It makes no difference to Lisa Abelli.
No matter the type, the Studio 137 Salon owner has regularly collected the locks littering her floor for the same reason people use shampoo: Hair absorbs oil.
But the hair she has sent by the box-full to Matter of Trust, a nonprofit organization that weaves donated hair into oil-absorbent booms, won't make a difference in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup, barring a change in policy by BP and government agencies that have deemed hair booms infeasible.
The May 21 announcement came as a shock to Abelli and other salon owners nationwide who have donated hair to Matter of Trust.
"It makes me not want to do it anymore," said Abelli, who has donated boxes of hair to the organization every three to four months since opening her salon in April 2009. "Maybe Matter of Trust shouldn't be around anymore. Why donate if it's not going to be used or used right?"
The announcement cited results from a February side-by-side field test showing that synthetic booms absorb more oil and less water than hair booms.
"Our priority when cleaning up an oil spill is to find the most efficient and expedient way to remove the oil from the affected area while causing no additional damage," said Charlie Henry, NOAA's Scientific Support Coordinator in Robert, La. "One problem with the hair boom is that it became water-logged and sank within a short period of time."
The announcement rattled Matter of Trust, which immediately put a halt to donations from new members while continuing to stockpile hundreds of thousands of pounds of hair, pet fur and fleece in 19 emergency warehouses spread across Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.