Several years ago, it was discovered that many wigs that observant Jewish women were wearing contained natural hair from India, where many women are idolaters. Jewish Law strongly prohibits using or deriving benefit from anything connected to idolatry. It caused a tremendous scandal, and here in Israel, all wig-wearing observant women moved over to hats and scarfs until the wigs reappeared with "rabbinical kosher certificates", that the hair was either European (which is very expensive) or synthetic (which many women call "donkey tails" and is considered unfashionable).
Fast forward a decade. We just received a comprehensive, strongly documented report on the state of kashruth in wigs from Rebbetzen Ahava Margaretten which you can download at this link: Download Indian Hair Report.
For those who are skimming this article and won't download the whole report, here is a shocking excerpt that one cannot ignore:
Interview with a shaitel macher (wig-maker) with 18 years experience:
“I would like people to know... that myself first hand can attest to the utter misrepresentation we are handed with our shaitels. I have been a shaitel macher for almost 18 years. I have learned from some of the industry's leading members how to identify hair, physically hand tie hair into a wig, how to construct a wig from scratch, as well as cutting, coloring, and washing techniques only know to the top artist. Approximately 8 years ago I began the difficult process of starting my own line of wigs. Making contacts and having representatives in China is not an easy process. I learned quickly that there are no morals in business in China. Hair which was hand selected here from brokers coming straight from Ukraine would be sent to China only to return blended and processed with other hair which I did not send or request.
The factories always offered tags for my wigs which stated "100% European hair" even if we had just negotiated using Brazilian, Mongolian, or Uzbekistan hair. They also always offered the "kashrus" label with the blessings from "the rabbi" which of course they told me didn't exist. At that point I realized that there was no way that I could create a product which I really believed in or stood by. I myself who was dealing directly with the factories would never really know if the hair which I sometimes cut from a woman here in the states would actually return unadulterated or blended with something else. The fact that the factories clearly had no scruples regarding misrepresentation to my customers meant that they would most likely swindle me too. I decided to forgo manufacturing my own line and the money that would come with it.
It's important for women to know that factories will insert any tag necessary to make a sale. Many shaitel machers have no clue that they are being duped. They are told it's European hair and that it has a hashgacha, but the reality is far from such. They simply don't know.”
-Quoted directly word for word on June 11th, 2017. Shaitel macher chose to remain anonymous in this report.
Who wants to play Russian Roulette with Halacha and even take the slightest chance with such a serious d'Oraita transgression as benefitting from idolatry, issur hana'a me'avoda zara. I want to clarify that although Rav Arush's and my wife and daughters cover their hair with tichelach (scarfs), I never interfere in the debate between the pro-sheitel and the pro-tichel factions, especially since many righteous spiritual leaders such as the Rebbes of Gur, Chabad, Vishnitz and Belz allow their female followers to wear wigs, as well as most of the Lithuanian and Yeshivish world. Yet, when it comes to such a serious breach that could be a tremendous stumbling block for the public, we here at the Beams found the urgent need to sound the alarms and flash the warning yellow lights. Please be very careful.
One thing is for sure - if you wear a wig, consider the advantages of moving over to synthetic. And, if you do make the commendable move from wigs to scarfs, we'll be happy to direct you our own Rebbetzen Racheli Reckles or to Rebbetzen Rivka Malka Perlman who'll be happy to show you how to look gorgeous in a scarf. Blessings for a lovely Shabbat!