Health & Fitness

Study warns of Hepatitis B risk in clean-shave haircuts

A clean shave may expose individuals to serious infections. file photo | nmg
A clean shave may expose individuals to serious infections. file photo | nmg 

Having a clean shave may expose individuals to serious infections such as Hepatitis B, a new research says.

The study by the University of Cape Town confirmed that there is significant contamination of barber hair clippers with blood and blood-borne viruses.

Hepatitis B was detected with enough DNA copies to pose a risk of transmitting infection. Zandile Spengane of the University of Cape Town said that although HIV was not detected in the small study, the risk of transmission should be quantified.

“A history of haircut-associated bleeding as a result of clean-shave haircuts was an unexpected finding. The potential transmission of blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis B (HBV) and HIV is most concerning,” said Dr Spengane.

The study titled ‘‘Blood And Virus Detection on Barber Clippers’’ investigated the prevalence of barber hair clipper contamination with blood and HIV and hepatitis B viruses.


Aerial maps were used to sample 50 barber shops from three townships in Cape Town. The study collected one clipper from each barber immediately after it had been used for a clean-shave haircut.

Methods used by the barbers to clean the clippers were documented. The findings were published in the South African Medical Journal last week.

“The hepatitis B and HIV status of clients was unknown. There are some confounding factors that could have contributed to our results, such as the skill of the barbers and the methods they used to cut the hairstyles,” he said.

He said the amount of time spent cleaning the clippers was not measured. “This is also a possible confounding factor and could have contributed to the results. A study with a bigger sample size could obtain results of better quality,” he said.

From the findings, the clean-shave haircut was the most common haircut requested by clients at 78 per cent. Of the clippers collected, 42 per cent were positive for HBB, confirming detection of blood, none were positive for HIV, and 48 per cent were positive for HBV.

All the barbers cleaned the clippers after each client, but the cleaning agents varied. Most barbers (82 per cent) used disinfection with methylated spirit after using a brush to remove hair, and eight per cent used an open flame.

The study suggested that the findings were significant and that there was a need for more follow up studies to investigate the best disinfectant.