David King's Latest Update
As my regular customers know, I closed my humble barber shop back
in May 2010 primarily because I couldn't find enough licensed barbers to
work in it. The question that seems to be on everyone's lips
these days is,
"When can I get my next King Barber haircut?"
Well, it depends on how soon I can find a suitable barber shop in which
to offer my services. That might take a while.
Those of you who have been in my barber chair will recall my devotion
to sanitation; that I always made it a point to wash my hands before every
haircut, to replace the razor blade in my holder for each customer, and
to sanitize neck duster brushes after each use. I kept a clean
and sanitary shop, because it seemed to be necessary.
However, it seems that sanitation is an under-appreciated virtue here
in Texas haircutting shops. I cannot find one that meets the
minimum levels required by law and decency. Until I find one
to work in that does, I'll have to remain in "barber hibernation."
This ends the short answer. Continue reading for the Story
Behind The Story
= or =
"You can't let sleeping dogs lie when you let the cat out of the bag"
Some folks seem to regard my disciplined approach to sanitation
as somewhat "fanatical," but I consider it to be a fundamental requirement
of every barber service. In my opinion, indifference to cleanliness
presents an unacceptable risk to your health. And
since it's not difficult to to do the right thing and to do things right,
that's what I do.
In hopes of elevating sanitary conditions in Texas barber shops, on
October 4, 2010, I presented the Texas State Barber Advisory Board
my recommended revisions to the current sanitation regulations.
Until these changes are adopted, I probably won't find a place
in which to offer my tonsorial services.
In A Nutshell:
The current barber and cosmetologist sanitation rules need to include
requirements of FIFRA, OSHA, and TCEQ law:
1) FIFRA -- the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide
Act - sets rules for the proper identification, regulation, and use of
disinfectants and sterilants. Requires that all disinfectants
be approved by the FDA, and that all FDA-approved disinfectants be used
according to the directions on the package labeling.
2) OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard - Workplace safety for
anyone using blood-contaminated sharps. Also requires barbershop
employees to dispose of razor blades after one use. It provides
safety for us, as well as for you.
3) TCEQ - State rules that tells us what to do with blood-contaminated
sharps once our sharps containers are full.
Also, Handwashing should be mandatory.
Washing hands with soap and water before each customer should be required
of every hair cutter, and sinks to make this possible should be installed
next to every workstation.
A century ago, the medical profession generally regarded most barber
shops as unhealthy places. Here's what a couple of doctors
wrote back in the late 1800's:
"The Barber-Shop as a Source of Contagion." (1894) by George
Thomas Jackson, MD
"How often have you seen a barber with absolutely clean fingernails?
How often have you seen one that was particular in washing his hands after
attending to one customer before going to the next? How often, in even
the best of shops, have you found perfectly dry towels? How often has a
feeling of disgust come upon you when you have had your hair brushed by
a barber, and thought of what the conditions of the heads of the previous
customers may have been upon whom the same brush may have been used since
last it was thoroughly washed and disinfected ? If you have allowed the
barber to use his hair-clipping machine upon you, have you ever thought
how difficult it would be to disinfect that machine, and how very unlikely
it was that such an idea as disinfecting it would enter the barber's head?
What better means of infection could you invent than first to soften the
epidermis with soap and water, then to scrape off some of the protecting
cells with a razor held in hands whose nails harbor many a microorganism,
then to pat the tender, perhaps denuded, surface with a moist towel, and
last of all, powder it with a powder-puff that has been in contact with
unnumbered scores of faces? And yet we, who are educated men, many of whom
would perhaps hesitate to use the brush, comb or other toilet utensil of
a friend, submit to these things without a murmur, and even without a thought."
Dr. Jackson continues:
"Perhaps you are sceptical about the dangers that lurk in the barbers'
shops, because yon have not seen instances of contagion arising from them.
I do not wish to pose as an alarmist, but I assure you that I am fully
convinced of them, and if you are conversant with German and French literature
you must have noticed how our foreign confreres are fully awake to them.
So much is this the case that in certain parts of Germany rigorous rules
have been promulgated by the government regulating the hygiene of the barber-shops.
In France epidemics of alopecia areata in regiments have been traced to
the use of the infernal machine called the hair-clipper. Surely if there
is any better instrument for spreading contagious disease of the scalp
than this machine I do not know it."
-- Google the title at "Google Books" to read the entire
And, in 1897, Dr. Walter Suiter (of the NY State Medical
The Barber Shop as a Menace to the Public Health (1897) by A.
Walter Suiter, AM, MD, from Herkimer, N.Y.
"It seems that the time has arrived when the attention of this
Association, and through it, that of public health authorities in general,
should be called to that part of personal hygiene which applies to the
It is astonishing that while the sanitary relations of most,
if not all, other public occupations have been investigated to the minutest
detail and salutary restrictions in many instances of the most rigorous
character have been imposed to protect the public interest, the first attempt
to regulate the operation of the barber shop and to apply to it the rules
of sanitary administration has been made within the month just past.
That this common mode of infection should have for so long escaped
authoritative attention in these days of asepsis and anti-sepsis may be
noted as one of the most contradictory circumstances of our times.
To point out the necessitities for reform in this respect, will
be the purpose of this brief paper, and the writer does not expect to do
more than furnish a text for such remarks or such action on the part of
the Association as will tend to bring the subject properly to the notice
of local health authorities who alone have the power to act in such premises.
Dr. Suiter continues:
"One evening several years ago, a sheepish looking individual
shuffled his way into my office waiting-room, and requested a prescription.
He was observed to be suffering from syphillis and presented a most unattractive
appearance, his face was literally covered with eruptions and his mouth
and lips were ulcerous in a high degree with the form of manifestation
known as "mucous patches." His hair was fast falling, and, in short,
he was a perfect focus of infection. His case was disposed
of, and he was gladly dismissed.
Having to take an early morning train, I shortly afterwards
proceeded to the barber shop to prepare for my toilet. My barber's
chair was occupied and I sat down to await my turn. As the occupant
was about to arise, I was startled to observe the very patient for whom
I had prescribed an hour previous!
It is needless to state that I took my departure, although I
was obliged to exercise some finesse in order to avoid exposing the professional
secret that had been confided to me. Neither did I dare for
the same reason to offer any suggestion for public protection. Instances
with this latter feature, in this and other relations, are constantly occurring
to physicians as all who listen will appreciate.
Then and there I resolved that my face should never again be
shaved by a barber, and the result is apparent. I also adopted a
plan for my occasional visits to the barber shop for the trimming of hair
and beard. Carrying always a packet containing shears, comb,
brushes, and clippers, I insist that everything be removed from the chair,
clean towels be substituted, and that the barber thoroughly wash his hands
before proceeding; and for all this, I tender him (beforehand, if
a stranger), a fee so large that he cannot complain of what ordinarily
seems to him a hardship. The only inconvenience I experience is,
that among the tonsorial fraternity of my vicinity I am compelled to bear
the somewhat unsavory appelation of the "champion crank of the town."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
An Early Effort For Regulation
Citizens of one New York city had suffered enough that the local Board
of Health passed some sanitation regulations, which were published in The
New York Times on December 16, 1900:
SANITATION OF BARBER SHOPS
Implements Must Be Sterilized, Clean
Towels Furnished, and Barbers
Be Clean in Person
Special to The New York Times
MOUNT VERNON, Dec. 15 -- Because
several residents of Mount Vernon are suffer-
ing from "barbers itch," said to have been
contracted in the city, the Board of Health
proposes rigidly to enforce new sanitary
measures in all barbers' shops.
According to Dr. George C. Weiss of the
Health Board, an inspection will be made
of each shop to see that all razors, combs,
brushes, and clippers are sterilized in anti-
septic solutions after each separate use.
Among other rules, a separate clean towel
shall be used for each person; the use of
sponges is prohibited; every barber must
wash his hands after shaving each person;
all soap must be pure, and running water
must be provided. Other regulations order
the washing out of each shaving cup, the
brushing of head rests, and prohibit the
use of powder puffs.
A set of the rules must be posted conspic-
uously, and Inspectors will arrest all vio-
lators, who will be prosecuted for a misde-
meanor. Some of the barbers say they will
have to go out of business, as the rules are
NOTE: "Barber's Itch" is a term for a fungus that lives in
barber's shaving brushes and afflicts the face, sort of like "Athlete's
foot" fungus. Recent barber rule changes have inexplicably
omitted the requirement to use disinfected shaving brushes.
Returning to 2010 . . .
I mention medical observations from 110 years ago to show that not
much progress has been made towards barber and cosmetology shop sanitation
since then. Here's a link to a recent KSAT (channel 12 in San
report on an unsanitary flea-market haircutting operation:
Illegal Haircut Operation Found At Flea Market
State Issues Violations To Men Cutting Hair At Mission Flea Market
Brian Mylar, KSAT 12 News Reporter
September 3, 2010
SAN ANTONIO -- Complaints by a local hair salon
owner led the KSAT Defenders to a south side flea market where state investigators
say an illegal haircut operation was going on.
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
has issued violations to two men who were found to be cutting hair in a
south side flea market.
The KSAT Defenders were first tipped off about
the activity by a salon owner who witnessed some potentially serious sanitation
problems at the Mission Flea Market.
She said she had reported
the activity to the TDLR but had gotten no action.
The Mission Flea Market offers bargains of
all kinds. But the salon owner, who wants to be identified
only as Marie, said flea market haircuts are no bargain.
"Here we see people cutting hair on the dirt,” Marie said. “They have
nothing, no sink, no water."
She also said it is unfair to those who are
"They're getting away with it and we want
it to stop," Marie said.
The KSAT Defenders contacted the TDLR to ask
about complaints about flea market haircuts at Mission and investigators
were interested in seeing the operation.
Wednesday they went to take a look. While both barbers had customers
in the chair, TDLR investigators swooped in and found a number of violations.
Everything from not being licensed to sanitation
"There was no running water in the flea market,
there was no liquid disinfectant," said Susan Stanford, spokeswoman for
Penalties for each can run from $500 to $3,000.
"He will not get off with a warning, there's
too many violations, and unlicensed activity we take very seriously," Stanford
Stanford also said there is chance customers
could come out with a staph infection.
Interestingly enough, if you compare the level
of sanitation practiced by this flea-market operator with your local
establishments, you may not find any real difference. Do they
wash their hands? Do they disinfect their combs, brushes, scissors
and clippers after each use? Sterilize or replace razor blades?
Clean towels? Sweep up the hair on the floor after each haircut?
Disinfect the shampoo sink? Check and see for yourself.
Every time we barbers replace a used razor blade with a new one, it
costs us 10 or 20 cents. Sanitation rules for razors
were changed so we can reuse them over and over until they become so dull
that customers beg us to change them. In my opinion, it's best
if we barbers replace the blade after one use than it would be to risk
your good health with a used blade coated with someone else's bacteria
One would suspect that these sanitation rules were written with cost
savings to TDLR licensees instead of public safety in mind.
It is cheaper to reuse a pumice stone (for pedicures) than to replace it,
so the rules allow us to spray them with alcohol and reuse them on someone
else. The problem with this rule is that it endangers anyone
who the stone is reused on, because porous items cannot be disinfected.
Alcohol is not an EPA-registered disinfectant, and even
if it was, manufacturers of EPA-registered disinfectants explicitly
caution users not to use their products on porous surfaces.
As a consequence, one lady in Fort Worth
died in 2006 evidently after someone used a pumice stone on
her foot. It cut her skin, which became infected, and she later
Here is the link to the news story:
FORT WORTH, Texas — Kimberly Kay Jackson
loved getting pedicures each month, especially with bright pink nail polish,
although as a paraplegic she couldn’t feel the massages and bubbling water
on her feet.
But after her heel was cut with a pumice stone during
a July pedicure, she developed an oozing wound that wouldn’t heal despite
repeated rounds of antibiotics, relatives said. The 46-year-old died in
February of a heart attack triggered by a staph infection,
said the family’s attorney, Steven C. Laird.
One would expect that after a fatality from inadequate sanitation,
someone in government would have thought to review these sanitation rules,
but since that tragedy in 2006, nothing has been changed.
Here is the current law:
16 TAC 82.106(f)
(f) Buffer blocks, porous nail files, pedicure files, callus rasps,
pumice and foot brush, arbor, sanding bands, sleeves, heel and toe
pumice, exfoliating block (rough surfaced or absorbent materials) shall
be cleaned by manually brushing or other adequate methods to remove
all visible debris after each use, and then sprayed
with Isopropyl or ethyl alcohol, an EPA-registered bactericidal,
fungicidal, and virucidal disinfectant, or a or a high level chlorine bleach
solution in accordance with this chapter. If a buffer block or porous nail
file is exposed to broken skin (skin that is not intact) or unhealthy skin
or nails, it must be discarded immediately after use in a trash receptacle.
As I mentioned, there is no EPA-registered disinfectant that is approved
for disinfecting porous objects such as pumice stones, so Rule 82.106
(duplicated for cosmetologists in 83.106) directs barbers and cosmetologists
to misuse disinfectants and to transgress the FIFRA law. So,
even if the Texas sanitation law was observed, under FIFRA, the pumice
stone still should not have been reused. Had the pedicurist
observed Texas sanitation laws that included FIFRA requirements,
Ms. Jackson would be alive today.
Making Changes to the Barber and Cosmetology Sanitation
After I closed my barber shop in May, I revised the barber sanitation
rules, and I presented the fruits of my labors to the Texas Barber
Advisory Board on October 4, 2010. If you're curious to see
what I presented them, click on the box on the left side of the page.
Also, I snail-mailed a letter asking them to make hand washing with soap
and water mandatory, and another asking them to remove Ultraviolet Sterilizers
from the list of approved sterilizers, since they are not actually sterilizers,
and they do not sterilize our barber tools. Click on the box
on the left side of the page to see them.
Who is at risk from these inadequate barber and cosmetology
In a recent study, 39% of barbers in the far-away country of Turkey
tested positive for hepatitis. 6% of their razors
tested positive as well.
Texas barbers who are not educated in barber school about the hazards
associated with blood-contaminated sharps and those who do not comply with
the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard are at a higher-than-average risk
of acquiring a blood-borne disease, and may well have a rate of hepatitis
infection similar to Turkish barbers. Almost every student
barber shaves customers without disposable gloves, and the resulting blood-bare
skin contact probably results in infection. Customers who patronize
those barbers may have an elevated risk of infection as well.
Based on the annual number of haircuts with neck shaves performed in
Texas with dirty razors, and the infection rate from accidental HIV-contaminated
needle sticks (400-to-1), I'd expect that about 100 new hepatitis
infections are produced every year by inadequately trained TDLR licensees.
Overall, the risk for disease transmission is very small for any one haircut.
But in a state where the annual number of haircuts number in the millions,
the small risk multiplied by the large number of opportunities results
in a guaranteed number of infections. Changing the razor blade
for every customer will eliminate this risk entirely.
Directions on every label of EPA-registered disinfectants say to use
the product on non-porous surfaces, yet the TDLR sanitation rules direct
barbers and cosmetologists to use disinfectants on porous items, like nail
files and pumice stones. Anyone provided services with these
items is at risk of serious infection. Several manufacturers
of porous nail files print the word "Disinfectable" on their products,
even though the items are not actually disinfectable.
Anyone who has employed a barber to perform shaving services, since
1992, who did not provide PPE (personal protective equipment) is responsible
for their medical expenses if their employee acquired a bloodborne disease
in the workplace. Ignorance of the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens
Standard is nearly universal in TDLR-regulated barber and cosmetology shops,
but is common knowledge in every other covered profession.
I wonder why this is so.
Some other interesting documents include:
by Charles Downey
In 1965, a medical researcher managed to trace several hepatitis B
patients back to a barber who unintentionally transmitted the disease by
shaving all the patients with the same razor. The barber had used a disinfectant,
but it wasn't strong enough to kill all the germs.
Hepatitis not killed by barbershop disinfectants:
Canadian policy on used razor blades
London, ON - The Middlesex-London Health Unit is advising the public
of the potential risks associated with being shaved by a barber. After
conducting recent inspections, the Health Unit found that some barbers
are re-using or have re-used razor blades to shave the face, neck, and/or
sideburns of clients. The re-use of razor blades between clients is not
recommended due to the potential risk of transmitting blood-borne infections
(e.g. hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV).
Amazing microscope photos of bacteria on a used razor blade.
See what you're up against -- or what's up against you. The
bacteria shown are 5 microns long; hepatitis viruses are 40 nanometers
in diameter, so one bacteria is 125 viruses long. Every razor
has lots of nooks and crannies for these bugs to hide in before your next
shave. And no, not all of our disinfectants will kill the hepatitis
Introduction to the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard (Youtube)
The FIFRA law
Ignaz Semmelweis, handwashing hero
Just call me "Felix"
Nothing would please me more than to once again tend to your every tonsorial
need and whim. But there are very few barber shops set up for
proper barber services. And many shop owners regard my interest in
shop sanitation as "fanatical." Without motivation from state
regulators, I doubt things will improve.
A curious letter from a fellow barber here in Texas:
As a barber myself, I was very disappointed in
your fanatical concern over germs and spreading disease in barbershops,
that you displayed on your website. Shame on you! You are acting
like a traitor. Its rather obvious your are attempting to make potential
customers think most barbers are filthy and you are one of the few who
keep these high standards. That's dirty pool my friend. It
is really stupid in my opinion for restaurants to be required to put those
sign in the restrooms telling the public that employees must wash their
hands. The only thing these signs do for me is bring something unpleasant
to my mind that I would ordinarily not even think about. Also there
is no way this could be enforced anyway. So now I'm really grossed
out. And I'm just about to eat! While I agree some sanitation
measures should be in place, all your doing is perpetuating even more oppressive
and excessive regulation. These are haircuts not brain surgery!
I use the same duster on everyone, to use an example, and I have never
in 33 years had anyone come back complaining about a rash or any problem
acquired in my shop. The fact of the matter is the sanitation rules
that are in place now are MORE than enough. If they were not, people
would be returning in droves to their barbers complaining over skin rashes
and diseases from unsanitized razors and implements. Remember the
Odd Couple? You must be Felix! I'm sorry sir but your acting
like a 100% germaphobe to me. And you create distrust and suspicion
in the minds of the public against your fellow tradesmen. Shame
. . . . .
Yes indeed, 'shame on me' for thinking that
disinfectants should be properly used, and that razor blades should be
replaced after every customer service. 'Shame on me'
for thinking that hands should be washed before every service.
Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis must have been a crackpot.
Tsk tsk tsk . . .
Getting back to the original question . . .
The way Texas bureaucracy works, we may never
have sanitary barber shops in Texas in which I can ply my trade.
But you never know; if the necessary changes are made to current
law, I may be back sooner instead of later.
I am hopeful that the revised sanitation
rules that I presented to the TDLR on October 4 will be warmly received
and quickly adopted, and the new requirements announced in time for the
upcoming holiday season. If you would like to cheer for my
proposal as it wends its way through the Texas bureaucracy, here are the
folks who should hear your words of encouragement:
1) Ms. Connors, who chairs the Texas Barber Advisory Board:
2) your Texas state senator:
3) your Texas state representative:
4) and maybe the governor, too:
5) and the people who run the day-to-day operations of the TDLR:
Thank you all very much. You've
been terrific customers and friends in the past; generous, thoughtful,
interesting, and supportive. I remain hopeful that we shall
meet once again under happier circumstances, with a song in my heart and
a sanitized clipper in my hand. I will keep you posted on this website
and by email when I have good news for you.