Halacha Date: 5 Tevet 5782 December 9 2021
Question: Is one obligated to wash one’s hands (Netilat Yadayim) after taking a haircut?
Answer: Our Sages list various situations where one must wash one’s hands. Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 4) states: “The following activities require one to wash one’s hands: One who awakens from one’s sleep, one who exits the restroom or bathhouse, one who cuts his nails, one who removes his shoes, one who touches his feet, one who scratches or picks his head (i.e. the scalp area between the hairs on one’s head), and some say even one who walks between the deceased.” In the following section (Section 19), Maran adds that one who takes a haircut must wash one’s hands as well. The source for this is the Gemara in Masechet Pesachim (page 112a).
There is No Distinction Between One Who Cuts One’s Own Hair and One One’s Has His Hair Cut by a Barber Whether Man or Woman
Based on this, one who cuts one’s own hair must wash his hands afterwards. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes in a response quoted in the Sefer Yalkut Yosef (Chapter 4, page 406) that regarding this Halacha, there is no distinction between one who cuts one’s own hair and one who has one’s hair cut by others. In any case, one must wash one’s hands afterwards.
Likewise, it is obvious that there is no distinction between men and women regarding this Halacha as both must wash their hands after having their hair cut or after cutting another person’s hair.
Cutting a Child’s Hair-“Chalaka/Upsherin”
Several great modern-day Poskim (quoted in Yalkut Yosef ibid.) write that if one cuts the hair of a young child and does not actually touch his scalp but only touches his hair, such as the custom to cut some locks of a child’s hair when he reaches the age of three, this is not considered a “haircut” for which one must wash one’s hands.
Shaving One’s Facial Hair
If one shaves one’s beard (in a halachically acceptable manner of course), some say that one need not wash one’s hands after doing so, for by “cutting one’s hair,” our Sages referred only to cutting the hair of one’s head regarding which the reasons of an Evil Spirit and cleanliness of one’s hands apply, as opposed to the hair of one’s beard. Indeed, Hagaon Harav Ben Zion Abba Shaul zt”l ruled accordingly (see Ohr Le’Zion, Volume 2, Chapter 44. Also, see Sefer Yalkut Yosef page 407 who rules leniently regarding one who shaves one’s beard regularly.)
Summary: One who takes a haircut must wash one’s hands at least once (see Halacha Berura, Volume 1, page 95). One who shaves his beard need not wash his hands.