How to Prevent Waxing Infections?

According to a recent survey, the average woman spends approximately 30,000 dollars on waxing treatments in her lifetime. That’s not surprising since waxing is the fourth most common minimally invasive procedure performed in both men and women.

However, with the rise in waxing, doctors are warning about the increase in associated infections as well. This is in particular for those who groom their pubic hair via Brazilian waxes and bikini waxes.

Evidence of severe complications from waxing infections has been documented where a woman from Australia developed sepsis following her Brazilian wax. Most of these infections can be prevented with hygiene and some preparation, prior to a wax appointment.

waxing solution
Waxing and sugaring solutions are a common method of hair removal.

Why Does Waxing Cause Infections?

Waxing is considered a skin penetration procedure. Unlike depilatory creams, waxing strips the hair from its follicle, leaving it exposed. Every time you wax, the follicles are open to dirt, grime and microorganism which can settle into your pores and cause an infection.

Waxing is also a form of minor trauma. Hot wax and the forceful stripping action does affect your epidermis. This is why waxing leaves the skin red, blotchy and painful because the body treats it as an injury and responds to it with all the inflammatory signs of trauma; redness, heat, pain, and swelling.

Did you know that the skin is the first line of defense in your body against pathogens? It’s also the largest with hair increasing its total surface area as an immunity shield.

The hair on the skin brushes off larger particulate matter such as dirt and dust, it regulates the fluids in your body by preventing the loss of fluids from your skin cells and plays a role in defending your epidermal cells from the sun.

With the hair removed, your skin is even more susceptible to infections and pathogens. Ingrowing hairs can add to the problem. Sometimes the new hair follicle is trapped under a debris of shedding skin cells, which can become a nidus for infection.  

How Can You Prevent Waxing Infections?

To all those who are frequent groomers, I would suggest prevention in three stages; before, during and after waxing treatments. Because the skin’s follicles are open long after the waxing is completed, it will require a few long-term lifestyle changes to prevent major and life-threatening infections.

Before a Wax

The first thing you need to do is examine your skin. Check your skin for cuts, breaks, or wounds. If you have these, avoid waxing till your wounds or acne has sealed. A break in your skin is an opening for pathogens to get into your bloodstream and cause an infection.

Dog bite hand
Avoid waxing when you have cuts or breaks in the skin

Gently exfoliate the night before your wax appointment. Skin is constantly shedding, and often dead skin cells accumulate over the hair follicle. This makes it extremely difficult for the hair to come off from the root in a single go.

There’s no need for a harsh scrub which will only traumatize the skin more. A gentle body wash and a loofah should do just fine. Moisturize your skin with a mild emollient following exfoliation.

Avoid waxing before your period as the prostaglandins are at their peak during this time and they will cause your pain levels to soar as well as lead to increased swelling and inflammation of your tissues.

Say no to alcohol before your wax session. When alcohol is broken down in the body, acetaldehyde, its by-product stimulates pain receptors, which increases your pain levels during a wax.

Review the medications you’re taking. Stop Accutane for two weeks if you’re taking it for a skin condition. Retin A creams and retinol-based products for anti-aging can sensitize your skin to waxing, causing it to break out.

Painkillers are not the answer. Plenty of women take painkillers like Advil and Motrin before their Brazilian wax. A word of caution, most painkillers are NSAID’s (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs). These drugs increased bleeding time and prevent clotting.

This increases the chances of the injured follicles to bleed instead of closing immediately after your wax is done. Since painkillers act for a minimum of 8 hours, your follicles may remain open and bleed for that long too.

If you have a medical condition like a skin allergy or poorly controlled diabetes, meet with your doctor, sort these issues first before you make a wax appointment.

Take a shower. You want the surface of your skin to be rid of any dirt, germs and other pathogens. This may be hard for those who have parlor appointments at the end of a long day. But this step is very important.

Girl taking a shower
A shower will clean off the commensals and other pathogens on your skin.

When a wax is performed, the microorganisms on your skin including natural commensals which are part of the flora colonizing your skin and vagina may get introduced into your bloodstream, causing fever and infection. So start with a squeaky clean canvas by taking a shower before your wax appointment.

During Your Wax

This step requires you to be careful about the place you get your waxing done. If you do it yourself then you would need to evaluate the level of hygiene you practice.

The place where you wax should be clean. I’ve personally seen parlors where the wax had dead ants floating in them. It was enough to churn my stomach when I saw another patron shrug it off.

Hygiene is paramount when it comes to waxing. Make sure the place is clean. Ensure that after the previous client the paper sheet has been changed and the surface has been wiped with an alcohol-based solution.

Please insist that your aesthetician wears gloves. Even with an alcohol hand wash, fingers pick up organisms from the brush, the sheets, and other fomites. Also, make sure these gloves are changed are after every client.

Gloved hand
Using gloves can prevent teh transfer of pathogens to your skin.

It’s common practice for many salons to “double dip.” This is when the aesthetician swipes the wax on your skin, and dips the stick, spatula or brush back into the wax tub, thereby contaminating the wax with your body’s microorganisms.

If this is the case, go to a salon with a “no double dipping” policy. It will be more expensive but it’s not worth the cost of an infection, a hospital stay or worse sepsis. In the same vein, every cream or lotion that is used should be decanted in a single use pot or container to prevent cross contamination. For every client or patron, insist on a single-use applicator.

When the wax is completed, some salons do give you a mini wash. Accept it only if they use single-use hand towels. You don’t want to use a towel that has been used on several other members and carries their micro-organisms. Viral infections easily spread through these infected towels.

After your Wax

What happens after your wax is probably more important than before or during your wax. After your wax appointment, take a shower and wash away any sugar or wax on your skin, preferably a cold one. Cold water will close your smaller pores rapidly.

Use an astringent soap or body wash. You will have small bumps and redness, these are signs of inflammation. Along with the cold water, an astringent body wash will take care of the inflammation.

Don’t scrub too hard – your skin is bruised, so avoid harsh chemicals and scrubs.

To cool down the inflamed skin, apply an after wax lotion or essential oil, following your shower. A lotion that contains milk and or aloe vera is extremely soothing for inflamed skin.

Avoid the sun for at least 24 hours. This is because the newly waxed skin is more prone to hyperpigmentation from ultraviolet light.

Exfoliate regularly in order to prevent ingrown hairs. Ingrown hairs can grow and clog pores. Infections can also spread to neighboring follicles if multiple ingrown hairs develop. For the very same reason, you shouldn’t wear tight clothes too. Allow your skin and its pores to breathe. Follow it up with a natural aloe vera based gel.

Watch out for bumps, and white-headed pimples. These could be a sign of molluscum infection. This is a viral infection that usually heals by itself in a week. It can be picked up from an infected towel, chair, surface or skin.

Beware of STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections). Since the barrier of your skin is broken, any skin contact with another person will lead to an exchange of bacteria, virus, and fungus. For all the bikini waxers every encounter is going to increase your chances of syphilis, human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes by four times. This has been confirmed by researchers at Indiana University.

While there is no barrier to prevent these infections, be cautious. Report any pain, redness, swelling, pimple, and skin change to your dermatologist. Infections with Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, HPV, and hepatitis can quickly spiral into sepsis and a life-threatening illness. Report any redness, itchcing, swelling and skin changes to a dermatologist.

Prevention Is Key

In closing, all waxing infections can be prevented with scrupulous hygiene and care. Like every other hair removal method, waxing also has its side effects. With the above tips, you should be able to prevent most waxing related infections and their effects.