Coronavirus PSA: Wash Your Hair More Often

As coronavirus / COVID-19 becomes a part of our lives, we are all learning how to take precautions to keep ourselves safe and stay out of harm’s way. Of course, we now know it is best to wash our hands often and to avoid touching our faces.  But what about our hair?

While many of us are working from home or limiting social contact (which is highly recommended as it can help to stop the rapid spread of the virus), it is hard to fully isolate ourselves and there are still many ways that we could be exposed.

Some of us may still be going about our routines, while remaining cautious.  But there are a few things we may not instinctively think about.

Here are a few ways that our hair also needs to be considered when upgrading our hygiene for coronavirus:

1. Gyms and fitness clubs

Most are stepping up their cleaning and maintenance, and offering sanitizer for machines and mats. But we may be lying down on a mat and stretching, or using a machine. If the mat has not been thoroughly and properly disinfected, then the virus could transmit to our hair, the same way it could to our hands. We don’t often think about what our hair touches throughout the day – and if we do not wash it when arriving at home, it could theoretically transmit a virus to a chair, sofa, or pillow at home.

2. Uber, Lyft, and Taxis

It’s always a relief to get into your rideshare or taxi, knowing that we’re on the way to our destination. So we might rest our head on a headrest and tune out. What we don’t often consider is what might be lingering on that headrest – and if we do not take steps for our hair when arriving at home, it could theoretically transmit a virus to a chair, sofa, or pillow at home.

3. Public transport

Most city buses, subways, and ferries have also taken measures to step up safety and cleanliness to combat coronavirus and most cities are cleaning their public systems much more often. But just like getting into a taxi or rideshare above, we may not always think about what our hair touches, and our hair could bring home unwanted contaminants.

We touch our faces an average of 23 times per hour and by now we know that we should stop doing so during public situations, and that we should wash our hands often. While there is not as much data on how often we touch our hair, we know that we do this throughout the day and that our hair may inadvertently touch surfaces that are not clean (see above).

How to take care of ourselves

The best thing we can do when arriving home is to first wash our hands.

After a long day, our clothes and hair have touched many surfaces, no matter how much care we’ve taken to wash our hands often. So it’s best to get our clothes into the hamper (studies have shown that some types of coronavirus can remain on certain surfaces for several hours), and get straight into the shower. Doctors and nurses already know this, and almost always follow this protocol. They will customarily take off scrubs and bathe after and before shifts especially if they work in ER or with patients with contagious or easily communicable illnesses.

Many of us are not accustomed to washing our hair every day. But as long as we are using a good shampoo, free of sulfates and parabens (and ideally with a short list of ingredients) – and as long as we rinse thoroughly – we’ll be just fine. In fact, as long as we’re using a good cleanser, it is better to wash our hair (and most importantly, your scalp) more frequently.

Especially when one is experiencing thinning or loss, it is very important to maintain proper scalp hygiene and to follow a regimen which will help your scalp and follicles to produce healthier, stronger, fuller hair.

With a good quality shampoo, gently lather and massage your whole scalp. If you have very long or very thick hair, you might want to rinse and repeat, but for most people, one wash is sufficient. Rinse very thoroughly with warm water (not too hot) and make sure your scalp is completely free of any suds or shampoo residue. If you are conditioning, make sure to not touch the conditioner to your scalp – just focus on the strands. Rinse very thoroughly.

After a shower, towel dry your hair and scalp.

We highly recommend that you blow dry your scalp and hair after showering – even if you are not accustomed to doing so. A light blow dry to the scalp and roots can eliminate moisture which can cause bacterial buildup that can, in turn, negatively affect your follicles. For detailed video instructions on how to towel dry and blow dry your scalp, click here.

While coronavirus will certainly continue to dominate the headlines and much of our mindshare, there are many ways we can take steps to protect ourselves. For very detailed instructions and for regular updates, the CDC is a good source of information. Stay safe out there, we will get through this.

Kathy Watson

Over her 10-year career as a journalist, Kathy has worked as a columnist and reporter for both print magazines and digital publications. She started as a beat reporter for her college newspaper covering biosciences and general science. Kathy holds a B.A. in political science. Reviewed by Collective Laboratories' Medical Advisory Board

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