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Salons ship hair clippings for use in Gulf oil spill cleanup

Leigh Thomas was ready for a cool, short summer haircut, so on Friday she was happy to donate clippings from her shorn reddish-blond hair for the oil spill cleanup along the Gulf Coast.

First, stylist Anna Tingen of Bombshell Beauty Studio in the Vista separated Thomas' hair into four long ponytails and clipped them to save for the nonprofit Locks of Love, which creates hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children who suffer from cancer and other medical conditions.

The rest of the hair that fell was swept up and added to a box of hair clippings that will be made into booms to absorb oil along the Gulf Coast.

"It's not the nicest-looking thing, but it works," said Tingen as she peered into the cardboard box fashioned for the collection. "Actually hair has a use, which is great."

Thomas, a USC graduate student in library science, was excited to be part of a good cause.

The Bombshell salon is one of a number of Midlands hair salons contributing to the effort, which has caught on around the country. The nonprofit Matter of Trust of San Francisco collects hair to stuff into nylon stockings to be tied together end-to-end to create absorbent, floating booms.

Jenny Thompson, Bombshell's owner, said she learned about the hair-for-oil effort when a client sent her a Facebook message.

"I just went from there," Thompson said. She said she asks permission of her clients to use the hair cuttings before she ships the hair off to Matter of Trust.

"We are really happy to have something to do with the hair," she said. "It's a great option."

All sorts of hair can be used in the absorption of oil, including pet hair. The booms lie close to the shore, and as waves wash in, the oil grabs on to the hair.

It's unclear exactly how effective the idea is, but it's been proven to work in many cases and has been fairly widely used around the globe in recent years.

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