Did you know that from wigs to extensions, hair from Cambodian women feeds the American hair market?
Cambodian hair has particular appeal to Black women, said Janice Wilson, an African American woman who ran a business collecting hair from women in Cambodia that she then sold in the United States and internationally.
“There is a variety of patterns and it varies from straight to tightly coiled,” Wilson said, adding that she stressed the variety in texture as compared to hair from India — which leads the world in exporting human hair and where the hair is often donated as a religious practice.
In Cambodia, the global trade may begin at marketplaces like Orussey, where tresses are sold to intercontinental customers at prices beginning at $120 for sixteen inches of hair on the weft or $50 charged for raw loose hair in a bundle. The buyers simply put the product inside their suitcase and keep it moving.
Coming out of Phnom Penh, the cut tresses then move through the supply chain. They are refined and packaged to become available for sale as hair extensions, weaves, and wigs in cosmopolitan locations around the world. The international resale value regarding hair claiming to be raw Cambodian hair may start as low as $100 for 12 inches of loose hair in a bundle to over $300 if the buyer wants longer lengths.
But the women in Cambodia like Sreyvy will end up with a bob cut and a mere fraction of that money. Now 39, she explains that her hair used to be down to her waist. That was before hair traders offered her $15 to sell it. The word in the village is hair traders come regularly planning to slice and buy long locks of hair from women.
Sreyvy has sold her hair 3 times since 2012. The very first time she was residing under a tent in Phnom Penh. She traded it again 6 months ago to buy her kid medicine.
“He was sick with a fever and cough,” she said.
Many of the people who wear the hair on their head could not find Cambodia on a map. According to Mintel, there is no UPC code on extension sales, making it difficult to track the origins of the hair. Wilson said, the mystique created a “trendy” allure about the country, which was attractive to customers.
“It’s so easy to pick up that hair and not give it a thought about where it came from,” she added.