Article by Jacqueline Ward – Health Inspector and hygiene consultant.
A trip to the Barber or hairdresser can lift your spirits, make you feel better and improve the look and feel of your hair.
Having a new hairstyle is like buying yourself a new outfit, it’s a treat and if it looks great it will boost your ego and confidence. We all deserve to give ourselves some love… and when hair is cut and styled to accentuate your best features you can do nothing but smile.
People may visit a barber or hairdresser monthly, weekly, twice a week and for some a daily event to freshen up, have a haircut, trim or style. The barber/hairdresser is supposed to be a safe place to cut and treat your hair; however it could also be a secret germ factory harbouring some pretty nasty things and you could end up walking away with a gross new infection!
Infection can occur during some hairdressing or barbering procedures.
Items such as razors, scissors, combs, clippers and hairpins can accidentally penetrate the skin. Blood and body fluids do not have to be visible on instruments, equipment or working surfaces for infection to be transmitted. The modes (means) of transmission are: Contact (direct and/or indirect), Droplet, Airborne, Vector and Common Vehicle.
How can infection spread in a salon?
Folliculitis (Papular or pustular inflammation of hair follicles)
Folliculitis usually occurs at sites where hair follicles are damaged by friction or shaving, inflammation of the hair follicle by physical injury or chemical irritation, or infection mostly caused by staphylococcus bacterial infection and like barbers itch, folliculitis can also itch.
The most common form is superficial folliculitis that manifests as a tender or painless pustule that heals without scarring. The hair shaft will frequently be seen in the centre of the pustule.
Folliculitis looks like a white pimple and it is usually caused by staphylococcus bacteria, which can be transmitted through improperly sanitised combs, scissors, or razors, sharing razors or towels and very close skin to skin contact.
Barber’s itch (a staph infection of the hair follicles in the beard area)
One of the infections you can get from a barber is barbers itch. Barbers itch can affect people differently. This rash is circular in shape with red, scaly lesions and hair loss is another symptom. Some people have large, pus-filled acne lesions around their hair follicles. It is a form of folliculitis that develops in the beard area or scalp after you are infected by an unsterilised instrument.
It’s contagious, so it can pass from person to person through: direct contact, such as by touching a person’s infected lesions and then touching your own face, indirect contact, such as by touching the razor or beard, hair brush of a person with the fungal infection and using poorly sanitised combs or towels.
Impetigo (large vesicles and /or honey crusted sores)
Impetigo is a common and contagious bacterial skin infection. Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection caused by Streptococcus and Staphylococcus bacteria. It is commonly known as ‘school sores’ because a majority of cases are in school-aged children. Staphylococcus bacteria live on the skin and are mostly harmless, but they can cause an infection if they enter damaged skin. These bacteria can get into your body through a break in the skin from a cut, scratch, insect bite, or rash. Then they can invade and colonize. Impetigo is more common in areas where the skin or scalp have been cut or are abraded.
It is also more common in younger children but you can get it at any age and it is most commonly spread via skin-to-skin contact, clothing, or towels, something to keep in mind if you’re getting your hair washed at a barber’s or hairdressers.
Is a fungal infection of the scalp that can take the shape of a ring worm, it’s a red patch with scale around the perimeter or it can look like a red flaky itchy patch. It spreads through poorly sanitised combs or towels and in severe cases can lead to permanent scarring and hair loss.
It is rare to get lice from a regular wash and cut, however there is a possibility of contracting them should utensils such as combs and clippers not be sanitised effectively and correctly after contamination.
Lice are common in the scalp, but they can also occur in the beard. The most common symptom is significant itching in the affected area. In addition to the adult louse, it is common to find nits, which are eggs, in the hair as well.
Under the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations there are no restrictions preventing a person with head lice or eggs from using or attending a salon. Under the Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations 2001 there is no Regulation preventing a person with head lice or their eggs from using or attending a hairdressing salon.
You might have probably been thinking that the only way one can contract tetanus is when you step on a rusty nail or from bacteria in the soil. But the same can happen if your hair is cut with rusted barber tools. Tetanus is a bacterial infection that usually occurs after breaks in the skin.
How do we stop skin disease in its tracks.
I have been in contact with Callan Gates Business development manager for Zexa Clean in Caves Beach who has just released a full range of sanitisers exclusive for the hair industry.
They were asked by Barbers to solve the issue of how to clean clippers to kill 99.9% of germs between customer’s cuts quickly and efficiently.
They worked with industry experts and their in-house scientist to come up with a high powered aerosol spray that will blow hair and debris from the clipper blades and sanitise and lubricate at the same time.
This product is a game changer in barber shops, preventing the spread of skin disease between clients of the barber shop. They have called the product Clip It and it will go with their other tool sanitiser called “Soak It”.
My recommendation is every time clippers are being used by barbers or hairdressers they need to be cleaned and sanitised between clients to help prevent the spread of these known diseases. It is totally unacceptable to infect a customer through poor hygiene practices.