The Human Hair Industry in India | How Big Is It and What Is Its Future?

Revathy Nair Revathy Nair
Aug 6, 2022 9 min read
The Human Hair Industry in India | How Big Is It and What Is Its Future?

Hair is one of the most important parts that play a role in enhancing the beauty of a being. But very few know that it is not just a beauty enhancer and is used for various purposes. Its varied uses and great demand among people are what make for the human hair industry and research says that India leads big time in the hair industry for producing the largest volume of human hair as compared to other countries. According to Statista, in 2020, Hong Kong was recorded to be the biggest exporter of human hair with exports worth $44.4 million. It was followed by India with exports worth $14.3 million. So let’s have a look at its growing future.

The Human Hair Industry
The Human Hair Industry in India
Uses of Human Hair in India
The Smuggling Case of Raw Indian Human Hair
The Future of the Human Hair Industry in India

The Cost of Human Hair Trade

The Human Hair Industry

There is a difference in opinion regarding the use of human hair. Half of the masses consider human hair useless and often dump it as municipal waste. Whereas, the other half of the world is creative and tries to make something useful out of the unrequired human hair. When you visit a rural area where the population is somewhat lower than the other places, you will find that they throw away human hair.

These volumes of hair slowly decompose over several years to produce molecules of carbon, Sulphur, nitrogen, and many more. However, in urban places, you will notice human hair on the sewage system, therefore, blocking its passage. Don’t you think that such a lack of hygiene is dangerous? Well if you want an answer then yes, the blockage caused by human hair produces more nitrogen giving rise to the problems of eutrophication.

These harmful causes of human hair convinced the concerned people to have a thought about it. Therefore, as a result, various industries discovered a recovery method to utilize the waste hair for something good. Also, they ended up using volumes of waste human hair to contribute to the economy. As a matter of fact, human hair is renewable and biodegradable, and this fact gave rise to one of the largest industries in the world. The human hair industry was just a rescue to the harmful causes but now it turned out to be a lot more important to contribute to the economy.

The Human Hair Industry in India

Value of Human Hair and Related Products Exported from India from FY2017 to FY2022
Value of Human Hair and Related Products Exported from India from FY2017 to FY2022

India had established a huge export hub for a vast type of goods. Be it jewellery, chemicals, coffee, engineering products, or even fruits, India is very popular in exportation. But India has the largest base in the human hair industry across the world. Do you know? India is the second largest exporter of raw human hair in the world because the human hair found in this country is of high strength, has a rich texture, and possesses the finest quality.

Exportation of Indian human hair to different corners of the world sounds weird, but the business is booming. Well, the western countries America, Canada and several European countries involve the most in the exportation market of human hair but India exports more than two thousand tonnes. Along with these countries, India also exports human hair to Rangoon, where they create weaves and wigs out of it.

India is also famous for a temple ritual that includes the use of human hair. The method of β€œtonsuring” might be pretty well known to you. Millions of devotees leave their casual life and promise to serve god for the rest of their lives. As a result, they shave their heads and donate their hair to God. This is also a large source of human hair for the hair industry.

In 2020, India exported raw human hair worth $44.4 million and the value of human hair and related products exports was recorded to be $383.61 in FY2021.

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Uses of Human Hair in India

The unique chemical composition of human hair makes it degrade slowly. It has an elastic recovery, high tensile strength, scaly surface, and thermal insulation. The properties of hair are different and depend on the factors like- colour, curliness or straightness, length, contamination, and hair damage. Well, some of the types are fixed since birth but many people bring a makeover to their hair, and as a result, there comes the elimination of old properties of their hair. Based on these unique characteristics of hair they are classified into different sections of requirements and they are:

Making Wigs, Eyelashes, and More

Human hair can be cleaned and used in making artificial wigs, eyelashes, hair extensions, beards, and moustaches. Industries manufacturing such beauty hair accessories are one of the largest global human hair industries. Wigs, beards, and moustaches are in high demand in the eastern countries for ages. Fake eyelashes are frequently used in the field of acting, modelling, and also on several occasions to enhance the beauty of one's face.

Making Makeup Brushes

Human hair is also frequently used for making cosmetic brushes as they blend makeup products smoothly. Are you thinking how can humans put up makeup so smoothly? Well, there are numerous scales on the human hair, therefore these scales can easily hold make-up powder and apply it to your skin. But a makeup brush can not be made from curly hair due to its irregular structure. Straight and smooth hair is always preferred in these hair manufacturing industries as it can give a good and smooth blend to your skin without causing any irritation on your skin.

Haircare Products Testing

The rising growth of human hair industries also welcomed the production of hair care products. And as you know, every product is tested multiple times before it gets to the public. Just like that, unrequired human hair is often used in laboratories as test materials for various hair care products. The modern world is filled with new companies and every company manufacturers products with unique formulations. These formulations can backfire their discovery if it causes real harm to the common people. Therefore, cut-out human hair is used to detect their probability of usefulness in the outside world.

Stuffing Toys

Human hair is very silky, stretchy, cushiony, and has good thermal insulation. These qualities make it perfect for use in stuffing toys and household things like hairpin cushions. It is not the end, human hair is also used in the manufacturing of jackets, and mattresses in India and also in other countries.

Making Fabrics

Human hair has a high tensile straight which makes it a perfect material for making fabrics. In Arunachal Pradesh, India, the traditional people mix yak hair along with human hair, cotton, and nettle fibre for making fabrics. In these concepts, human hair is often used as the weft whereas cotton yarn is turned into a warp. Do you know? Animal fibres are blended with cut-out human hair to make blankets in Panipat, India. Therefore, the human hair industry has a huge contribution to the Indian economy as well as worldwide.

Medical Industry

The pharmaceutical and medical industries also take full advantage of the uniqueness of human hair. A normal human hair contains about 20 amino acids which are extracted by hydrolysis of that particular volume of hair. And some of these amino acids are a boon to the medical world. L-valine, L-leucine, L-cysteine, and L-isoleucine are the good yield of human hair. L-cysteine constitutes several chemical derivatives which can come useful in the production of pharmaceutical formulations and also some cosmetics. Asian hair contains more amount of L-cysteine than any other type of hair, as most of their hair is black.

Food Industry

The L-cysteine extracted from human hair is also used in food industries. It is an amino acid that is used as an additive to increase the shelf life of bread and is also used to add to pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, etc. However, the use of this compound from human hair in food industries has caused a lot of disappointment among the masses. Few cared about the ingredients and the rest were focused on the reality.

The Smuggling Case of Raw Indian Human Hair

The Recent Raw Human Hair Smuggling Case
The Recent Raw Human Hair Smuggling Case

The quality of Indian human hair is of superior quality and the human hair industry of India has a huge name throughout the world. This is a great thing, however, the industry also faces the problem of smuggling. Early in this year, the most recent smuggling case was brought to the public eyes, when ED claimed that Indian hair was being smuggled to China. The central agency claimed that this network was spread across Hyderabad to Aizawal. During an investigation, it was known that raw human hair from India was smuggled to Myanmar illegally, generating a huge amount of cash. However, during further investigations, it came out that the raw human hair was actually finding its way to China via Myanmar.

β€œAll this domestically sold hair was ultimately finding its way to China via Myanmar and sale proceeds were surprisingly being received from shell Bank Accounts in Mizoram. ED conducted fund trail investigation and zeroed in on the …shell entities based in Mizoram which were taking in hundreds of crores of cash deposits and then remitting the deposited amount to several hair merchants spread across India,” the official ED statement said.

This however, is just one of the recent cases. The smuggling of raw human hair has seen various cases in the past too.

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The Future of the Human Hair Industry in India

Leading Human Hair Exporting Countries Worldwide in 2020
Leading Human Hair Exporting Countries Worldwide in 2020

The future of the human hair industry in India is one of the leading ones in the business world. Dark Indian hair satisfies the traditional beauty standards and also has a huge variety and this is what makes it so popular. Moreover, hair extension clubs from all geographical corners mostly prefer Indian human hair with high quality, dark, and slightly wavy textures. Moreover, hair industries only deal with β€œvirgin hair”. Nowadays a lot of people dye, strengthen, and give a completely new look to their hair. These artificial hair varieties are not even touched in the hair extensions world and this is why hair collectors mostly visit the rural parts of India.

In a recent conference, Eluru MP, Kotagiri Sridhar came up with another prediction. He said that the sudden rise of the human hair industry in India will end up providing about 8 lakh jobs in the upcoming years. All India Human Hair and Hair products Manufacturers and Exporter’s Association together organized a meeting in Eluru. The head of the meeting threw some light on the unique features of human hair and how well known it is across the world. He also stated that efforts to curb the smuggling of hair (raw material for hair products) are yielding results, bringing home nearly Rs.30,000 crores to Rs.40,000 crores for foreign exchange.

This is the amount smugglers earn for smuggling tones of human hair from India to different corners of the world. Therefore, the greater the yield, the more is smuggling. Kotagiri Sridhar also talked about the precautions, rules, and restriction charges which must be applied while exporting human hair-related stuff to the other world. This can at least mark a boundary or limit the chain of smuggling.

Looking at the various parameters, the human hair industry in India has grown a lot and has a huge potential to grow further. Therefore, the Indian economy owes a lot to the hair industry. Furthermore, research says that the human hair industry in India has a probability of marking an income of more than $2 billion.


That was all you need to know about the booming business of the human hair industry in India. The concept of the exportation of such a thing is bizarre but it’s weirder to know that Indian human hair is in great demand. There is plenty of importance of human hair and only a few of them are known to the common people. This article includes the most unique uses of hair. Furthermore, if you have read the complete article you would have understood by now that human hair-related industries have a huge growth potential in the near future.


Is there a market for human hair?

Yes, there is a market for human hair. The global human hair extension market recorded a worth of $3.71 billion in the year 2021. This market is estimated to reach $7.63 billion by the year 2029.

Who exports the most hair?

According to Statista in 2020, Hong Kong was recorded to be the biggest exporter of human hair with exports worth $44.4 million. It was followed by India with exports worth $14.3 million.

Why is human hair so expensive?

Human hair is so expensive because it is not something that can be manufactured like artificial synthetic hair. Growing hair is a very long and natural process. Also, it takes more than a head's hair to make any wig or hair extension.

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