Eyebrow Threading Hygiene Concerns and Health Risks

Basic HygieneBesides the issue of the slight pain that eyebrow threading comes with there is what many health experts think is a much bigger problem that eyebrow threading practitioners are going to have to worry about which is over hygiene.

On some online discussion boards, there are talks and claims that cases of Herpes were contracted from getting threading done

So what are the hygiene concerns and health risks involved in eyebrow threading?

An article entitled “Does Eyebrow Threading Carry Health Risks?” written by Anita Hamilton in August 2011 in TIME Magazine raised this issue over the hygiene concerns and health risks involved with people who get their eyebrows threaded instead of waxing, plucking, or shaving. Some of the points that she raises are quite valid. They are…

  • Poor sanitation
  • Reusing threads on multiple customers

I wonder what kind of professional threading would ever consider even reusing thread when it is so cheap to buy even a dozen spools of thread. In terms of the cost, it makes no sense to reuse thread. Of course 99% of all threaders would use new thread for every new customer.

  • Spread staph infections and other contagious skin conditions

Any type of bacteria infection would be due not from the threader’s hands because the threader is almost never supposed to touch the face of the customer. What happens if there is any type of skin infection is that the customer’s makeup combined with sweat might have gotten in the exposed skin pores from the pulled out hair and cause something. However the general practice of threading means that we are supposed to be pulling in only one area of the eyebrow each time, and should require only one time to remove all the hair. We should not need to go over the same area again, increasing the chances of infecting the customer’s skin.

  • Facial bleeding as a result of people’s skin getting pinched by the threads

The rebuttal is that “It doesn’t cause bleeding. The only way threading causes bleeding is if you nick someone’s skin”. The problem is that the thread is not completely uniformly smooth but do have bumps. When the thread is twisted pulling out the hair, sometimes there is an area which causes the skin to get nicked.

  • It does carry health risks, including the potential spread of the herpes virus and staph infections through dirty threads and broken skin

Staph infections come from any bacteria getting into exposed areas in the skin. Usually the cause is the customer’s own makeup and sweat combined with dust in the hair that causes any infection. It can be prevented most of the time by the threader asking their customer to wash their face in a sink to remove their makeup before getting started. If the customer chooses not to remove their makeup, then it is their responsibility and decision to increase their chances of getting their skin infected. As for herpes, I will discuss more about that issue a little later in the post.

  • Some 10 cases of “threading warts” which are small raised bumps on the skin were reported in studies in 2007 and 2008 in the journals Clinical and Experimental Dermatology and the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. (can be removed easily with surgery) In the latter study, the authors concluded that “beauticians should be educated in maintaining hygiene and using sterilized thread for their procedures” and recommended that “persons wishing to go for threading should be encouraged to visit certified beauticians or beauty parlors”

In my own threading kit, I carry plastic gloves, alcohol wipes to remove makeup, cotton balls, aloe vera, hand sanitizer, and even a face mask to make sure that the entire process is hygienic for my customers. The key is just to follow basic hygienic practices.

Follow basic hygienic practices

  1. You want to make sure that it is a clean thread and that the person is washing their hands.
  2. Use hand sanitizers between customers
  3. Always use a fresh thread
  4. Regularly clean brow brushes
  5. Clean scissors with antibacterial germicides.
  6. Wipe down seats daily with industrial-grade cleansers.

The fact is that the way current threading is done requires that the threader put the end of the thread on the spool in their mouth. Since there is movement of the hands with the mouth usually positioned above the person’s face, it is not hard to imagine that the saliva of the mouth drop down the thread and land on the exposed skin of the other person.

Case Point: The Epidemiology and Prevalence of Herpes Simple Type 1 (HSV-1) 

The thing about Herpes is that there are two main types of herpes conditions currently defined. There is Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1) and Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2). What the physicians are worried about when they talk about the herpes virus transmitted is the first type, HSV-1. HSV-1 would be the type that would be transmitted if the threader’s saliva or spit did reach the exposed skin of someone.

However is the HSV-1 disorder as bad as the general American public would like to believe? I don’t think so.

From the Wikipedia article on Herpes Simplex …”Herpes simplex was not always stigmatised. It was merely a cold sore in an unusual place until the 1970s.” This shows that for most of human history, the common cold sore was looked at mostly as an annoyance and not something that people would be completely repulsed by.

It seems that the Herpes cold sore has been around for at least thousands of years since the Romans had entire outbreaks of them.

Let’s now look at how prevalent and common the cold sore, which is a symptom of HSV-1, is really to show that people who have the first type of disorder should not be stimatized.

From the Wikipedia article on the Epidemiology of Herpes Simplex

“Worldwide rates of HSV infection – counting both cold sores (HSV-1) and herpes proper (HSV-2) – are between 65% and 90%. Although many people infected with HSV develop labial or genital lesions, the majority are either undiagnosed or display no physical symptoms—individuals with no symptoms are described as asymptomatic or as having subclinical herpes”

It is written by medical studies that the herpes virus is transmitted horizontally by sexual partners and vertically by giving the disease to one’s off spring. What happens most often is that the offspring of a person has the virus but there are no physical symptoms of the disease and the person is never tested for it.

From the chart on the epidemiology of the herpes simplex type 1 for people in the USA…

“HSV-1 affected 57.7% of Americans tested in a 1999-2004 study”

“…immigrants from developing countries typically have an HSV-1 seroprevalance in their adolescent population that is two or three times higher than that of Caucasian Americans”

The different type of immigrant waves that have come to America has also correlated with occurrences of diseases and transmissions. When the first English and French white settlers came to the New World, they brought with them Polio and Smallpox which decimated the native population which had no immunity to the specific disease since they did not develop any type of immunity unlike the white settlers.

The same can be said today, where the newer waves of immigrants coming to America are no longer prodominantly “white” or European based. They are coming from the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. With these new immigrants, they also bring certain kinds of diseases which they themselves have a resistance against, from direct transmission by their parents and relatives. It will take a few decades but once the newer people with their own resistance gets assimilated with the with the other groups, the resistance against a disease is shared.

The point is that the herpes simplex type 1 is much more common than most people would believe. For most people who have it, they don’t realize that they even have it without a proper blood test. It doesn’t really affect and decrease the quality of their life. There are no symptoms or outbreaks. People should not be afraid of the herpes type i virus since most people these days actually have developed a natural resistance against it.


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