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In Venezuela, Human Hair Is Hot on the Black Market

The thieves—both men and women—grab their long-haired victim or hold her at gun or knife point, then cut her hair off at the base of the pony tail

(John Kannenberg)
smithsonian.com

The thieves—both men and women—grab their long-haired victim or hold her at gun or knife point, then slice off her hair at the base of the pony tail with a razor blade, or cut it off with scissors. In Venezuela, stolen hair is now a black market commodity, CNN reports, and attacks may occur at the beach, mall or on the street. CNN:

Hair stylist Israel Rodriguez told Caracol that synthetic hair costs anywhere from $40 to $160, depending on its quality. But natural hair can cost more than $500, he said.

Beauty salons spin the shorn hair into extensions or wigs, Business Insider reports. While some salon owners say they refuse to purchase extensions from street hawkers, Time adds:

Demand for extensions in Venezuela is high, and one stylist there says that sales have increased by 30 percent since the first hair-snatching incidents were reported.

The mayor of the Venezuelan city, Maracaibo, advises women not to wear their long hair down in public until authorities can get a handle on the situation, Business Insider reports. The plague of hair snatchers seems to be spreading, too. Colombia just reported its first victims, CNN reports.

Here, CNN translates a video produced by Panorama, detailing the problem with on-the-ground interviews.

More from Smithsonian.com:

A Natural Hair Movement Takes Root 
The Accidental Cure for Hair Loss 

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