The next time you decide to absentmindedly pick up your besties brush and start running it through your hair, think about what might be lurking on it.
After all, just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Though we’ve all done it – and probably never thought about it twice, sharing hair brushes can range from gross to flat out dangerous.
We checked in with Carolyn Aronson, Founder and CEO of It’s a 10 Haircare, and Purvisha Patel, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare, to find out how bad sharing hair brushes is, really.
Sharing is not caring
While hair brushes can seem innocuous, they harbor bacteria and even viruses. It doesn’t matter if they are being shared with close friends, family, or total strangers – the whole thing is a N-O. “Sharing hairbrushes is not recommended between strangers and even family members. A hairbrush is a vector for contaminants and microbes that can be transmitted from person to person with sharing,” says Purvisha. That’s because bacteria, fungus, and viruses (including Covid-19) can live in your hair and scalp.
“We are mammals, we are covered with hair follicles and we have a normal amount of skin flora (bacteria, fungus and mites) that live on our bodies, in harmony with us. Some people have more than others, some people are more susceptible to organisms than others,” she continues.
If not sanitized between uses, hair brushes harbor these organisms until the next use. If you continue to use your own hairbrush, there are no issues with transmitting microbes. But, if you share with others, you can pick up their microbes from their scalp and also on the handle, from their bodies. “Staph in particular is a bacteria that lives in our nares/noses, staph is commonly transmitted from person to person through hairbrush use, resulting in pustules and boils on the skin and scalp. Of course, there is lice as well,” warns Purvisha, fully skeeving us out.
Bacteria lives on hair brushes because the scalp is a warm, moist environment, a perfect for harboring microbes and fungus – especially if you’re adding oil to your hair. “Scalps that stay moist (sweat, super thick hair) and that use edible hair product ingredients such as coconut oil/olive oil are more prone to grow microorganisms,” she notes.
Oil transfers through brushes, but that isn’t an issue if you keep your brush to yourself, it’s actually a good thing for your hair. “Your oil can actually stick to the bristles of the brush as you brush it through your hair. That’s why we recommend brushing the hair thoroughly twice a day to spread the oil throughout the hair shaft and keep it moist,” says Carolyn.
Keep it clean
Cleaning brushes is even more important in salons, and especially as Covid remains a threat. “If the virus has adhered to your hair, it could be passed onto the brush and if it is then used by someone else within a 3 to 7 day time period, there is strong potential that is can be passed on to that user. The environment, humidity, and heat affect how long the virus will live on a surface,” Carolyn explains.
Brushes should be soaked in Barbicide solution, which is antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral – this is the salon standard for sanitizing tools. Otherwise, soap and water, UV light sterilization, and bleach will clean brushes and make them okay to share (but probably still don’t).
When it’s time to go back to the salon, you need to be sure brushes have been effectively cleaned prior to touching you. “It’s important that you make sure that your hairdresser is practicing sanitary measures before they actually service you. Don’t be afraid to ask them and don’t be afraid to make sure they do it — your health comes first!” urges Carolyn.
All in all, now is not the time to share hair brushes, especially with strangers or even your BFF before cleaning it off. “If you share hairbrushes in family, clean the brush off with bleach spray once a week,” recommends Purvisha.