As oil continues to gush into the Gulf with no end in sight, a premium has been put on finding sustainable methods of oil absorption. For John Paul DeJoria, the answer is obvious. Three years ago, the co-founder of Paul Mitchell was approached by Phillip McCrory, an Alabama stylist in one of DeJoria’s salons. McCrory introduced DeJoria to the idea of using human hair to create mats, as its natural absorbency leaves it uniquely able to attract and soak up oil.

Since then, DeJoria has led an effort to collect hair within his salons and teaching schools. Teaming with Matter of Trust, a California organization committed to gathering hair for spills, the donated clippings are placed inside nylons to create booms, which are able to soak up a degree of the oil left behind in the wake of a spill.In recent weeks, hair booms have been pushed into the spotlight in light of the BP explosion. The Paul Mitchell brand has kicked up its efforts, donating hair and educating its employees and students about environmental cleanup. The company has also contributed $5,000 to Matter of Trust to help the organization to buy equipment. To DeJoria, much of the merit of the booms comes from the fact that, unlike other solutions, they are a completely sustainable: after the oil has been squeezed out of the booms, the hair can then be reused to help grow mushrooms.

The hair booms’ merit has been debated, but for DeJoria, the benefits are undeniable. “On CNN they said, ‘Does this work? This is a great idea but does this work?’ And I say yes it does work,” he explained. “Will it clean up the entire oil spill? Soak it all up in the Gulf? No! There’s not enough hair! My God, if everyone throughout the world sent in his or her hair, then there’s a good chance maybe it would, you know. But you need a lot of hair!” That doesn’t mean DeJoria will stop trying. The response he’s witnessed has been substantial. “The clients, especially in our schools, say, ‘Oh my God!’ I’d say the most excited are our students and hairstylists that are involved with salons because they get to do something to make a difference.”

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