Made in Cambodia: How women in poverty are supplying America’s market for hair

Third-world poverty pushes Cambodian women to sell their hair, feeding American demands for first-world vanity.

Pheng Sreyvy wears a hooded sweatshirt as she handwashes her children’s clothing in the sweltering Cambodian sun. The hair that peeks out from under the hood is split and uneven. On closer examination, her roots are copper but fade to black as the strands reach her neck.

Sreyvy, 39, explains that her hair used to be down to her waist. That was before hair traders offered her $15 to sell it. “I feel regret for cutting my hair off. I don’t feel made up,” she told NBC News while working underneath her makeshift home on wooden stilts. Her 13-month-old son, Nau, cried faintly in a hammock nearby.

Sreyvy lives in the Ponhea Leu district of Cambodia. The community is about 90 minutes outside of Phnom Penh, the country’s capital. The province is quiet and dusty with gutters filled with mud, water, flies and garbage. Barefoot toddlers play with stray dogs and crowing roosters near a barren well.

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