There's nothing worse than skin lifting from waxing, or a client getting a wax burn on the face or body during their service with you or your staff. You might not even notice it at first - but then the surrounding skin starts to normalize, and there it is: a steaming, red-hot spot that chills you to your core.
There's nothing worse than a client experiencing skin lifting from waxing or a wax burn on the face or body during their service. Even the most experienced esthetician might not notice it at first right after hair removal, but it's unmistakable once skin starts to normalize and those red-hot spots start to form. On top of that, it’s stressful to be unsure if a client will scar, are prone to pigmentation, or if they’ll book with you again.
Whether it’s a wax burn on a face, an eyebrow wax burn, or a Brazilian wax burn, you never want to see your clients hurt or burned in any way. In this article, we'll talk about how to prevent skin lifting when waxing, how to heal a wax burn fast, as well as the possible causes for skin lifting after waxing in the first place.
On top of that, we’ve also got some treatment tips as well as ways to keep yourself covered with salon and insurance policies in the event of a wax burn or skin lifting.
Skin lifting from waxing, also known as a wax burn, is a wound caused by wax grabbing more than you bargained for—the client’s skin. Usually, a wax burn only goes as deep as the top layer of the skin but can leave a client open to bacteria, scarring, and pigmentation.
Wax burns are less common to experience on the legs or back but are more commonly seen during eyebrow or Brazilian waxing.
A wax burn on the skin, an eyebrow wax burn, or a Brazilian wax burn can all resemble anywhere from a seriously skinned knee wound to a small abrasion. Sometimes, you and the client won’t even notice that it’s there until it starts to scab over within a day or two.
Depending on the client and the size of the burn, a little abrasion won’t bother them, but for more severe cases it’s important to have a good post-care routine to heal things correctly.
Below are some factors that can cause wax burns on the face or body:
Using low-quality wax
Using the wrong wax for your client's skin type
Waxing when you shouldn’t be
Applying wax that is too hot onto the skin
Waxing over the same area more than once
Retinol and waxing
Can Waxing Rip Your Skin?
As we mentioned, skin lifting from waxing occurs when wax grips both the hair and skin upon application, which then lifts/burns it as a result.
This can be considered a form of ‘ripping’ or ‘tearing’, but is usually referred to as just lifting since the skin is only burned and not actually ripped off. Don’t worry - even if it looks like your eyebrow wax skin is ripped off, it’s not! It’s just burned and can be soothed and healed quickly.
Wax Burns from Low-Quality Wax
When you use low-quality wax, you increase the likelihood of damage to the skin because of questionable melting points, uneven warming, breakage, or the need to go over an area more than once because the wax is ineffective. There’s an easy solution to this, however, and that’s using high-quality waxes like Starpil!
Using the Wrong Wax for Your Client’s Skin Type
Using the right wax type for your client's skin is something to keep in mind to keep skin safe. It's essential to know skin types and sensitivities to have a safe and successful wax.
Best Waxes for Sensitive Skin
To prevent skin ripping from waxing, it’s important to use only the most high-quality waxes. For sensitive skin in particular, use only waxes specially formulated for these uses.
10% off hard wax purchase w/ code SAFE-WAX
Limited time only.
Starsoft Wax: This wax is specially made for those with hypersensitive, dry, or aged skin, and is ideal for soothing inflammation, irritation, and redness while providing clients with smooth and long-lasting results.
Waxing is generally safe for most skin types and areas, but is not recommended for those with diabetes, varicose veins, rosacea, phlebitis, circulation issues, or skin conditions that cause skin thinning or sensitivity.
Waxing is unwise for people suffering from diseases like lupus, AIDS, or those receiving treatments for cancer.Use extreme caution when waxing pregnant people, and those on birth control, blood thinners, or hormone replacement pills. DO NOT wax people using Accutane, or other prescription or powerful acne treatments like Differin. If you see inflamed, irritated, or sunburned skin, steer clear.
Don’t wax over body piercings, rashes, moles, or warts. You should also refrain from waxing those who have had Botox, Retinols, sunburns, or who have waxed too recently.
Make sure that your clients have all of this info before getting onto your spa bed by putting it all on your website and have them sign a waiver saying that they understand these terms before they book. (More on waivers below.)
Applying Wax That is Too Hot on the Skin
Whether you're using hard wax vs. soft wax, if the wax is too hot, it can fuse with the top layers of the skin and take those layers with them along with the hairs.
To get to the correct temperature, follow your professional wax and wax warmer instructions and keep wax to a thick, honey-like consistency. Always test your wax before applying it to take hot wax out of the skin-lifting equation.
Waxing Over the Same Area More than Once
Generally, if the right wax is used correctly, and at the correct temperature, you can apply it over the same area more than once on thicker-skinned regions like the legs or back. Always use your best judgment! It’s generally not wise to do a double-pass on sensitive skin, facial areas, or Brazilian areas.
Do not go over the skin a second time with soft wax, especially on the facial areas. You can use the same non-woven wax strip with removed wax on it to go over the skin multiple times if you feel like the skin is doing alright, but, as always, use your best judgment.
If you see missed hairs, go in with tweezers or use smaller waxing spatulas to avoid overlapping onto previously waxed skin if it's sensitive.
"Retinol" contains a vitamin A derivative (a type of retinoid). Retinol products, though used as an ingredient in a lot of skincare items, can make your skin susceptible to damage from outside sources like waxing.
Some clients might not realize that they're using a potent derivative of vitamin A. They can unknowingly answer "no" on their intake form when asked if they're using a Retinol product, thereby increasing their risk of damage from using retinol and waxing. Ensure you’ve educated your clients completely on retinol and make sure they double-check their skincare ingredients to avoid mishaps.
Here is a list of retinoids that might cause wax burning if used within a week or so of a waxing service:
retinol, retinyl palmitate
Instruct your clients to avoid using retinoids about five to seven days before their appointment, or have them reschedule. ALWAYS ask your clients if they're using retinoids before a service unless you know for a fact that they aren't and then ask anyway to avoid mixing retinol and waxing.
Regardless of how it happened, always perform immediate treatment when you notice damage. Give your client a heads-up by using "we" terms until the cause of the burn is fully determined:
"CLIENT NAME, it seems that we've gotten a wax burn. Let's take care of this right now so that it will subside as soon as possible."
If the client doesn't know what a wax burn is, educate them by letting them know how long wax burns last and how to get rid of them. Typically, a wax burn will heal within four or five days, but could take about a week or two to fully disappear. This doesn’t include potential scarring or pigmentation.
Getting rid of a wax burn takes time. It's okay to downplay it when you’re in the moment to limit panic, but it’s important to stress home care education on how to heal ripped skin from waxing.
To treat a wax burn, run the afflicted area under cold water for 20 minutes, and then apply pressure to it with a cold compress to soothe any pain or inflammation. Don’t put ice or an ice pack on the area. Follow up with an antibacterial soothing ointment like Neosporin or Bacitracin, and continue to treat the area as needed.
Follow these tips ASAP and have the client continue with these steps for ongoing wax burn treatment.
Cool the skin with water (submerge the area or pour over for five to twenty minutes)
Cleanse with a gentle cream cleanser free from toxic ingredients or alcohol
Apply ice or an ice pack covered in a flannel cloth or paper towel to reduce swelling and soothe the pain.
Apply 100% pure aloe vera gel by dabbing in the area several times a day.
Apply Neosporin or an antibiotic ointment.
To avoid infection, bandage the area before the client leaves. If they feel it necessary, at home, they can change the bandage every day.
Use over-the-counter ibuprofen to ease pain and reduce swelling.
Avoid wearing makeup over the area.
Wear sun protection to reduce pigmentation.
If you’re wondering how long it takes skin ripped from waxing to heal, the timeline will generally be around 1-2 weeks. That said, everyone’s skin is different, and some people’s skin can heal faster or slower than others.
Determining the Cause of a Wax Burn
While you're doing damage control on the skin, you should also determine the cause. Evaluate the following:
Take a quick look at your professional wax warmer and note the temperature it's at. Is it at a safe temperature?
What about the wax itself? Is it best for the client's skin type?
Did you go over the area one too many times?
Confirm with the client that they haven't used any retinoids from the list in the last week.
"I know that we already went over this, but there are many different types of retinoids. Let's just double-double confirm that you're not using anything that's on this list as they can be in a lot of your everyday products."
What to Do if You Caused a Wax Burn?
In some cases, a client might be too embarrassed to admit that they caused the burn themselves; in other instances, it could be you who caused the burn. With waxing, there are no guarantees that clients won't experience a wax burn or a botched eyebrow at some point in their hair removal life.
Yes, they come to you because they trust you, but there is always that one-in-a-million chance that something might not go as planned. This is where your wax salon policy needs to come into play.
If an esthie doesn’t follow any of the above advice (or even if they did), or they allowed an inexperienced assistant to take a client unsupervised, a client can file a negligence claim. They could also forget the whole thing and consider it.
Since you never know what can happen, make sure that you have an excellent salon policy that includes a client waiver. First, check the laws in your state to determine what kind of client waivers you can present to your clients upon booking.
Work with your representation to come up with a salon waiver form that best represents your business. A client waiver is a form that doesn't hold you liable for certain damages that may occur while visiting your salon.
A good beauty business insurance plan should protect you against negligence claims, emotional trauma, lost wages, or the leaking of sensitive client data. General liability coverage should protect you from property damage claims, bodily injury, associated medical expenses, and slander.
Along with keeping your clients safe and protected with preventative measures and treatment in the case of a wax burn, take any steps necessary to ease any ill will in a way that you feel comfortable.
This could include not charging for the appointment or sending a follow-up card, for example. No matter what you think that the skin lifting was a result of, use your best judgment in how you'd like to proceed in a way that aligns with your salon policy and client waiver.
Here is an example of a client waiver form that could be located on your website and must be signed to book. Feel free to use this as a template to create your own.
“The undersigned________________________, hereafter referred to as "Client" does at this moment waive and release, indemnify, hold harmless, and forever discharge SALON NAME, hereafter referred to as SALON NAME, and its agents, employees, officers, directors, affiliates, successors, members, and assigns, of and from any and all claims, demands, debts, contracts, expenses, causes of action, lawsuits, damages, and liabilities, of every kind and nature, whether known or unknown, in law or equity, that I ever had or may have, arising from or in any way related to the services being provided to me by SALON NAME provided that this waiver of liability does not apply to any acts of gross negligence, or intentional, willful or wanton misconduct. Said services might include but are not limited to, facial and body waxing, SERVICE NAME, SERVICE NAME, SERVICE NAME…. etc. By this Waiver, I assume any risk and take full responsibility, and waive any claims of personal injury, death, or damage to personal property associated with such services by SALON NAME, including but not limited to temporary or permanent damage to my skin (hair, or whatever your services cater to), or unsatisfactory results from the said services being provided to me. This Waiver and Release contains the entire agreement between SALON NAME and myself and supersedes any prior written or oral agreements concerning the subject matter of this Waiver and Release. The provisions of this Waiver and Release may be waived, altered, amended, or repealed, in whole or in part, only upon SALON NAME's prior written consent and myself. The provision of this Waiver and Release will continue in full force and effect even after the termination of the services being provided to me, whether by agreement, by operation of law, or otherwise. I have read, understand, and fully agree to the terms of this Waiver and Release. I understand and confirm that by signing this Waiver and Release, I have given up considerable future legal rights. I have signed this Agreement freely, voluntarily, under no duress or threat of duress, without inducement, promise, or guarantee being communicated to me. My signature is proof of my intention to execute a complete and unconditional Waiver and Release of all liability to the full extent of the law. I am 18 years of age or older and mentally competent to enter into this Waiver and Release.
As an esthetician, your goal is always to offer clients the best services at all times. You may never experience a client having a wax burn, but if you do, it’s best to be prepared to treat, evaluate, and know best practices.
Since you always want your clients, yourself, and your businesses to be safe, keep your bases covered. Thoroughly train yourself and your staff on what to do for a wax burn, and see about having a salon policy and client waiver in place in the event of skin lifting from waxing.