On Friday, MSNBC reporter Matt Bradley was caught slicking his hair back with spit while reporting live from war-torn Syria. He rocketed not one, but two large loogies into his cupped hands before working them into his mane.
The saliva-styling moment, which has since gone viral thanks to the above tweet, made most of the internet squirm in their seats. Some, however, came to Bradley’s defense, explaining that hair gel is a luxury when reporting live from an actual battlefield.
Bradley himself confirmed this sentiment, retweeting the video clip along with the hashtag #WarIsHell.
Disgust aside, the important question here is, does it actually work? In short: No. “Spit isn’t as effective as hair gel,” hair stylist Janine Jones tells me. “Spit doesn’t have any properties in it — like alcohol or silicon — that can hold a hairstyle.”
She does mention, though, that spit might give your hair a wet look, or at least, it will until it inevitably dries (I will not throw up on my computer, I will not throw up on my computer). In which case, spit could have provided Bradley with just enough hold to smooth his flyaways for a brief moment on television.
But back to the disgust: There’s also, of course, the question of how unsanitary this is. “Saliva certainly does contain a variety of pathogens,” says primary care physician Marc Leavey. “Several bacterial species, including streptococcus, can live quite quietly in your mouth. Although some strains may be associated with diseases, such as strep throat or meningitis, those strains that inhabit the mouth chronically are usually more benign. There are also viruses that may be harbored in the mouth, particularly when one is ill. So, if you have a cold or the flu, the viruses that cause those illnesses would be present in your saliva. Remember the ‘kissing disease?’ Mononucleosis, caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, would be a classic saliva-borne pathogen.”
So yeah, spit is gross. But does rubbing it into your scalp pose a threat to the people around you?
“In order to transmit those pathogens to another person to cause a disease, you would need to present a reasonable quantity of fresh, contaminated saliva to a receptive orifice in the other person,” Leavey explains. “So, passionately kissing an individual who has active mononucleosis is likely not a good idea. Likewise, being in the path of the salivary water droplets expelled from a strong cough or sneeze can also be problematic. But, in the instance you cite, unless one started munching the freshly dampened hair immediately following the application of tonsorial saliva, presuming there was an infectious agent in that saliva, the likelihood of disease transmission should be minimal.”
Well, folks, you heard it hear first: Don’t chew on people’s hair after they spread a bunch of spit onto it.
* throws up on computer *