Guest blog: facing up to burnt brows

Rebecca Dowdeswell, owner of specialist waxing salon nkd ( ) in Nottingham, which won Professional Beauty’s Beauty Salon of the Year: Midlands 2016 Regional Award, on how you can avoid potential incidents of skinned brows.

Every so often at nkd we get a client in for brow waxing who, a day or so after treatment, will contact us to say that small scabs or burn marks have appeared below their eyebrows. This is terrible for the client for obvious reasons and also terrible for us as a waxing specialist business. 

The natural assumption by clients in this instance is invariably that one of our therapists has burnt their brows because the wax was too hot. We understand this way of thinking and if we were customers of our own business, without the knowledge we have, we would come to the same conclusion.

But the truth of the matter is that as beauty experts we know the problem probably wasn’t caused by wax that was too hot – and when that is the problem, the client would have most likely felt the wax burning their skin during treatment.

Instead, the scabs or marks could have been caused by the use of moisturisers or other skincare products containing certain ingredients which made the client’s skin more susceptible to a temporary skinning effect from waxing. By skinning, we’re referring to what happens when the wax lifts the top layer of the skin, making it red and giving it a burn-like appearance. This is a temporary reaction, which disappears after a few days and is very different to an actual burn from heat.

The main culprits in terms of these ingredients are: AHAs, including lactic acid and glycolic acid; vitamin A and vitamin A derivatives, including retinol, retinoid and retinaldehyde; and BHAs, such as salicylic acid. Due to the incredible benefits these ingredients have and proven results in terms of improving the appearance and quality of skin cells, many are being more widely used in skincare products these days.

While these sort of ingredients are fantastic from an anti-ageing perspective, at the same time they also thin the skin, and thinned skin is then what leads to damage from waxing. But nkd’s leading facialist Louise Sumner explains that to say that all vitamin A ingredients and AHAs thin the skin oversimplifies the situation and is not entirely accurate.

“Generally speaking, most forms of vitamin A do not actually thin the skin. What really happens is that vitamin A and its derivatives compact the top layer of the epidermis, which protects the skin and provides a healthy barrier. Meanwhile, the deeper layers of skin are thickened. As skin becomes healthier, the hair is anchored into a firmer base. Although this is an indication of healthy skin, the downside is that the act of removing deep-set hair, especially from the sensitive eye area, can cause skinning,” says Sumner.

“AHAs reduce the layer of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. When used correctly, they actually increase collagen production and plump up the skin over time. But because they do exfoliate the top layers of the skin, it also means that skin may not cope with waxing so well.” 

So, if you’re a waxing therapist or salon owner reading this, what can you do to avoid potential incidents of skinned brows? First of all, you need to stress to clients the need to keep you informed – i.e. if they switch moisturisers or any other skincare product to one which contains any of the afore mentioned ingredients and are booked in for any facial waxing, you need to know about it.

You can also give your client some alternative options:

The important thing is that both you and your clients are knowledgeable about the key ingredients in products they apply to their face and body, and that they have an awareness, for their own sake and yours, of the knock-on effects these may have when they visit a salon for treatments.