A regular wax session nearly cost 37-year-old Lisa* her life.
“I had my first Brazilian wax when I was 25, and since then, I’ve made it a point to get it regularly – at least three or four times a year. I’d never had any problems with pain or sensitivity until a couple of years ago, when a routine waxing job landed me in the hospital.
“The first several hours after my wax were fine. My skin felt a little more sensitive than usual but I didn’t think anything of it. I put the discomfort down to the temperature of the hot wax and told myself that the sore, burning sensation would go away after a while.”
Crazy, unexplainable symptoms – and a trip to the hospital
“The next day, I developed a high fever. I’d been having a stressful week at work so I figured I was just run-down or coming down with a viral infection. My whole body felt weak, too, and my pubic area still felt sore. My mother told me that I had probably caught a cold or the flu, but I didn’t have the kind of symptoms you’d expect of the cold or flu, like muscle pain, a sore throat, or a congested nose.
“Overnight, my symptoms worsened and I knew then that something was very, very wrong. My fever had gone up and I felt extremely weak and nauseous. The area that had been waxed was also quite painful and I noticed that the pain had spread to one of my thighs. At that point I wondered if I should see a doctor, but still, I assumed that, whatever the problem, it would resolve itself.
“That evening, no longer able to deal with the pain and discomfort, I rushed to the hospital’s emergency department. I felt so rotten that I pleaded with the nurse to let me see a doctor straight away. Eventually a doctor attended to me and diagnosed me with cellulitis, a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection.”
A lesson learnt after two weeks of suffering
“The doctor told me that I likely developed cellulitis from my Brazilian wax. The aesthetician had probably ‘double dipped’ the stick into the hot wax numerous times before waxing me, thereby transferring bacteria from the skin of some other customer to the wax pot. The bacteria were then transferred to my skin during my waxing session. And because my skin was raw and sensitive at the time, it was a lot more vulnerable to infection.
“To treat the infection, I had to take strong antibiotics for the next couple of weeks. The doctor said that I was lucky I went to see him when I did; had I waited any longer the infection might have worsened to the point where I had to be admitted to the hospital. He added that, while rare, the condition could even lead to death. That horrified me.
“Being diagnosed with a severe bacterial infection meant that I couldn’t go to work for a whole week. Instead, I was instructed to stay at home and get plenty of rest. Even with the antibiotics I felt awful – it took a few days for the pain, discomfort and soreness to calm down, and no matter how much rest I got, I still felt nauseous.
“Two whole weeks went by before I felt like my old self again. I never reported the incident to the owner of my waxing salon; in retrospect I should have, and I probably should have alerted the health authorities to her business, too, but at the time I was just too traumatised to think straight. A few friends got Brazilian waxes at the same salon several days after me, and nothing happened to them, so I didn’t know how I could prove that my cellulitis was the result of my waxing session that day.
“I wish I could say that that was the last time I got a Brazilian wax, but a few months after my condition healed, I booked myself another session. Of course, I went to a different salon – one that I believed had higher standards of hygiene than my previous salon. Now, I’m so paranoid about developing another, similar infection from any kind of beauty treatment that I make sure to observe how the therapists and aestheticians sterilise their implements, and I look around to see how clean and organised their workspace is. It’s scary to think how one unsanitary practice can trigger such a horrible and potentially deadly reaction, and I don’t want to put myself in such a vulnerable position ever again.”
*Name has been changed. A version of this article originally appeared on www.herworld.com.