest hair donation charity, receives only 600 to 800 donations a month. Still, donating hair is all the rage these days, claims the Times. There's the attention and the instant result, without any financial commitment. Most who give are adolescent girls, like Eliza Stuber of Albany, CA, mentioned in the article. She grew out her hair and then, at her bat mitzvah, announced her intention to donate it. Later that day, she showed up at her party with a new short cut. The Times also claims that some long-haired people report "being harassed" for not cutting their hair. But over at the Locks Of Love office, where they spend hours a day throwing tresses in the trash, an organizer admits, "a check would be easier."

The appeal of an act so visible as a dramatic haircut (no one takes a picture when you write a check) is clear. Everyone can see how generous you are, and you get a mini-makover, which never happens while collecting pennies for Unicef. But here's the question: are you still helping just because your intentions are good?

Lather, Rinse, Donate [NYTimes]