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barbershop risk for Hep C
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The STD Forum is intended only for questions and support pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV/AIDS, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, human papillomavirus, genital warts, trichomonas, other vaginal infections, nongonoccal urethritis (NGU), cervicitis, molluscum contagiosum, chancroid, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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barbershop risk for Hep C


Hi Dr.,

I know similar questions have been asked - but I was hoping to get clarification on this topic for myself once and for all.

I went to the barber the other day and got a haircut. She used an electric clipper on the back of my neck and was very rough with it. Afterwards I had really bad razor burn. I put alcohol on my neck and it stung really bad. My neck looked red with inflammation, though I'm not sure if there were cuts or not. I'm concerned about Hepatitis C transmission from this. The barbershop "seems" clean, but I really don't know what their sterilization techniques are like.

1) Does this situation pose any risk and do I need testing for Hep C?

2)  If I avoid getting a straight edge razor used on me (which I always do), is it reliable to go to the barber and always be risk free for Hep C? This is even if they are not "perfect" with their sterilization. My main concern is the electric clipper because it sometimes feels like it does damage the skin. This is based on multiple organizations advising not to share grooming equipments that could break the skin - i.e. razors and toothbrushes. Yet it is odd to me how little (in my interpretation) suspicion and scrutinization there is of going to the barber and getting electric clippers used.

3) Would just buzzing my head at home and avoiding the barber be the only way to truly be risk free from Hep C (in terms of haircuts)? Of course I'd rather get a nice haircut - but not at the expense of a Hep C risk.
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239123_tn?1267651214
Responding to the title of your question, before reading anything else:  it is probable that nobody ever caught HIV from nicks and cuts received in a barber shop.  I'm sure you have no worries about hepatitis C or any other sexually or blood borne infection.

Now having read the details, I really have nothing more to say.  Electric clippers probably do damage the skin.  But it takes a lot more blood exposure to transmit hepatitis, HIV, etc than is possible from such damage, even if previous customers are carrying blood borne infections.  People don't get hepatitis C without actually sharing injection equipment and similar direct blood exposures.

1,3) Neither or these poses any risk.

2) You can have a professional shave, straight razor or clippers, at barbershops every day the rest of your life.  It will never put you at risk for hepatitis C.

Regards--  HHH, MD
5 Comments
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Thank you for your clear and helpful response, Dr. Handsfield. I really trust your word (and Dr. Hook's).

There are so many sources that say shared grooming equipment is a Hep C risk - but I wanted to clarify with one of you. These claims are frustrating because I feel like I'd be acting a little looney by bringing my own grooming equipment to the barber.

Does it basically come down to that some sources take an extra cautious approach because of theoretical risk? (i.e. Hep C survives longer outside the body than HIV) Is it such that in reality, no one has been proven to get Hep C from grooming equipment?
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239123_tn?1267651214
Your closing paragraph is exactly right.  Shared razors etc are one of those things that are listed as risk because they are theoretical.  Once in a while, the household member of someone with hepatitis C becomes infected, without obvious blood exposure -- and people then speculate about razors, toothbrushes, etc.  But I am aware of no instances of proved transmission by such routes.

However, perhaps I should stress that I'm not an expert on hep C and its transmission.  It's not really an STD, so really outside my top expertise.
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Avatar_m_tn
I appreciate your candor, Dr. Handsfield.

Though Hep C isn't your top expertise, your initial answer is unchanged, correct? Despite certain mysterious Hep C transmissions among household contacts, is it still unequivocal that going to the barber regardless of different variables involving rough barbers, abrasive hairclippers, etc. is zero risk for Hep C? Or is that a grey area?
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239123_tn?1267651214
Don't share needles for drug injection and you'll never need to worry about hepatitis C.  You are obviousle irrationally obsessed with barbers and hep C, and it is plain that nothing I can say is going to change that.  So this thread is over.
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