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December 3, 2005

BehindTheMedspeak: Can you get herpes from eyebrow waxing?


That was the topic of January W. Payne's "Urban Myth Watch" feature in the November 29 Washington Post Health section.

Long answer short: It is very, very unlikely — but you can never say never.

Urban legend debunking site snopes.com addressed the issue by consulting the National Herpes Hot Line, according to Payne.

Eileen Dunne, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who specializes in sexually transmitted diseases, told Payne that herpes is a "very fragile" virus that's transmitted through skin–to–skin contact.

Thus, contracting herpes via the hot wax and tools at a salon is "very, very unlikely," said Dunne.

She continued, "A lot of bacteria and viruses [including herpes] don't like heat and don't grow well in heat."

Dunne, who told Payne that she gets her own eyebrows waxed, said that salon customers who are worried nonetheless should observe salon practices.

She added that if you see the salon doesn't use fresh tools to place wax on the body for each customer, you should ask them to use a new tool for you.

However, said Dunne, it's not necessary to request a new container of wax.

Why does reading the above make me less than completely confident that there's almost 0 risk of contagion?

Is it, perhaps, because after Dunne starts out by saying how safe waxing is, she then hedges her bets and tells you to conduct epidemiological surveillance to determine if your salon practices safe waxing?

I decided to have my crack research team spend a few hours nosing around and they came up with one nugget buried in the truckload of dross they brought back.

Dr. Lynn McKinley-Grant, a dermatologist in Chevy Chase, Maryland, said that "contracting herpes from a wax is unlikely, but it is possible."

Well, that's sort of what epidemiologist Dunne said, isn't it?

I gotta say that if I were a girl and partial to eyebrow waxing — yes, I know men do it too and that it's all the rage now for guys to primp and fuss over themselves but somehow I just can't get very interested in all that — I'd find it less than a delight to have to watch out for things like contaminated wax sticks.

Tell you what — you go to the salon, I'll sit home and watch the game.

That seems fair, what?

December 3, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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I'm a guy and keep up with my self I dont get my eyebrows done though because there perfect! LOL

Posted by: herpes pictures | May 5, 2008 2:25:42 AM

Oh, please. Sorry, but you have struck a nerve. I am lucky enough to not have the Frida Kahlo monobrow, so I don't know doodley-squat about the wax and the instruments and the possible transmission of herpes, etc. It's that "can't get interested in all that" statement.

Look, guys, times have changed. Women are just as put off by unkempt, out-of-shape (not you personally, you seem to be one of those who runs around the earth every day) men as men are by similar women. It just doesn't cut it anymore to flop around and work on your beer gut, toenail fungus, halitosis, dandruff, nose & ear hair, combover, B.O. and fingernail grime and hope the girls won't notice those tiny little lapses in personal maintenance. Men act all amused and irritated by the amount of time women put into the primping and fussing, but boy, would they ever notice if it all stopped cold.

"Fair" is you guys keeping yourselves up, too, how about it.

Posted by: Flutist | Dec 3, 2005 4:46:41 PM

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