On International Women’s Day. it’s time to ask if we’ve really taken enough steps ahead. Read some thought-provoking pieces here!

How Safe Are Beauty Treatments For Women?

Posted: September 13, 2013

“Eclectic, interesting…will fill you with hope and resolve!” – Pick up our new short story collection, Women.Mutiny

Are you aware of the potential hazards that lurk behind common beauty treatments for women? A few simple steps can protect you from adverse effects.

By Shruti Kamat

The beauty industry in India is growing at a tremendous rate. With many Indian women willing to spend quality time and big bucks in grooming and pampering themselves, it is no surprise that spas and beauty salons are blooming in every corner of our streets. This tendency to cash in on the growing trend could be dangerous with a lot of them employing under-qualified staff and not being concerned about hygiene.

A comforting treatment at the spa could result in potential ill-effects that we might not even realise. A beauty parlour visit could expose our bodies to hazardous substances. Sometimes, even if a treatment is touted as “herbal”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no chemicals involved. Here are some beauty treatments for women that need some scrutiny or caution:

Hair removal – an opportunity for disaster to strike

Horror stories abound of beauty treatments gone completely wrong for many Indian women. A large number of mishaps are related to hair-removal treatments. Hot wax can lead to some serious burns and scarring if there is any kind of laxity during application. Ashita Anand, a 19-year old student from Mumbai has an area of uneven pigmentation on her leg due to carelessness during the application of hot wax. “The beautician accidently spilt some of the wax on my leg during one of my waxing appointments. While I immediately treated it with ice and an antibiotic cream, it has left a permanent mark on my leg,” she rues. Even threading, which is considered gentler on the skin than hot wax, could lead to the spread of viruses and infections if a clean thread is not used.

Hot wax can lead to some serious burns and scarring if there is any kind of laxity during application.

Laser hair removal, which involves the use of laser light to remove unwanted hair, is being opted for by many Indian women today. It is expensive but also advantageous in the sense that it targets only the hair while largely leaving the surrounding skin untouched. However, it releases various mutagenic substances in the air which could have dangerous impacts, especially in environments where proper protection is not maintained. Dr. Mohiba Tareen, a dermatologist based in New York says, “I have taken care of numerous patients who have had laser hair removal done improperly at a salon with scarring, discoloration, or paradoxical increase in hair.”

Your tresses could cause much stress!

Hair colouring is a popular trend that could lead to some harsh consequences if adequate care is not taken. If the quality of the dye is poor, it could have an adverse impact on hair quality and could also lead to excessive hairfall. Further, it might lead to skin irritation and allergies.

Hair straightening is done using chemicals and heat. It can make the hair dry and brittle and could inflict permanent damage on the hair, which is more severe if you have opted for permanent straightening. Excessive heat could permanently damage the cuticle of the hair and could lead to other hair problems like dandruff and itchy scalp. Brazilian Blowout, a popular straightening treatment, uses formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen.

Other health hazards to watch out for at the spa

Bleaches and facials can lead to irritation, reddening and burning of skin. Laser facial treatments used to treat acne and other problems, could also lead to similar impacts. Botox, which is used to remove wrinkles, could create a whole lot of problems if not injected by a professional. These include headaches, swelling, respiratory infections and drooping of the treated muscles.

If instruments used for pedicures and manicures are not properly sterilised, they could cause fungal infections and warts.

If instruments used for pedicures and manicures are not properly sterilised, they could cause fungal infections and warts. An infested pedicure tub is a haven for various bacteria and viruses. Prolonged soaking in soapy water could lead to further infections and inflammations. While nail polish might make your hands and feet look very pretty, they are full of chemicals which could cause some major respiratory and neural problems. Artificial nails might possibly contain some harmful chemicals. Cuticle clipping is not advisable as the cuticle acts like a protective layer for the nail and if it is clipped off, bacteria and fungus have an easy entry into your skin.

What can Indian women do to safeguard their health at the spa?

I’m not trying to dissuade you from going to the salon. Rather, I encourage you to be better equipped with knowledge in order to make informed choices at the spa. Here are some steps to help you stay safe while at the spa:

– Consider carrying your own comb/hairbrush while at the hairdressers. You can never be sure if the hairdresser cleans and sterilizes his combs and brushes between clients and you don’t want to be catching on stuff like dandruff or head lice from someone else’s hair.

– Check that the salon you go to uses ammonia-free dye.

– If you’re considering a hair straightening treatment, do your research well and choose an experienced salon.

– If you are going in for laser hair removal, avoid stepping out in the sun for a few weeks before and after the treatment.

– Ask your manicurist to not clip off your cuticles.

– Do not wax or shave for 24 hours before your pedicure appointment. Your skin could be more at a risk for infection.

– Make sure that the manicure/pedicure tools and the tub have been properly disinfected and cleaned. In fact, consider bringing your own tools to eliminate any chances of picking up infection.

– Avoid facials if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin.

– Insist on checking the expiry date of any cosmetic products used.

– Ask if there is a supervising MD available if you are undertaking a laser procedure.

– Most importantly, inform your beautician/cosmetician of any allergies or skin conditions you might have.

*Photo credit: Thomas Lee (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

Shruti Kamat is a psychology student who reads a lot, writes a bit, wants to

Learn More

How Women's Participation In Politics Can Help Advance Gender Equality


Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!

Winning PCOS battle is in our hands.