Every so often at nkd we will get a client in for brow waxing, who a day or so after their treatment will contact us to say that small scabs or burn marks have appeared below their eyebrows. This is terrible for the client for obvious reasons, and it is also terrible for us as a waxing specialist business.
The natural assumption of the client in these instances is invariably that their therapist has burnt their brows because the wax was too hot. We totally understand this way of thinking, and if we were customers of our business, without the knowledge we have, we would come to the same conclusion.
But the truth of the matter is that often the problem isn’t actually caused by wax that is too hot (and when that is the problem, the client would have likely felt the wax burning their skin during the treatment). Instead, it can be caused by the use of face moisturisers or other skincare products containing certain ingredients which can make your skin more susceptible to a temporary skinning effect from waxing. (Skinning refers to when the wax lifts the top layer of the skin, making it red and giving it a burn-like appearance. This is a temporary reaction, which disappears completely after a few days and is very different to an actual burn from heat.)
The main “culprits” in terms of these ingredients, are AHAs (including lactic acid and glycolic acid), Vitamin A and Vitamin A derivatives (including Retinol, Retinoid and Retinaldehyde) and BHA (salicylic acid). Due to the incredible benefits they have and their proven results in terms of improving the appearance and quality of skin cells, such ingredients are being more and more widely used these days in facial moisturisers and other skincare products.
This is great news from an anti-aging perspective. But as nkd’s favourite facialist and general skincare guru Louise Sumner explains, the use of some of these ingredients can also make your skin more susceptible to damage from waxing.
“While fantastic because of its ability to plump skin up and reverse skin damage, at the same time Vitamin A and its derivatives compact the top layer of the epidermis which protects the skin and provides a healthy barrier. Meanwhile, the deeper layers of your skin are thickened, which is good. As your skin becomes more healthy, however, it anchors the hairs into a firmer base. Although this is an indication of healthy skin, the downside is that the act of removing deep-set hair, especially from the sensitive eye skin, can cause skinning.”
“ Meanwhile, AHAs reduce the layer of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. When used correctly, they increase collagen production and plump up the skin over time. But because they are exfoliating the top layers of the skin, it means the skin may not cope with waxing so well.”
So what face cream products and brands are we actually talking about here? You can walk into any high-street chemist these days and see dozens of facial moisturisers claiming to contain different vitamins and AHAs. Indeed, you may even be using one already without realising it. The reality is, however, that the level of active ingredients in these products is likely to be pretty low, which is good in the sense that they probably wouldn’t cause most people any problems with brow waxing (note our caveats here), but not so good if you’re expecting them to make you look ten years younger!
Generally speaking, the problems with brow waxing seem to occur when certain professional brands and products are used because of the increased amount of active ingredients contained in them. “ The salon brands I am aware of that use AHAs and various forms of Retinol are Obagi, Dermaquest, Dermalogica and Environ. These are the main ones in my experience,” says Louise. “ But if a person has been prescribed a professional skincare product by a skin therapist, hopefully they will have been told as part of their consultation about the risks of facial waxing when using these products
As the owner of nkd, I decided to make myself a guinea pig. When I started using Environ moisturiser on my face, which contains high levels of Vitamin A, Louise advised me against getting my brows waxed. I had had my brows waxed many times before, without any problem, so I deliberately went ahead with the treatment to see what the outcome was…
I also experimented with getting my upper lip waxed to see if that would cause me any problems. Luckily it didn’t – almost certainly due to the fact that the skin on my upper lip is naturally thicker than the skin above my eyes. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still need to exercise caution with all types of facial waxing in the future, while I remain with my current brand of moisturiser.
So if you are a client reading this, what can be done to avoid this problem? Absolutely critically, you need to keep us informed. If you switch facial moisturisers or any other facial skincare product to one which contains any of the afore-mentioned ingredients and you are booked in for any facial waxing, please tell us about it. If you are an existing client who has already filled in a consultation card with us, we will amend this accordingly.
Once we have been informed of this, we will give you a few options:
Have a thread instead of a wax on your face, or have your brows plucked.
- Proceed with a different type of wax (non-strip wax) which we wouldn’t normally use for face-waxing (and the results of which may not be quite as effective)
- Stop using the cream for 1 week before and 1 week after your wax
- You take the risk and proceed with the treatment in the knowledge that some temporary burn-like marks may appear after your treatment.
It’s important to point out at this stage that many people do use the afore-mentioned professional skincare brands and never experience an issue with face waxing. Likewise, some clients have experienced it on the back of using some of high-street Vitamin A-or AHA/BHA-containing brands. The important thing is though that you are knowledgeable about the key ingredients of any products you apply to your face and body, and that you have an awareness, for your own sake and that of your therapist, of the knock-on effects these may have when you visit a salon for treatments.
Sections of this blog have also been published by Professional Beauty magazine as part of their Ask the Expert series