As a beauty editor, it’s part of my responsibility to transport home a multitude of products and experiment, test, swipe, soak, spray, spritz, apply, etc. to determine what is effective and what is not. Even though there is no extra space in my medicine cabinet because I am reluctant to part with beloved products, trying out new things enables me to share what I firmly believe is worth purchasing. Now trust me; I understand — I am not saving lives here, and there are far riskier occupations than that of a beauty enthusiast journalist writing about the mascara she cannot live without, but sometimes this experimentation may be seen as, well, an inherent danger of the job. For example, there was a time when I attempted to use an at-home hair removal kit and ended up with second-degree burns from waxing.
To clarify: I heated the wax in my microwave following the instructions, and although the bottom of the container was completely melted, the top portion never became liquid. This resulted in a solid disk, which misled me to believe that the entire container was still solid. When I tried to test this theory by inserting a wooden stick into the jar, it pressed one side of the hardened disk down into the liquid bottom, creating a catapult-like effect that launched scorching hot wax straight onto my wrist and arm. And thus, my wax burn was born.
“Ouch” would be an understatement. My reaction involved something more along the lines of a series of text symbols: $@#!%&@#!!!!!!
My second-degree burn from waxing, one day after the accident.
Turns out, I’m not the only one who has experienced a rather unsightly second-degree wax burn. Debora Heslin, RPA-C, who treated me alongside Neal Schultz, M.D., a dermatologist at Park Avenue Skin Care, informed me that their practice regularly sees numerous patients who come in with this exact issue, whether it occurred at a salon or as a result of DIY efforts at home. However, as a beauty editor who not only uses these kits but also writes instructional guides on how to use them, I felt incredibly foolish for causing such severe harm to myself. On the bright side, I now consider myself an authority on all things burn-related (adding that to my resume!). Here’s how I restored my skin to its optimal condition.
How to Treat a Second-Degree Burn from Waxing
1. Alleviate the heat. Upon arriving at my dermatologist’s office, Heslin first froze the wax to facilitate its removal. This also helped to diminish the heat trapped beneath the skin’s surface, and it felt incredibly delightful on my burn. To maintain coolness and alleviate the lingering pain once I returned home, I spent the next two days intermittently applying ice to my arm.
2. Keep it moisturized
When it comes to skin treatments, a smaller amount is typically preferable — but not in the case of burns, affirms Heslin. She encouraged me to excessively apply my prescribed ointment on the wax burn numerous times per day, and then later transition to a curative balm, such as Doctor Rogers Restore Healing Balm (Purchase It, $30, dermstore.com).
3. Don’t endure. In an effort to appear nonchalant about my injury, I informed everyone that I was okay. However, the truth is, a second-degree burn from waxing is not like getting a paper cut — it entails a completely different kind of discomfort. It is akin to a throbbing sensation mixed with a prickling feeling, which is most intense during the initial few days. But there is no need to endure it. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, aspirin is a simple and effective remedy for burns, according to Heslin.
4. Conceal. Safeguarding the burn with bandages and changing the dressings two to three times a day is the most bothersome aspect of dealing with a wax burn (or any burn), but it is crucial. It not only keeps your ointment in place but also shields the burn from dirt and germs that can lead to an infection. I went through boxes of Band-Aid First Aid Tru-Absorb Gauze Sponges (Purchase It, $7, walmart.com), Band-Aid First Aid Hurt-Free Wrap (Purchase It, $10, walmart.com), and Band-Aid Water Block Plus Adhesive Bandages (Purchase It, $8, walmart.com). They may not be the most stylish things to wear for weeks, but bandages can determine how effectively your second-degree burn from waxing heals. (By the way, when I had to attend a formal wedding, I concealed them with an oversized gold cuff bracelet).
5. Exercise restraint. As your burn begins to heal, it might be tempting to remove the dead, burnt skin that is peeling off or tamper with the blisters — it is just one of those strangely satisfying activities (similar to a peeling sunburn).
However, it is essential refrain from making physical contact; your skin will restore itself without your assistance and you may potentially increase the chances of more severe scarring if you choose to interfere.
6. Maintain cleanliness. I inflicted a burn on my arm with wax just before my trip to the beach, so I kept my arm away from the sun, sand, and seawater, as advised by Heslin. No need to worry—shower water is fine, and you can cleanse the affected area with mild soap and warm water while showering or bathing.
7. Take advantage of it. No, I don’t mean making your significant other and your mother cater to your every need because of your “extremely painful, severely burned arm” (although this kind of manipulation works and you should use it to your advantage). Actual cow’s milk can help with your wax burn. Once the blisters have drained, Dr. Schultz suggests soaking the burn in a mixture of equal parts water and skim milk. Skim milk contains proteins that can help reduce inflammation and the burning sensation.
8. Avoid sunlight. Once the burn has healed enough (meaning no blisters, peeling skin, or scabs), it will appear raw and pink. During this stage, it’s crucial to keep it away from the sun, as exposure can cause the pink pigments to turn brown and lead to hyperpigmentation, which can be challenging to remove. Remember to apply a SPF of at least 30 to the area daily, reapply after swimming or sweating, and if you’re outdoors for an extended period of time, cover it with a sunscreen that contains zinc. Additionally, refrain from using scar creams or patches right away—they are designed for raised scars, which are more common from cuts or surgery. Besides, if you take excellent care of your burn (like me!), you won’t have any scarring.
The progress one month after my #hairremovalfail.
Listen, accidents happen—even the most skilled individual can make mistakes when it comes to hair removal, so follow the instructions closely and exercise caution. If you end up with a second-degree burn from waxing like me, promptly seek medical attention and refer to the aforementioned tips. But if you’re not willing to take the risk, you may want to leave the challenging task to the professionals.
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