Fact Check

Eyebrow Waxing and Herpes

Are eyebrow waxers at risk of contracting herpes from unsanitary equipment?

Published Nov 14, 2005


Claim:   Eyebrow waxers are at risk of contracting herpes from unsanitary equipment.

Status:   False.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2005]

Hello All,

I had to take it upon myself to inform all of my girlfriends about Jonsey and today's Funk. Well for my south and central jersey folks who can't get hot 97 I will share today's funk with you. Please pay close attention this can really affect all of us.

This woman called in and said that one day her co worker came in and her eyebrows were looking sharp and asked her where did she go to get them done. The girl told her King Nails in Harlem and that she should go because they are really good. The woman went and proceeded to have her eyebrows and lip waxed. Two weeks later she realized that her lip and eye brows were breaking out in puss filled bumps all over. She went to the doctor's office and they sadly informed her that she had Herpes. The married woman who stated that she never cheated was wondering how she possibly got herpes not only on her lip but on her eyebrows.

Well Ladies if you ever take the time to notice these people never use a new stick. The same stick stays in that wax and if someone has herpes those bacteria is now on the stick and now the bacteria festers and grows in the hot wax.

So Ladies, this would be a great time to invest in your own tweezers and sharpen your skills. Or find a place that provides threading technique.

Origins:   This breathless warning about danger inherent to eyebrow waxing began showing up in our inbox in the early part of November 2005. According to the text, a caller to the "Miss Jones in the Morning"


show on New York radio station Hot 97 described having acquired herpes through virus-contaminated eyebrow waxing implements. (We have yet to confirm this detail; our e-mail to the station asking if there had been such a caller has so far gone unanswered.) The "Jonesy" of the e-mail is Miss Jones; the "today's Funk" we would presume is a standard segment of her show.

As to whether it is possible to pick up the virus in the described fashion, we called the National Herpes Hotline (919-361-8488) to ask just that. No, we were told, it's not. Herpes is a "very fragile virus" and so could not survive on the implement used to apply the wax, nor in the warm wax itself. The counselor we spoke to added there have been "no documented cases of it being passed like


Herpes is unfortunately ubiquitous. An estimated 50 to 80 percent of American adults have oral herpes (commonly known as cold sores or fever blisters), and about one in four adults in the United States has genital herpes. However, most people who have contracted the genital variety of herpes don't know they are infected because their symptoms are too mild to notice or are mistaken for other conditions.

The rumor about herpes being spread at waxing salons that take a cavalier attitude towards hygiene echoes a theme found in other urban legends, that of dread disease contracted by random innocent parties engaging in what should be safe activities — for example, AIDS acquired via a prick from a needle affixed to the handle of a gas pump, by ingesting HIV-laden blood added to restaurant ketchup dispensers, through eating pizza to which HIV-laden semen had been added; flesh-eating contagion passed on the skins of bananas imported from Costa Rica; and Weil's Disease contracted via soda cans encrusted with rat urine.

Such rumors are society's way of expressing our disquiet about having to co-exist with dread contagion even in medically advanced times. Where the malady is passed in a non-malicious manner, an additional type of unease is expressed, that of having to rely so much on the diligence of others for our own safety. (After all, every time we eat in a restaurant we are placing our trust in that establishment's employees to have properly prepared what we're about to ingest and to have observed good hygiene practices — it's as if we see what goes on in the kitchen or how clean the cook's fingernails are.) This latest rumor about herpes and eyebrow waxing is but an updated form of the "we're placing our wellbeing in the hands of strangers, and maybe they're not really watching out for us" anxiety.

Barbara "blue cholera" Mikkelson

Additional information:

  CDC on Herpes   Genital Herpes - CDC Fact Sheet   (Centers for Disease Control)
  Herpes Resource Center   Herpes Resource Center   (American Social Health Association)

Last updated:   14 November 2005

Article Tags