In Venezuela, women sell hair as another way to get by

Nelly Navarro sits with her kids Nerianny and Luis in a beauty salon where she came to consult how much money she could get for her hair, in Caracas,

Nelly Navarro sits with her kids Nerianny and Luis in a beauty salon where she came to consult how much money she could get for her hair, in Caracas,

Carolina Dejan wears a neckless featuring the word "Beauty" at a beauty salon where she is getting extensions using real hair from women who sold thei

Carolina Dejan wears a neckless featuring the word "Beauty" at a beauty salon where she is getting extensions using real hair from women who sold thei

A woman wearing makeup and with her hair straightened walks through the subway in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 22, 2019. While the beauty industr

A woman wearing makeup and with her hair straightened walks through the subway in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 22, 2019. While the beauty industr

Yaris Colina gets her nails done at a beauty salon in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 22, 2019. Local shops that sell beauty products are also reinv

Yaris Colina gets her nails done at a beauty salon in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 22, 2019. Local shops that sell beauty products are also reinv

Liz Vargas and her niece Camila Vargas bathe on the skirt of a mountain in Avila National Park in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, April 4, 2019. Vargas

Liz Vargas and her niece Camila Vargas bathe on the skirt of a mountain in Avila National Park in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, April 4, 2019. Vargas

Valery Díaz sits still as she gets her hair cut to sell at a beauty salon in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 5, 2019. Diaz, a 16-year-old student, s

Valery Díaz sits still as she gets her hair cut to sell at a beauty salon in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 5, 2019. Diaz, a 16-year-old student, s

Manicurist Maria Trinidad Tobar waits for customers at a beauty salon in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Tobar said Venezuelan women no l

Manicurist Maria Trinidad Tobar waits for customers at a beauty salon in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Tobar said Venezuelan women no l

Valery Díaz poses for a photo in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 2, 2019, before getting a section of it cut off and sold for $100. "There are time

Valery Díaz poses for a photo in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 2, 2019, before getting a section of it cut off and sold for $100. "There are time

Natural hair that was sold for money and then bleached, sits on a table at a beauty salon in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. The sale of r

Natural hair that was sold for money and then bleached, sits on a table at a beauty salon in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. The sale of r

Barbara Hernandez washes her hair in a natural brook in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, April 3, 2019. Hernandez said she used to wash her hair more of

Barbara Hernandez washes her hair in a natural brook in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, April 3, 2019. Hernandez said she used to wash her hair more of

A beauty salon sits empty in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. In a country recognized worldwide for winning international beaut

A beauty salon sits empty in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. In a country recognized worldwide for winning international beaut

Valery Díaz holds the hair she had cut off to earn $100 in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 5, 2019. After a drastic cut of 60 centimeters that was r

Valery Díaz holds the hair she had cut off to earn $100 in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 5, 2019. After a drastic cut of 60 centimeters that was r

Hair dresser Rosevel Velazquez attends a customer at her beauty salon, which she runs out of her home in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Hair dresser Rosevel Velazquez attends a customer at her beauty salon, which she runs out of her home in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Valery Díaz covers her face as she gets her hair cut off for $100 at a beauty salon in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 5, 2019. Due to lack of water

Valery Díaz covers her face as she gets her hair cut off for $100 at a beauty salon in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 5, 2019. Due to lack of water

Ana Pacheco looks at her hair as she poses for a photo in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Pacheco said she loves her long hair but doesn't

Ana Pacheco looks at her hair as she poses for a photo in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Pacheco said she loves her long hair but doesn't

A mannequin dressed as Miss Venezuela is surrounded by hair extensions at a beauty salon in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 22, 2019. Some beauty sa

A mannequin dressed as Miss Venezuela is surrounded by hair extensions at a beauty salon in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 22, 2019. Some beauty sa

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Valery Díaz covered her eyes and held her breath before looking in a hair salon mirror to see herself without much of the long dark hair that used to frame her face.

The 16-year-old student was paid $100 for the shorn hair, money she'll use to help her family and buy a cellphone at a time when Venezuela's sharp economic decline has led to shortages of food and medicine, and hyperinflation has made salaries nearly worthless.

Increasing numbers of women in poor neighborhoods are selling their hair for use in wigs and extensions as the demands of daily survival force them to abandon the kind of self-care long an obsession with a country known globally for its success in beauty pageants. Seven Miss Universe winners have been Venezuelans, as have six Miss Worlds.

Some women are washing their hair with dishwashing liquid because they can't afford to buy shampoo that costs more than the minimum monthly salary, now equivalent to just a few dollars. Many have to adapt to make personal care products last longer, with no sign of an end to a crisis that has pushed more than 3 million Venezuelans — one-tenth of the population — to leave the country in recent years.

Díaz gazed silently at the mirror and attempted a positive spin on the loss of locks that she had worn since she was a young child. She described herself as feeling "light" and said it had been hard to maintain her flowing hair in the past.

"There are times when you go two or three weeks without washing your hair," she said, alluding to frequent water shortages in past weeks, caused by nationwide blackouts that shut off water pumps.

Her mother, Yeny Gómez, laughed nervously and tried to buoy her daughter's spirits.

"You don't notice it," Gómez, a 43-year-old teacher, said of the drastic haircut.

Despite sacrificing her hair, Díaz said she still tries to buy cosmetics, using money she earns from making and selling bracelets.

But Gómez said she hasn't bought lipstick or any other cosmetics for more than a year because she's saving whatever money she earns to get food for her and her two daughters. Beauty care has become secondary for most Venezuelans, she said.

Carmen Merchani, a 49-year-old hairdresser, knows that well. After decades of cutting and styling hair, she said things have never been worse and she's had to adapt to maintain her salon on one of the steep hills of Catia, a Caracas district. About a year ago, Merchani said, she started to do barter deals with her clients, getting food in exchange for hair stylings, manicures and pedicures.

Local shops that sell beauty products are also reinventing themselves to stay afloat. International cosmetics brands have disappeared from storefronts, replaced by cheaper goods from China as well as locally made products that use honey and other ingredients.

Díaz said she still dreams of becoming a Miss Venezuela someday, when "my hair grows again."

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Fabiola Sanchez on Twitter: https://twitter.com/fisanchezn