Truth time! When was the last time you cleaned your hairbrush? Was it last week? Last year? Or maybe never? Is this one of those ah-ha moments?! If you're like most people, you probably don't give your hairbrush much thought beyond using it to detangle your locks and tame that mane. The bad news is that forgetting to add this beauty product to your cleaning routine can lead to some serious health hazards. Like mold on a hairbrush!
This contamination situation can turn a bad hair day into a health nightmare. Every time you brush those luscious locks, you’re also introducing all sorts of microscopic particles onto your scalp. And when you think about how many times you swipe this tool through your hair in a single day, that can equal a serious amount of damage. Not to mention, it’s lowering your indoor air quality!
In this post, we'll explain why mold grows in a hairbrush, the dangers of mold on a hairbrush, and how to prevent it from happening in the first place. That way, you can have peace of mind that your self-care routine isn’t messing with your well-being.
But First, Mold!
Mold actually isn’t the ultimate public enemy number one. This fungus among us plays a huge role in helping nature stay in order by assisting with processes like decomposition. The trouble begins when mold manages to make its way inside our homes and begins to grow on things like hairbrushes.
Once mold puts down roots called hyphae and starts to thrive, it begins to release microscopic spores into the surrounding area.¹’² Like the seeds of a plant, these spores are non-living particles until they land on a surface that has the components needed for growth.
Thanks to their hardy nature, most species of mold only need two elements to begin growing.³
These two items are:
A key detail to remember: If these two components are present for 24–48 hours, some species of mold spores can begin to grow. That’s why time is of the essence when it comes to preventing issues like mold on a hairbrush!
And to make matters more complicated, other contaminants like bacteria thrive in similar conditions. So not only are you battling a moldy scalp, but you’re also battling a bacteria-covered scalp as well.
Why Does Mold on a Hairbrush Happen?
Going off of the information above, it’s easy to see why mold on a hairbrush can occur. If a lucky mold spore blows into one of these beauty tools that has not been taken care of properly, it will think it has won the lottery dream home.
When it comes to food, edible options abound for a lucky mold spore. Between skin cells, ingredients in hair products, tiny hair particles, oils from your scalp, and other random organic matter floating around, there's never a shortage of things a mold colony can eat. Without proper care, this organic matter will build up and create an edible buffet for microbial growth.
That leaves moisture, which can easily become available if this tool is stored in a humid room, not dried out thoroughly after use, or has damaged areas that can trap water. Remember, all it takes is 24-28 hours on a wet surface for some species of mold to begin growing.
Before you know it, poof, there’s microbial growth on your trusty hairbrush. And oftentimes, it will be in a hidden location, like inside the bristles, where it’s difficult to see. That leads to spores, fragments, and potentially bacteria being released onto the brush’s surface and throughout the surrounding area. Also, some species of mold produce microscopic toxins called mycotoxins, further adding to the contamination.
All of that leads to unwanted particles on your scalp and in your home.
The Dangers of Mold on a Hair Brush
In nature, microbial growth isn’t a problem because all of those tiny little particles have a big, wide world to disperse through. When it occurs indoors or on your beauty tools, though, that’s when the situation gets a little messy. Instead of only encountering a few spores, mycotoxins, or bacteria particles throughout the day, now the body is dealing with an entire army of them every time you run that brush through your hair.
The ability of these particles to cause problems is largely due to their size. Measured in a unit called microns, these tiny specks are invisible to the naked eye and are so small that they can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed.
When you’re dealing with mold on a hairbrush, all of this direct contact with the skin ups the ante on how many particles are making their way into the body. As these particles make their way inside, the body tags them as foreign invaders and deploys the immune system to get rid of them ASAP. Again, when it’s only a few throughout the day, this typically doesn’t cause a problem.
When it’s dealing with a huge flood of them, however, the immune system can get overloaded and malfunction.⁷’⁸’⁹’¹⁰’¹¹’¹²’¹³’¹⁴ This opens the door to a slew of negative health effects and conditions like candida, Aspergillosis, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Some symptoms of exposure include:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Respiratory issues
- Mood swings
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Digestive problems
- Headaches and migraines
- Brain fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Hair loss
- Skin sensitivities
So, not only could you be dealing with scalp issues but also a host of other problems that make you feel icky and miserable.
The interesting thing about exposure is that no two people respond the same way. While one person may develop a hair loss problem while dealing with mold on a hairbrush, another may experience 15 symptoms and an autoimmune condition flare-up. You just never know what the response will be.
Researchers are still attempting to determine how and to what extent exposure can affect health, but it’s a hard subject to nail down. Various factors play a role in how someone will respond to exposure, including species of mold, the presence of mycotoxins, and their immune system status. Those with a compromised or developing immune system are at greater risk of experiencing reactions faster and to a greater degree.
The possibility of developing any health reaction is enough of a reason to actively work on preventing mold on a hairbrush and know what to do in case microbial growth moves in on your trusty tool. Not to mention, once an active mold colony moves into your home, the chances of more colonies developing as it continually releases spores into that indoor space skyrocket.
Preventing Mold on a Hairbrush
The good news is that preventing mold on your hair brushes is simple, and it only takes a few minutes of your time each week!
So, what can you do to prevent mold growth in your hair brushes? Here are some tips:
Clean Your Hair Brushes Regularly
Cleaning your hair brushes regularly is the best way to prevent mold growth, and it’s a great way to keep up your hair styling routine. But how often should you be cleaning your brushes? The frequency of cleaning depends on factors like the type of material of the brush, the frequency of use, and the number of hair products you use. However, as a general rule, it is recommended to clean your brush at least every 2 weeks.
How Do You Clean a Hairbrush?
How to clean a hairbrush depends on the type of material used in the tool itself. The best way to know how to clean your particular brush is to contact the manufacturer and get their recommendations. Every brush is different, so they’ll know how best to maintain their specific product.
That being said, the typical process includes removing hair from the brush, soaking it in your cleaning solution, and then drying it thoroughly once it's finished.
Try to use a botanical cleanser like white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide if possible, and always make sure to allow the brush to dry thoroughly before using it again.
Remove Hair Weekly
At least once a week, go through your brush with a fine-tooth comb (literally) and remove as much hair as possible. This will allow for better airflow and prevent opportunities for particles to build up.
Let Your Hair Brushes Dry Completely
If you brush your hair while it’s wet, make sure that it dries completely after each use to help prevent microbial growth. Also, after cleaning your brush, shake out any excess water and place it on a clean towel or drying rack. Avoid storing your brush in a damp bathroom cabinet or drawer, as this can create the perfect environment for mold spores to thrive.
Use a Hair Dryer
Using a hair dryer to dry your brush is one option to help prevent mold growth. After cleaning your brush, hold it a few inches away from the hair dryer on a low heat setting. Move the hair dryer back and forth over the brush, making sure to dry between the bristles. When the bush is completely dry, store it in a safe location. This being said, not all brushes are equipped to handle heat of any kind, so check the with manufacturer first.
Store Your Hair Brushes Properly
Storing your hair brushes properly should be a top priority. After using the prush, store it in a clean, dry place away from dampness. High humidity can lead to trapped moisture, allowing for microbial growth. That’s why indoor humidity should remain between 35-50%.
Replace Your Hair Brush When Necessary
If your hairbrush is old, damaged, or showing signs of wear and tear, it's time to replace it. Cracking, scratches, or any other issues can trap moisture, creating ideal conditions for microbial growth.
In addition to these prevention tips, it's important to be mindful of other factors that can contribute to mold growth. For example, using hair products that contain a lot of oils or other moisture-rich ingredients can transfer to the brush, creating ideal growing conditions for microbial growth.
Another factor to consider is the type of hairbrush you're using. Some types of brushes, such as natural bristle brushes, are more prone to mold growth than others. If you're concerned about mold growth, consider switching to a brush made from synthetic materials or one that has ventilation holes to allow for better airflow.
How Do You Get Rid of Mold on a Hairbrush?
Sometimes, random situations pop up that allow mold on a hairbrush. That fungus among us is a seriously pesky organism!
Unfortunately, the best way to get rid of mold on a hairbrush is to get rid of the tool and replace it with a new one. All of the particles released by mold and/or bacteria will have made their way into the bristles and any other nook and cranny available on the brush’s surface. Mycotoxins and bacteria, in particular, can adhere to surfaces like superglue and are incredibly difficult to remove.
With all of the small crevices in the brush, completely decontaminating can be nearly impossible. Keep in mind that full decontamination includes removing the mold colony by the roots as well as the byproducts and other contaminants (like bacteria) that tagged along for the particle party. Anything left behind can lead to further exposure and adverse health reactions, which is why bleach should never be the go-to option for mold remediation.
Also, if you find mold on a hairbrush, it's important to deeply clean any other hair tools, such as combs or hair ties, that may have come into contact with the contamination.
How Do You Know if There’s Mold on a Hairbrush?
Detecting if there’s mold on a hairbrush can be tricky. The growth could blend in with the bristles, or it could be hidden inside the brush. You have to do a thorough inspection as well as rely on your senses for help.
Any Visible Growth?
With so many species existing in the world, mold colonies can come in a variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Some of the most common colors include green, white, gray, blue, red, black, brown, or a combination of them. As for textures, they could be fuzzy, powdery, velvety, or slimy.
If any type of unidentifiable growth pops up on the brush, it's a safe bet to assume there’s a mold problem. Grabbing a flashlight and looking at any and all difficult-to-see locations is a great idea to help catch a problem.
Is There A Smell?
Mold growth isn’t always visible. Again, it could be hidden inside the bristles or the brush itself. In this instance, look to your nose to help determine if there’s a problem.
Growing mold often creates an earthy, musty, damp, cigar-like smell due to the release of gases called microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC).¹³ If this odor is coming from the hairbrush, it points to a problem existing inside.
Are You Developing Symptoms?
Not all mold growth is visible, and not all mold growth emits an odor. In cases such as this, it’s important to pay attention to how you feel when you’re using the brush. If chronic symptoms seem to spark up or become worse over time, particularly after being around the tool, exposure to mold on a hairbrush might be the root cause.
Our bodies are incredible warning systems that will alert us if something’s wrong, including if there’s a contaminant in our indoor environments. It’s up to us to listen to these signals and figure out what the root cause is so that it can be eliminated.
Taking Mold Out Of Your Hair Routine
Let’s be honest: no one wants to add mold to their haircare routine. Not only is it way up there on the ick factor, but it’s also not great for your hair health or your overall wellness.
Remember, prevention is the ultimate power move when it comes to hairbrush hygiene. By implementing these easy tips and tricks, you're not just saying "bye-bye" to those contaminants but also giving your hair the VIP treatment it deserves. So, take a stand against the microscopic contaminants and declare, "Not today, mold! Not on my watch!"
This is just a piece of the home health puzzle to ensure our indoor environments are supporting our wellness.
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