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Hair Salon Scrapes

May 16, 1997

While at a hair salon, I was getting my hair shampooed. The salon worker was kind of vigorous when doing it. I could really feel her fingernails scraping against my scalp. I know from reading some of your previous answers that a cut/scrape/abrasion doesn't have to be very large to permit infection, it doesn't even have to be visible. So my questions are this: If the worker had a cut or something on her hand or fingertip, would the scraping of her fingernails make a potential path for infection? Does a cut on the infected person's finger have to be fresh, or could it be an old cut that got reopened by the warm water? How deep of a cut on your scalp is required to be infected? Will warm water and shampoo kill the virus or dilute it or otherwise make it harder for transmission? Do you think I should be concerned? How likely is this? Thanks so much for your work.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. Many people have concerns about getting infected with HIV through their hairdresser. Getting infected when having your hair shampooed or cut is normally extremely low risk for HIV. In regard to your specific concerns, you were at extremely low risk of infection (if any at all) for HIV. The question, "Transmission From A Scratch" addresses this issue in further detail.

There have been no cases of anybody getting infected from their hair stylist/barber. This is because it would be extremely unusual for the hair stylists (barber's) blood to gain a direct access to your bloodstream when getting your hair washed or cut. Your hairdresser would have to be actively bleeding, and their blood would have to get directly into an open cut on you. It would be extremely unusual for your hair stylist to be washing/cutting your hair while they are actively bleeding. So in reality, your risks are little (if any) of getting infected by your hair stylist. For more information about open cuts, see the questions, "Healing Cuts," "Fresh Cuts & HIV," and "Distinctions From a Fresh & Healing Cut."

Some people have had concerns about getting infected after being cut by scissors, razors, files etc. Even if you were to get cut, your risks would still be small. This is because it would be extremely unlikely that another persons blood would get into your bloodstream within minutes after leaving the other persons body. Remember, HIV will not survive outside the body for more than a few minutes. Hair stylists are trained to clean scissors, razors, files etc., if they were to ever be contaminated with blood. When these instruments are cleaned, they literally wash the blood (and any HIV in the blood) away.

So in summary, your risks of infection were extremely low (if any), and there have been no cases of HIV transmission in a hair stylist/barbershop setting.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

Dead Viruses
HIV Transmission From Patient with Nondetectable Viral Load

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