'Brazilian' bikini waxes are increasingly popular among women who live nowhere near the bikini-clad beaches of Rio de Janeiro. For one 20-year-old woman in Melbourne, Australia, this routine procedure nearly took her life.
The woman was admitted to an emergency room just two weeks after receiving a the Brazilian bikini wax, a procedure that involves removing even more hair front-to-back than a traditional bikini wax, according to the Brief Report published online in the June issue of the journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
"Our case is notable, because it illustrates the infectious risks of pubic hair removal in a patient with diabetes," the authors concluded. "The beauty industry is growing at an unprecedented rate and more invasive and potentially harmful procedures are increasingly available."
The authors of the report warn that anyone with a compromised immune system, including diabetics and people infected with HIV, should think twice about waxing, or any beauty procedure.
While the patient experienced "significant pain" and some bleeding during the procedure, which was performed by a trainee beauty therapist, her health had taken a sharp turn for the worse by the time she sought medical attention.
According to the report, the young woman had poorly controlled type 1 diabetes. She was admitted to the hospital with a high fever, excruciating pain, "grossly swollen" genitalia, and a rash across her chest and neck.
The woman's pain was so intense and the inflammation so severe that doctors were barely able to examine her in the emergency room.
Eventually, the doctors were able to take blood samples and cultures, which came back positive for the potentially life-threatening bacteria, Streptococcus pyogenes.
The patient's weakened immune system put her at risk when she underwent the hot-wax procedure, which caused the infection. A more complete exam, done under general anesthetic, revealed the woman was infected with herpes simplex.
She was discharged after 10 days in the hospital after a steady regimen of antibiotics and other medications that saved her life. While she had regained her health, she had not learned her lesson.
Six months later, the woman again tried to remove her pubic hair, but this time she was shaving herself. She subsequently developed a recurrence of herpes and another skin infection.
She was treated again successfully, but the report noted that, "despite her traumatic experiences, the patient was keen to undertake further removal of pubic hair."
Even for salon customers without suppressed immune systems, this woman's story can be a lesson. Many studies have shown nail salons that do not properly sterilize equipment can easily spread hepatitis.
Every salon patron, especially those getting bikini waxes, should ensure that they attend clean and reputable establishments where therapists regularly wash their hands and wear gloves.
The authors of this report also recommend physicians familiarize themselves with these beauty practices so they can better advise patients about the pros and cons of their beauty regimens.