WAXING WOES

Bruising

Bruising is a soft tissue injury, characterised by tenderness and discoloration of the skin due to leakage of blood from ruptured vessels into the surrounding tissues.

Incorrect removal of wax (failing to support the skin properly or not keeping the strip parallel to the body) is the most common cause of bruising when waxing. Age, certain medications (such as anticoagulants) and some illnesses may also cause a tendency to easy bruising.

To treat: apply a cold compress or ice pack to the area to reduce any immediate swelling. Bruises rarely require medical intervention and usually fade harmlessly as the blood is reabsorbed by the body over the following days.

Skin removal

A shiny patch of tender, raw skin is a sign that the uppermost layers of the epidermis have been removed by the wax, resulting in a superficial graze.

This is especially prone to happen where the client’s skin is dry or fragile, although it can also be caused by incorrect removal technique or if the same area has been waxed repeatedly during a single treatment.

Applying a small amount of pre-depilatory oil and ensuring the skin is supported properly at all times during wax application and removal can help avoid this problem.

Certain medications (including Roaccutane, topical acne products such as Retin-A and Differin, steroid creams and medication) can also cause dryness and fragility of the skin. Always wait at least 3 months after finishing a course of topical acne or steroid medication, and 6 months after any systemic medication before waxing.

To treat: clean the affected area and apply a cold compress for 10 minutes, then dry the skin and apply a clean, fluff-free dressing to prevent infection. Remove after 3-4 days.

Minor grazes can be left to air-dry after application of a cold compress, but advise the client to visit their pharmacist who will be able to recommend an appropriate product to assist the healing process.

In all cases, clients should seek the advice of their doctor if the injury shows any signs of infection.

Burns

Burns and scalds are caused by wax being applied at too high a temperature. Mild superficial scalding can be recognised by sore, reddened skin; more severe burns may also be accompanied by skin removal, swelling and blistering.

Ensure that you only heat wax in approved equipment and to the temperature recommended by the manufacturer, and always undertake a thermal patch test prior to full treatment. Never microwave your wax as this can lead to unexpected hotspots.

To treat mild inflammation: apply a cold compress and advise the client to avoid heat, friction and UV exposure to the affected area until the redness has dissipated. Clients should seek medical attention if any inflammation lasts longer than 48 hours or is accompanied by severe discomfort or infection.

For more severe burns: if the overheated wax is still in place, do not attempt to remove it as this may cause skin damage. Flood the area with cold running water for at least 10 minutes and seek medical attention.

If the wax has already been removed, rinse with cold running water or apply a cold compress to the affected area for at least 10 minutes, then dry the skin and apply a clean, fluff-free dressing or clingfilm to prevent infection.

Do not apply any creams or lotions, nor break any blisters that form. Refer the client to their medical practitioner for treatment.

Urticaria (hives)

Urticaria (also known as 'hives') is an immune reaction that produces raised skin welts, similar in appearance to a nettle rash. The welts are often accompanied by heat and itching.

When waxing, urticaria is generally a result of the body’s natural immune response to the ‘trauma’ of hair removal, although in rare cases it can also be caused by an allergy to ingredients in the wax or associated products. The skin releases histamine from the mast cells as part of the immune response, and this produces the inflammation and welts described above.

To treat: apply a cold compress, aloe vera gel or similar soothing after-wax product to take the heat and swelling out of the skin.

Urticaria from waxing normally disappears within 24 hours. During this time the client should avoid heat and friction, refrain from scratching the area, and apply cold compresses, aloe vera gel or calamine lotion at home to cool and calm the skin.

If any irritation persists, advise the client to seek the advice of their pharmacist or GP.

Folliculitis

Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles, causing itchy or painful red bumps and crops of small, pus-filled pimples that form around the follicles themselves. It is most often caused by friction, irritation or blockage of the hair follicles, which then become inflamed and infected with Staphylococcus bacteria.

It is especially common when waxing men’s backs and chests, particularly with first-time clients. Pustules typically appear 1-3 days after waxing and are a sign that the pores have become infected, although pimples may also appear as the hair starts to re-grow (a common symptom of ingrown hairs, see below).

To treat: a hygienic waxing practice will help minimise the risk of infection in the salon, but most problems occur after the client has left your care. Emphasise the importance of cleanliness and keeping the skin cool and friction-free as part of your customers’ homecare routine. Clients should wear loose clothing after their appointment, refrain from touching or scratching the treated area, and avoid sport and other exercise for the next 24-48 hours.

Regular application of an antiseptic cream, use of an antibacterial skin wash and bathing in a saltwater solution will all help to prevent infection in the days following your client’s appointment, and will also help the healing process should any pimples appear.

The spots normally clear within a week, but refer the client to their doctor if pustules become painful or do not improve after a few days.

Ingrown hairs

The bane of waxers worldwide, ingrown hairs are a common condition whereby hair becomes trapped under the surface of the skin or grows sideways into the wall of its follicle. The embedded hair causes a localised inflammatory response and may also be accompanied by infection, resulting in a pimple.

To treat: prevention is best. Instruct your client to exfoliate gently several times a week to slough off dead skin cells which might otherwise trap the hair, and follow this with a light application of moisturiser (keeping the skin hydrated and supple will enable new hairs to grow through normally).

For more stubborn ingrowns, specific treatment products are available from several beauty suppliers.

General advice

Accidents happen, and even the most experienced of waxers sometimes make mistakes. Although the above guidelines provide some basic pointers, it makes sense to attend a recognised first aid course in order that you may deal confidently with injuries of any description at work.

It is good practice to make customers aware of what to look out for and what action to take in the event of a contra-action occurring. This helps to avoid any unnecessary anxiety and reduces the likelihood of further problems arising after they have left your care.

Give the client written aftercare instructions to take home with them, and have them confirm receipt by signing their record card.

Be sure to note all contra-actions on the client’s record card and contact your insurance provider immediately for advice on what course of action is required to comply with the terms of your policy. Do not wait until you receive a letter of complaint from the client or indeed their solicitor before you contact your insurers. Most incidents never reach the claim stage, but as the old saying goes: better to be safe than sorry!

Remember: if a reaction is extremely severe you must call for medical assistance immediately or ask the client to make an appointment to see their GP at their earliest convenience.

© Andy Rouillard, 2009. All rights reserved.