Signs of an allergic reaction to wax include redness, irritation, and itching. In addition, hives, swelling, and blisters can occur. Although most allergic reactions are generally mild, a serious allergic reaction can occur as well. Signs and symptoms of a serious reaction include swelling of the throat, tongue, face, and lips, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and chest pain or pressure. This type of reaction is referred to as an anaphylactic reaction and if not treated within about 20 minutes, the prognosis may be poor.
Wax is typically used as a depilatory to remove hair from the legs, underarms, facial area, and bikini area. Facial waxing typically involves the upper lip area and the eyebrow area. The wax is usually heated before it is applied, and although an allergic reaction is one risk factor when using the product, others include getting burned and accidentally pulling off the top layer of skin. Burns from hot wax cause cause blistering, which can lead to permanent scarring.
Treatment for an allergic reaction to wax includes applying a hydrocortisone cream to the affected area, taking an over-the-counter antihistamine, and applying ice to the area. In addition, taking a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help relieve irritation and pain. Although acetaminophen is helpful in relieving pain, it is not effective in alleviating accompanying inflammation the way ibuprofen is.
When a severe allergic reaction occurs that affects breathing or causes heart beat abnormalities and throat swelling, emergency services need to be notified. This type of reaction to wax is extremely rare, however, and is more common in those who have pre-existing allergies. People who have severe allergies to bee stings and other allergens may need to carry an emergency allergy kit with them at all times. The kit contains a pre-filled pen-like applicator filled with epinephrine, which can counteract the effects of the allergen.
In addition to allergic reactions and burns, waxing can also cause an infection. If the hot wax is contaminated with bacteria and gets into small cuts or abrasions, it can invade the bloodstream and cause an infection. Signs of this type of infection may include redness and swelling, drainage from the site, and systemic effects such as fever, chills, malaise, nausea, and vomiting. When this occurs, oral antibiotics may need to be taken to resolve the symptoms of the bacterial infection.