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Do blow dryers spread germs? Some salons won't offer blowouts

Some folks are concerned that the popular hot tool can spread germs.
Hair Salons Are Back in Business As Texas Continues To Re-Open Businesses
Connecticut officials originally told local salons they were not allowed to offer blow dry services when they reopen. The government has now reversed the decision.Tom Pennington / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

One of the best parts about a trip to the hair salon is kicking back while a stylist blows out your hair. But blow-dry services may look different across the country as salons begin the reopening process.

Last week, Connecticut governor Ned Lamont announced that local hair salons could reopen on May 20, but would not be allowed to use blow dryers. The reason? To ostensibly prevent the circulation of germs. But blow-dry services are a huge part of the salon business, and local stylists expressed concern over the new guidelines.

Just days later, the Connecticut government reversed their decision, and said salons will indeed be allowed to use blow dryers.

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Each state will have their own unique guidelines for reopening salons in the coming weeks, but the guidelines Connecticut initially proposed do raise a few questions: Can blow dryers spread germs? Are other states banning blow-dry services? And should you take any extra precautions while getting a blowout at your local salon? TODAY Style spoke to health and beauty experts to find out.

Hairdressers allowed to reopen in Tatarstan, Russia
A trip to the salon will look a lot different in the coming months.Yegor Aleyev / Getty Images

How one salon is preparing to reopen

When Salon O owners Omar Roth and Rocco Palermiti first heard that salons in Connecticut were preparing to reopen, they were over the moon — until they heard that blow-dry services were off the table.

"We were a little shocked because that’s how we finish our work and the blow dry usually makes everyone feel amazing after a haircut, especially when they are paying top dollar," Roth told TODAY Style. "We feel like there’s also a lot of speculation and at the end of the day, they’re just trying to figure this all out as we go."

Once the blow-dry ban was lifted, the owners of the Greenwich salon were relieved, but they also felt conflicted.

"As a business we have decided not to do blowouts until we have more information as to why they were initially banned," Roth said.

The salon is requiring clients to wear face masks and only enter when they are called in for their appointment. They will also do temperature checks when clients arrive, offer clean robes for each person and take payment over the phone whenever possible to minimize contact. Staff will wear face masks and shields, and will sanitize all tools in between clients.

Like other salons in Connecticut, Salon O will also have to follow additional guidelines, including:

  • Placing workstations at least 6 feet apart
  • Offering hand sanitizer/wipes at the salon entrance
  • Providing increased ventilation and airflow whenever possible
  • Operating at only 50% capacity

The added safety measures will undoubtedly make operating Salon O a bit more difficult than normal, but Roth said he's feeling very grateful nonetheless: "This is the new normal. We are just happy, even in the midst of this situation, to be able to go back to work. We feel blessed that we can afford to reopen. I’m sure a lot of salons as well as barbershops won’t be able to do that."

Hairdresser blowing beautiful woman's hair
Up until now, most of us never gave any thought to whether or not blow dryers circulate germs.Getty Images

Do blow dryers really circulate germs?

You've likely heard that those hand dryers in public restrooms circulate germs throughout the air, but do blow dryers work in a similar way?

"There are some similarities with hand dryers in bathrooms, although many of the issues with hand dryers are bacteria/pathogens being transmitted from one individual to another with each use. Specific to blow dryers, there is concern that blow dryers may circulate pathogens or enable them to spread more quickly," said Dr. Lechauncy D. Woodard, a professor at the University of Houston College of Medicine.

Blow dryers can potentially circulate germs, but the risk is not on hair specifically, according to Dr. David M. Aronoff, director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Division of Infectious Diseases. Aronoff stresses that research is still limited.

"Shampoo and water will remove any SARS-CoV-2 virus from hair. Drying clean hair poses minimal risk for aerosolizing or dispersing virus from the scalp or hair," he said.

Even so, both clients and stylists should follow proper precautions like wearing a mask during a blowout. "They should cover their nose and mouth when hair dryers are in use, to limit the dispersal of respiratory secretions," Aronoff said.

Stylists can also help minimize any potential risk by disinfecting blow dryers in between clients, pointing it toward the floor rather than upward (and never pointed at the nose or mouth) and running it for a short period of time before using on each client.

Unfortunately, there's no data comparing the use of handheld blow dryers and hooded hair dryers, but Woodard said it's possible that hooded dryers could be a bit less risky since the air flow is more contained.

"However, regardless of how services are provided, it is important that proper safety precautions, including social distancing, masks, physical barriers where possible and appropriate sanitation, are consistently used," she said.

Are other states banning blow dry services?THIERRY ROGE / Getty Images

How are other salons handling blow-dry services?

Salons in New Hampshire are reopening, but they are not allowed to offer blow-dry services. Other than that, most states haven't provided specific guidelines requiring salons to abstain from using the popular hot tool.

Georgia has also allowed salons to reopen with no mention of blow-dryer concerns, and many local businesses have begun offering the service all while following CDC, WHO and local regulations closely to ensure the safety of both clients and stylists.

"While I am not an expert and everyone has a different opinion, we are taking every precaution in our Georgia location and throughout the country as we pursue our reopen plan," DreamDry CEO Jennifer June said.

DreamDry salons across the country are implementing more frequent salon cleanings, mandatory training prior to returning to work and staggered/limited appointments in addition to requiring the use of personal protective equipment by clients and stylists.

Since it still isn't fully clear if blow dryers pose a risk, many beauty experts warn that banning these services prematurely could pose an additional financial burden for salons that have already had to close for weeks on end.

"As a franchise business, all of our locations are locally owned and operated by small business owners. Those franchise owners have already been impacted by having to close down and a further shut down would just amplify that impact," Blo CEO Vanessa Yakobson said. The salon chain focuses on blowouts and doesn't offer cuts or hair coloring. "We are bound by rigorous state regulations for hygiene and sanitation. We have armed our franchise owners with additional resources to help them operate under the safest measures possible for our guests and staff alike."

Still, safety measures are being enforced on a case-by-case basis. Georgia-based Van Michael Salons announced their decision to pause all blow-dry services in a recent Facebook post, writing: "Temporarily, we will not be doing any blow-drying in the salon in order to prevent forceful airflow of any germs. Please know how important the best possible luxury service for you is to us. Any adjustments in your service regarding shampoos and blow-drys will be temporary."

Even though they aren't required to ban blow-dry services, some major salons, like Sally Hershberger in New York City, plan to limit them when they reopen.

“Though blow-drying has become an almost essential service in a salon, it has potential to spread virus throughout the space. If a client or staffer were to sneeze or cough, the blow dryer could quickly propel droplets," Sally Hershberger said.

For the time being, the salon has decided to limit the use of blow-dryers to private "blow-dry rooms" where only one stylist and one client will be allowed at any time. The salon's protocols also include temperature checks for all staff and clients upon arrival, weekly staff testing for coronavirus, cashless payments and PPE (face masks, gloves, gowns, visors) for staff and clients.