Friday morning, Shelby Carman is losing 4 inches of split ends and dried-out winter hair to the sharp scissors of Courtney Busboom.
Her auburn hair scatters on the floor of the College of Hair Design. But it’s not staying there.
“We’re sending our hair to the Gulf,” says Shelby’s student hairdresser.
As in your lovely hair, Shelby.
And the hair of that woman two chairs over, getting a summery layered look.
And the golden locks of Andrea Walter, who just finished pharmacy school finals and hasn’t been paying that much mind to the oil-mucked waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
(Although she and her husband recently returned from Spain, where everyone was driving fuel-efficient scooters and Smart cars.)
Perhaps you’ve heard of BP and its 200,000-gallons-a-day Deepwater Horizon gusher 5,000 feet below the surface.
That’s 4 million gallons of oil and counting since it blew April 20.
Not a good time to be an oceanic ecosystem off the coast of Louisiana.
Or a business owner depending on beach-loving, money-tossing tourists.
Marine life. Fish. Coastal marshes. It’s frightening – overwhelming – on a dozen different levels.
And putting Shelby’s hair and Andrea’s hair in a giant, sausage-shaped hairnet and dropping it off the Louisiana shore to soak up oily fish-killing gunk sounds a little bit like trying to soak up a swimming pool with a sponge.
But it’s something.
“It makes people aware of the spill,” says Gary Gillis, the college’s director of barbering. “The Gulf is so far away, it’s easy for people here not to think about it.”
We don’t have oceans, or tourism-dependent businesses going under. But we do get haircuts. And, suddenly, cut hair has a mission.
That’s why the college gathered all of its students to go over the details of the program.
“What it’s doing to the environment needs to be understood,” Gillis says.
And so fliers were posted at both College of Hair Design locations, explaining where customers’ hair is headed – and why.
On 11th Street Friday, plastic-lined shampoo boxes near the school’s 84 haircutting stations were filling up fast.
“I thought it was weird at first,” said student stylist Tiffany Bochart, sitting in a swivel chair while another student experimented with her hair.
“And then I thought about all the oils we have on our heads – it’s amazing how much the hair absorbs.”
A stylist in California who knew the amazing properties of human hair – sucks up oil like a straw sucking up soda – came up with the idea of oil-absorbing hair mats after the Exxon-Valdez spill in 1989.
And for 10 years, Phil McCrory has partnered Matter of Trust, a nonprofit that collects hair from 370,000 salons across the country.
Since the BP fiasco, word of the wonders of hair has spread. College of Hair Design and other Lincoln salons are helping save habitat as they snip.
“It’s an awesome and easy effort,” says Desiree Burke, at the college Friday learning to be an instructor.
She plans to take the idea home to Shear Insanity, her salon in Papillion.
The more porous the hair, the more oil it absorbs, she explained, pointing to her head.
“This bleached blonde hair would work great.”
But it’s all good.
The fine clippings from a men’s cut.
The long curls from a grown-out perm.
The 4 inches of Shelby Carman’s auburn hair, waiting to be swept up Friday.
Her hair absorbs everything, she says as her stylist keeps cutting.
The program is great, Courtney Busboom says, waving her green comb.
And Shelby’s hair? It’s going to make a difference.
“She’ll probably suck a gallon of oil right out of the ocean.”

Reach Cindy Lange-Kubick at 473-7218