Seven gross infections you can get from the barber’s

Seven gross infections you can get from the barber’s

Jesusegun Alagbe

One of the most visited places ever by men and even women is the barber’s. While some people visit once a month, some visit almost every day, oftentimes depending on the type of hairstyle an individual keeps. Although the barber’s is supposed to be a safe place to cut and treat your hair, it’s also a nasty hidden germ factory. You may go there germ-free and return with an infection. Apart from the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which most people perhaps have already been familiar with, there are other potential infections you can get from your barber’s. However, it is not all about doom and gloom as there are tips to keep yourself safe while getting groomed.


According to a Lagos-based dermatologist, Mrs. Chioma Okere, folliculitis is the inflammation of the hair follicle, mostly caused by bacterial infection. “It looks like tiny white pimple and it’s usually caused by staphylococcus bacteria, which can be transmitted through improperly sanitised combs, scissors, or razors,” she said, adding that the infection could cause itch.

Barber’s itch

Another infection one can contract from the barber’s is the barber’s itch, which is a form of folliculitis that develops in the beard area or scalp after you are infected from an unsterilised instrument, according to a dermatologist at the Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, United States, Dr. Joshua Zeichner. In an article on, the barber’s itch occurs when the “bacteria invade the hair follicles, leading to red bumps and pus pimples that may be itchy.

“If you’ve ever seen your barber drop a comb or a razor in a liquid solution, that’s a good sign that they’re properly sterilising their tools. If they don’t, you can get the barber’s itch.”

Zeichner added that in mild cases, the barber’s itch could be treated effectively with a topical antibiotic, while in more severe cases, it might require an oral antibiotic treatment.

Tinea capitis

Zeichner described tinea capitis as a “fungal infection of the scalp that can take the shape of ringworm (red patch with scale around the perimeter) or it can look like a red flakey itchy patch.

“At the barber’s, it can spread via poorly sanitised combs or towels, and in severe cases, it can lead to permanent scarring and hair loss.

“Tinea capitis often needs to be treated with an oral anti-fungal medication. The fungus penetrates deep into the hair follicles, so it may be difficult to treat with topical medications alone.”


Zeichner described impetigo as a bacterial infection that is caused mainly by staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria.

He said, “While it’s more common among younger children, you can get it at pretty much any age, and it’s most commonly spread via skin-to-skin contact, clothing, or towels (something to keep in mind if you’re getting your hair washed at the barber’s).

“Patients develop yellow or honey coloured crusts (on their skin). It is important to treat because it is highly contagious. Fortunately, it’s usually easily treatable with a topical antibiotic ointment.


Okere told Saturday PUNCH that while it’s pretty rare to get lice from a regular wash and cut, it’s not exactly unheard of, either. She said it’s possible to acquire lice from a comb or other shared contact with someone who has the infection.

She said, “It’s common in the scalp, but it also can 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.

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“There are a variety of ways to treat lice, most common of which is to apply a topical anti-lice medication to the hair to kill the infection. You also may need to have individual nits removed from the hair as well.”


You might have probably been thinking that the only way one can get tetanus is when you step on a rusty nail. But the same can happen if your hair is cut with rusted barber tools.

According to Okere, tetanus is a bacterial infection that usually occurs after breaks in the skin.

“Many people often think one can get tetanus only from bacteria in the soil, but it can also be acquired from unclean rusted instruments,” she said.


If you’re getting a wax while having a manscaping, this may be something to be wary of. Zeichner said, “There have been incidents of transmitting herpes or bacterial infections from waxing. Make sure that the waxer is not double dipping any applicator sticks while doing it or using roll on wax that has been used on someone else.”

Tips for staying safe

Of course, most of the infections above can be treated. But it is better to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Here are some tips for staying safe while at the barber’s:

Make sure the tools are regularly sanitised
Did you know the blue liquid that combs float in? It’s called barbicide, and it’s essential for disinfecting tools. It’s a disinfectant solution used by barbers and cosmetologists for sanitising grooming tools such as combs and hair-cutting shears.

Zeichner said, “The active ingredient of Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (in barbicide) is effective at killing bacteria, fungi, and viruses.”

He advised that you should ensure that all the instruments your barber is going to use on you be taken out of the solution.

He added, “Some salons, spas, and barber’s may also have autoclaves, or machines that sterilise instruments using high pressure steam. Don’t be shy about asking if the straight blades are autoclaved or if they use an individual new blade each time – especially if you’re getting a shave.”

Check your skin before you go
To minimise your risk of developing any infection, make sure to cancel your appointment with the barber’s if you have any open or raw skin as this can increase your risk of developing an infection, Zeichner advised.

Check your barber’s skin, too
“Make sure that your barber too does not have any open cuts or wounds on the hands, which could spread infection,” advises Zeichner.

Take notice of how well the shop is kept
This may go without saying, but if the place looks dirty, it probably is. In his post on, Zeichner warns, “Unclean areas, hair clippings, rusty instruments, visible blood stains and stained towels are all red flags.” Okere also warned against getting too familiar with a particular barber, saying, “Sometimes, some people don’t want to offend a barber that they have been used to, even when they see all the red flags due to familiarity. I think one’s safety should be of utmost concern.”

Source : The Punch


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