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You may expect to leave the salon with long-lasting smoothness, but what if you end up with a nasty infection instead? Here are some tips to avoid complications from leg and Brazilian waxing.

Imagine going for a Brazilian wax — a procedure that involves removing all or most pubic hair  — only to encounter huge amounts of pain and bleeding, followed by gradually increasing inflammation and then a high fever, a rash covering the chest and neck, genitals so swollen doctors can barely examine you, and pain like no other you've ever experienced in your life. Imagine nearly dying from a Brazilian wax.

That's exactly what happened to a 20 year old woman from Melbourne, Australia, back in 2007. She was admitted to hospital two weeks after her Brazilian wax and tested positive for Streptococcus pyogenes, an infection that almost killed her. This was an extreme case. The woman turned out to have poorly controlled Type 1 diabetes, which — like all people with weakened immune systems — simply made her a poor candidate for a Brazilian wax. The case does highlight that what we have come to think of as a routine beauty treatment does not come without risks. 

What are the possible complications of waxing, and what can you do to minimize your risks of being affected? And who should never be waxed? Let's take a good hard look at the facts. 


Contact dermatitis is a skin inflammation that causes redness, swelling, and sometimes the formation of blisters after contact with an allergen or because the outer, protective layer of the skin sustained damage — which happens when you are waxed. Non-allergic dermatitis is more likely to cause you some pain than to lead to itching. If your skin is itchy, swollen, red and you have blisters, you probably have allergic contact dermatitis. 
Allergic contact dermatitis after waxing is almost certainly caused by rosin, one of the main ingredients in many kinds of cosmetic waxes. An allergist can confirm that you are allergic to the substance after experiencing severe swelling, redness and itching following waxing.
Made from pine and spruce trees, rosin can be used as an ingredient in a lot of makeup, in plasters, and even in creams. It's called by a surprisingly large number of different names. If you have a rosin allergy, you need to stay away from anything called colophonium, colophony, abietyl alcohol, abietic alcohol, methyl abietate alchol, resin terebinthinae, and tall oil.

The good news? Not all wax contains rosin, and resin isn't the same thing as rosin. If you are allergic to rosin, you can still get waxed but need to make very sure that your wax is rosin-free.


Folliculitis is an umbrella term to denote an inflammation of the hair follicles, something that can be superficial or deep. Red, inflamed spots that look quite a bit like zits and that often have a white, pus-filled center point to folliculitis. Caused by bacteria, fungi, or yeast, it is also sometimes called barber's rash. Cortisone cream will help reduce the bumps, but make sure you pay your family doctor a visit if you you are still dealing with red bumps three days after getting waxed. You may need a prescription cream to deal with the problem. 


Pseudofolliculitis is something you've definitely heard of already — it's better known as ingrown hairs. Those can be caused by shaving and tweezing as well as waxing, and the only treatment is letting those pesky hairs grow. More likely to strike folks with particularly coarse hair, there are some preventative measures you might like to try. Exfoliate before and after your waxing session, make sure you wear loose clothes that allow your newly waxed skin to breathe, and perhaps use a special cream to prevent ingrown hairs before your session. 
If, by any chance, you're DIY-ing your waxing, please make very sure that you pull the strips off in the direction of your hair growth. Not doing so greatly increases your odds of ending up with ingrown hairs. 
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