Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic hit, there have been a lot of questions about where it came from, how you catch it and most importantly, how long can it live on outside surfaces and in the air. While we may not know it’s origins, thanks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, we do know how it’s transmitted and depending on the surface, we know it can last “hours to days.”
But what happens if the potentially deadly virus gets on our hair? Is that a surface where it can thrive too?
Thanks to a recent TODAY article, that answer may be a little more clear.
First off, according to Dr. Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, hair is one surface that he believes hasn’t been tested yet. However, he doesn’t believe the virus could live as long on hair as it could on hard and flat surfaces such as stainless steel.
“Usually, viruses survive for lesser durations on porous surfaces, such as hair, than smooth surfaces, such as stainless steel,” he said.
Good to know!
Another expert, Dr. Adam Friedman, the interim chair of dermatology at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said the virus would be less likely to survive on hair attached to the scalp that is coated with natural sebum (AKA oils).
“They do have some antimicrobial properties, and they limit how well organisms can bind to the hair,” he said.
However, hair that “is no longer part of the human system” Friedman said, could pose a different issue. “From what we’re seeing from a New England Journal of Medicine paper, it’s very possible it could live on that surface for up to three days.”
OK, but Sir, what does that even mean???
Friedman clarifies by giving an example: “If you were to just rip out a few strands of hair, put them down and someone who’s positive for corona sneezed on it, could the virus live on that hair, which has been ripped out and is no longer part of the human system? From what we’re seeing from a New England Journal of Medicine paper, it’s very possible it could live on that surface for up to three days.”
So for your bundles, that means making sure you wash them first before installing them at home, Tim Starks, founder of Ellagant Hair, recently told Hype Hair.
“You’ve got to wash the hair,” he said, adding, “It’s something I’ve been saying since before this [pandemic] started. Especially, if it’s raw [virgin] hair that hasn’t been processed or treated with chemicals.”
For hair that is still is growing out of our heads, what’s up with that?
TODAY wrote that experts say that it’s pretty unlikely that you can contract the virus from your hair to your hands to your mucus, the traditional mode for infection. But they do suggest, if you can, try to wash your hair (or-co-wash) your hair every day, if not a few times a week during the week.
But we also know for us Black women, that may not be possible and that’s OK too. The key is to keep your hands clean, practice social distancing and keep your hands away from your face.
LEARN MORE about the coronavirus epidemic, how to protect yourself, symptoms and more at cdc.gov.