Page last updated at: Thu, 13 May 2010 14:13 PM BST Printable version

Dangerous beauty unmasked

by Mariana Miller

girl looking in a mirrorMany of us have visited local beauty salons to make those all-important changes, but what are the hygiene risks involved? Mariana Miller reports on the ugly truth about our beauty procedures

It’s likely many of us who visit beauty salons will check for clean floors and sparkling surfaces, but unfortunately that isn’t enough. 

Bacteria lurks everywhere and unless surfaces and instruments are thoroughly disinfected after each client, you could get a nasty infection. 

When researching the methods that should take place with certain treatments, I found that my own local salon didn’t actually go through each necessary step required for a safe practice.

For example, when going for a wax, the beauty therapist must test the temperature of the wax on the inside of their wrist to minimise the risk of burning the client. I have been to at least three different beauty salons and none of them followed this procedure.

Another precaution needed to prevent cross contamination is disinfecting footbaths, nail scissors, files and cuticle removers after each customer.

This is not a new problem; 10 years ago an established salon in California was closed after a number of women experienced large, painful boils on their legs after having pedicures there.

It was discovered that the boils were a result of improper sanitation of footbaths at the Fancy Nails Salon in Watsonsville. Not only must we be careful in terms of hygiene, we need to make sure that we are fully aware of the risks that are involved with the treatments we receive and do ourselves.

Eye treatments

Other common procedures provided by salons are eyelash tinting and eyelash extensions; both of which can have serious side effects.

The dyes used in the process of tinting have the same ingredients as hair dyes, so chemicals like peroxide and ammonia could come into contact with eyes causing swelling, infections and in severe cases, blindness.

Eyelash extensions are no better, as they are applied onto the natural eyelash. Some eyelash glues contains irritants resulting in damaged or swelling of the eyes.

Using this procedure often can cause Traction Alopecia, when hair falls out as a result of excessive pressure placed on the hair shaft, which means hair growth slows down and can even stop completely.


One of the most common beauty treatments amongst women of all ages is the bikini wax; a fairly simple yet painful treatment that allows females to parade in the skimpiest of bikinis.

“Pubic hair is there for a reason - to protect the sensitive skin and mucous membranes in the genital region,” explains Linda K. Franks MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine.

“Getting a wax literally strips away that layer of protection.”

Ripping away this layer makes an entrance through which bacteria can enter the body, causing infections, ingrown hairs, rashes and folliculitis (infection of the hair follicles.)

The best way to avoid such problems is by wearing loose clothes around the waxed area for several hours afterwards and making sure that the person performing the treatment doesn’t wax the same area more than once.

Sun beds

When we book summer holidays our main aim is usually to return with a golden tan, but the majority of us hate that feeling when you arrive at your holiday destination and you are the palest person around.

One solution is to book some sun bed sessions in the lead up to your travels; but even these fewsessions could result in life-changing consequences.

Sun beds can more than double someone’s chances of developing a number of skin cancers and also damage the eyes, as they are extremely sensitive to UV rays.

In severe cases permanent sight damage is caused when the corneas of the eyes are burned. Frequent use of sun beds can lead to cataracts and other complications which can result in blindness.

So next time you go for any of these treatments, think carefully about the price you could be paying for temporary results.


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