Haircut trend fueling ringworm outbreak, say Spanish dermatologists

Haircut trend fueling ringworm outbreak, say Spanish dermatologists

Fungal infection highly contagious, can be spread by infected electric razors

By Alyssa McMurtry

OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - An outbreak of scalp ringworm, primarily affecting young men, is emanating from barbershops around Spain, according to dermatologists.

The Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology said in a statement that the number of cases has been surging since 2021. It advised health authorities to ensure that barbershops and hair salons are properly disinfecting their tools.

Dermatologists linked the ringworm outbreak to the trend of fade haircuts, which “involve going to the barbershop on a weekly basis.”

A fade is a hairstyle where the hair gradually decreases in length from the top of the head to the bottom, blending seamlessly into the skin.

Fades can be done with electric razors or barber’s knives, though Spanish dermatologists suggest ringworm is primarily spreading due to infected electric razors.

Scalp ringworm is a highly contagious fungal infection — not a worm — that can cause red, scaly skin, hair loss, pain, itching and inflammation in the area.

Dermatologists say the skin symptoms have been showing up on the nape of the neck or lower head — the areas that need the most work to maintain a fade.

The infection can be cured with proper treatment, but it is easier to treat when caught early, according to the statement.

An epidemiological study of the outbreak in Spain has been accepted for publication in a scientific journal. In it, scientists performed a retrospective study of 107 cases of scalp ringworm.

“We noticed a trend of ringworm cases in young men who were getting their heads shaved in barbershops. But they were just anecdotes so we decided to do a study to figure out clinical patterns and how to recognize it because it can be confused with dandruff or eczema,” co-author and dermatologist Jorge Romaní told Spanish daily El Pais on Wednesday, adding that the 107 cases were just “the tip of the iceberg.”

A 2020 study in Germany also traced 18 similar cases in German barbershops. In Australia, a mom went viral last year after claiming her 11-year-old son developed a “horrific” ringworm infection after visiting a busy barbershop in Sydney.​​​​​​​

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