- Lip balm
There are two types of herpes: simplex type 1 (oral) and simplex type 2 (genital)and both can be spread via direct contact. If someone who has oral herpes uses lip balm near an infected area, or uses it too soon after oral sex, they can spread the virus. Luckily, STIs can't exist for very long on inanimate objects, but the key takeaway here is that it's probably not a good idea to share lip balm with friends or family. Oh, and stay away from tester items in makeup stores.
They may be in fashion, but beards can be the perfect breeding ground for germs, causing fungal infections and the aforementioned herpes - they can even carry pubic lice. Thick beards can also hide symptoms of a skin issue that isn't related to the beard itself. If you do have a beard, it's best to take grooming seriously and keep on top of hygiene.
For many women, a regular bikini wax is part of their beauty regime. What they may not know is that they could catch an infection if the waxers aren't being safe. For example, if waxers 'double-dip' into wax with the same stick, they may be spreading an STI. As well as this, research has shown that the action of removing pubic hair can cause 'deficits in the mucocutaneous barrier' - the skin's membrane - allowing viruses or bacteria to enter the body. And it seems that the risk is especially high when it comes to Brazilian waxes - the full removal of hair can leave people more vulnerable to small cuts and tears to the skin, making it easier to pick up an infection.
- Tanning beds
Thinking about tanning inside this summer? You may want to think twice. Believe it or not the ultraviolet light doesn't kill off bacteria – in fact, overexposure means it could become resistant. Staphylococcus bacteria, which can cause skin infections, fecal bacteria, the herpes virus and the human papillomavirus (HPV), are all able to withstand the heat of a sunbed. It's then possible for infection to transfer to another sunbed user, entering the body via a small cut in the skin. Perhaps you should go for the self-tanning option instead.
- Tattoos or piercings
If you decide to get a tattoo or piercing, you should be aware that there's a risk of contracting an STI. Needles can easily carry Hepatitis B or C – or even HIV – if the instruments aren't thoroughly cleaned beforehand. Most shops will have the necessary hygiene measures in place, but it's still very important that you do your own research and ask the staff about their safety policies.
- Dry humping
It's possible to catch the herpes virus if you are doing skin-to-skin dry humping - even though there's no penetration or bodily fluids involved. This is because infectious material from warts (HPV) and other viral or bacterial infection could be present. The risk of transmission depends on the amount of infection someone has and if there are cuts in the skin. Dry humping with clothes on could be a better option.
If you feel alarmed after this article, don't be. The chances you'll catch and STI from any of the above are minimal. However, it's always better to be safe than sorry and understanding the risks can empower you to make the right choices.