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Common cosmetics treatment may increase risk of HIV transmission

By Lucy Whitehouse + , 10-Jan-2017
Last updated on 10-Jan-2017 at 14:17 GMT2017-01-10T14:17:55Z

Common cosmetics treatment may increase risk of HIV transmission

Microdermabrasion, a common treatment by which a person’s skin is gently sanded with the aim of removing the thicker outer layer as a type of facial, is being investigated by health officials in the UK.

Public Health England (PHE) is following up reports that three beauty salon staff members recently suffered needlestick injuries while carrying out the treatment.

The possibility of transmitting blood borne viruses, including HIV, between customers and beauty specialists through microdermabrasion is therefore being investigated.

There is a risk of transmission of blood borne viruses (hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and HIV) to staff members should needlestick injuries occur, or to clients through cross contamination,” PHE states.

How does it work, and what’s the risk?

The implement used in the treatment is a needle-studded cylindrical roller, which the beauty specialist rolls across the customer’s face, creating multiple small punctures in the skin.

As a result, there exists the potential for transfers of fluids, including blood and serous fluid: this is the reason practitioners and customers may be at risk of the transmission of blood borne viruses where they are present.

PHE says that the three incidents in question, which happened between March and May last year in the North West of England, highlighted that the microdermabrasion treatment in its current form may prove too risky.

"All exposed individuals were using the same needle microdermabrasion device,” PHE explains. “Needlestick injuries occurred during the process of disassembling the device after use on clients.”

PHE note that all three staff members tested negative for blood-borne viruses following the incident.

What could be done?

As part of the ongoing investigation into the issue, PHE says it is working with environmental health officers and the device manufacturer to change the design of the tool used in the treatment, meaning the risk of cross-contamination could be reduced.

The health body is also looking at supporting improved training and infection control guidance to beauty practitioners of the treatment, and notes that there is currently no regulation governing the use of needles in microdermabrasion.

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