Hair selling in Syria: Hunger shows no mercy to beautiful details

Hair for sale on social media in Syria (Beauty World/Facebook)

Hair for sale on social media in Syria (Beauty World/Facebook)


Enab Baladi – Hassan Ibrahim

Umm Ali, a lady in her forties from the countryside of Latakia, began several months ago visiting various salons and beauty centers to offer her young daughter’s hair for sale, but the highest bid she received did not exceed 300,000 Syrian pounds.

The woman said she felt exploited before a friend advised her to go to Jableh city, where there is a center buying natural hair at exorbitant prices, sometimes more than four million pounds.

Indeed, the woman went to the aforementioned center in Jableh and sold the hair for about 1.8 million pounds, which constituted a huge fortune that she had not dreamed of. She bought a full pantry for the house, including rice, sugar, bulgur, and oil, and she had a small amount left that she spent on the house later.

Despite the girl’s opposition to cutting her hair and the tears she shed over it, the mother found no other option to obtain food. The father is sick and unemployed, and the land yield is insufficient, said the woman, adding that she would not hesitate to do it again with her second daughter at the beginning of next summer.

The trade of selling hair thrives in several Syrian provinces, making hair the last of precious belongings for some families after selling all their other savings, from gold to household utensils.

Many hair-selling ads also spread on social media, most of them for young girls, and usually, a picture of the hair in the ad is accompanied by words expressing the seller’s poor financial situation, which pushed her to take such a step.

A symbol of femininity

It is said that hair is the crown of a woman’s beauty, and it is one of the signs of ancient Arab beauty. It is a distinctive sign that reflects the female’s beauty and features, and poets in their poems have described women’s hair and its qualities with precise words that reflect its color, length, or softness.

The Arabs are known for their love of long-haired women. Some poets also cherished women’s black hair, provided it was long, considering that the longer it is, the more beautiful it is.

Celine, a hairdresser in Latakia, told Enab Baladi that hair carries a beauty symbolism for women. Their visiting hair salons to care for their hair is nothing but a desire to showcase their beauty, whether by shortening it, changing its color, or its style.

She explained that hair also carries a sexual connotation, an element of attraction and attention from women towards men, noting that many clients do so to change their appearance in front of their husbands and break the usual routine.

Celine mentioned that cutting hair carries a woman’s desire to change her adverse psychological state or sometimes disturbed one, and some women cut their hair according to fashion trends.

The need for money

“I never imagined that one day I would sell my daughter’s hair,” said Arwa Sheikh Mousa, a mother taking care of four children alone after her husband’s sudden demise from illness a year ago in Qamishli city.

Arwa explained to Enab Baladi that tough economic conditions and rising prices have forced people to sell their precious belongings, and despite maintaining her daughter’s long braid for a year and a half, she never thought she would sell it.

After seeing some girls on Facebook offering their hair for sale, the idea of selling began to circulate in Arwa’s mind, especially when trying to collect money for her house rent for the next six months, especially since the price of the braid reached 75 US dollars.

Student Eva Amin from Qamishli, residing in Damascus, and studying at the medical faculty, talked about her experience cutting her hair, saying that she had thought about it previously for fashion-related reasons, and also because she couldn’t take care of her long hair during winter due to electricity shortages and lack of hot water.

Eva was afraid of cutting her hair because everyone praised its beauty and color. Still, with the increasing cost of living, Eva was attracted to the idea of selling her hair after learning about a thriving market with buyers and sellers; therefore, she decided to cut it.

Eva tried to sell her hair in Damascus through social media, but the offered amounts were very low. When she visited her family in Qamishli, she sold her hair to a beauty center for 600,000 Syrian pounds.

Price by gram

According to Fadi (45 years old), who works at one of the famous beauty salons in Latakia, hair is sold by the gram, and there is no fixed price for it but it depends on the hair type and length. He mentioned that the best from a price and quality perspective is for young girls who have never dyed their hair, as it is very lively.

Generally, a gram sells between 8,000 and 10,000 pounds, and sometimes it reaches about 14,000 pounds per gram if it is very special, according to Fadi.

In answer to why some cosmetic centers buy hair at very high prices, he said that these centers are scarce, with only one in the coastal region and the rest in Damascus, where they buy the hair, prepare it, and export it for sale abroad, noting that it is in high demand in Gulf countries.

Syrian citizens face waves of rising prices and the inability to secure their basic needs amid the pound’s deterioration against foreign currencies, with no solution to rescue them from their ongoing crises.

The average living cost in areas under the regime exceeds 10.3 million Syrian pounds, and the minimum living cost is 6.5 million pounds, while the minimum government salaries are about 279,000 pounds (the dollar being 14,650 pounds).

Painful exploitation

Heba (34 years old), working in the nail beauty field at several salons in Latakia, described the hair selling process as very painful; a woman comes to sell her daughter’s hair or a young lady to sell hers with very obvious poverty signs, from the emaciated body to worn-out clothes.

She added that some beauty centers exploit the needs of women and their simplicity sometimes; they do not give the real price of the hair, which happened in front of her more than once. Six months ago, a woman came with her ten-year-old daughter and told the center owner that she took care of her daughter’s hair to sell it at the time of need.

Although the hair would have been worth at least a million pounds, only 450,000 pounds were paid, which the woman snatched and ran away as if she feared he would change his mind.

Trade over social media

Many women have resorted to selling their daughters’ hair on social media, as such ads have seen significant popularity in the past two years.

Conversely, other posts spread to announce the purchase of hair, with specific conditions for length and undyed hair, and some ads tempt by offering a higher price than the market rate.

Considering poverty and market stagnation in Syria currently and limited capacity to buy braided hair or hair extensions to a small wealthy class in the country, it is clear that there is a hidden market for exporting hair away from government taxes.

About 90% of Syrians live below the poverty line, with 15.3 million people in need of humanitarian aid.

Women are among the victims of the war in Syria, engaging in exhausting and dangerous jobs to secure their multiple needs amid rising prices and low wages.

Some women, especially those living in displacement camps, resort to works locally known as men’s specialty or dangerous, like searching through garbage piles for plastic amidst the spread of unexploded ordnance from war remnants.


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