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Super-Sensitive Brow Skin & the Case of the Shut-Down Salon

Jun08

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So my wedding is in almost exactly one month, and I went to make an appointment to have my pre-wedding waxing… and my salon has closed down. Overnight. Totally cleared out. Huge, posh spa & salon, all gone. Phone disconnected, website taken down. Like it never existed, except that it’s disappearance actually made the NEWS! Even the employees were unaware till they went in for work!
A practical person would suggest I just go down the block to the next posh spa and have THEM do my waxing. And I can see how practical that would be. Only, my facial skin is SUPER sensitive. The first time I had my brows done, there were little welts like mosquito bites across my brows for a week. Two of them left permanent red spots (I suspect the swelling damaged a couple of capillaries). My mother told me later (thanks for the heads up, Mom) that she has this same problem, and she found a salon in Oklahoma that had some magic potion that prevented it. She lives in Texas. And goes to Oklahoma to get her brows done. Getting the picture with the level of irritation we’re talking about? Unfortunately, I live in Rochester, NY. Oklahoma is a bit far to travel for waxing.
So my personal tech at the defunct spa had this amazing “medicated” gel that was instantly cooling and soothing, and totally eliminated any redness and swelling from the waxing. I asked her what it was once, but it wasn’t anything I was familiar with, and I can’t remember it now. Why did I need to remember? She had it written in my file! My file, which has probably been shredded or burnt by now. I’ve asked around, and no one else seems to have anything but hydrocortisone for this purpose. I’m terrified to get my brows done now, because I do not want anymore damage to my face, especially right before the wedding.
My hope is that you might be able to recommend a similar product that I could take with me and apply after the waxing…?
-Slightly Scraggly & Terribly Traumatized

Hmm. OK, well. As far as first-hand recommendations of stuff I have personally used? Not really. My spa uses nothing post-brow-waxing, and then just straight-up baby powder for the more (ahem) sensitive areas. I don’t know. My waxers lived through wars and communism and have little patience for my rashes.
I once used a home waxing strip kit that came with a tiny vial of azulene oil which seemed to work pretty great — it’s a natural remedy, derived from chamomile and pumped up with vitamin E and menthol. Very oily and thick and smells surprisingly nice, and the menthol is instantly cooling and the chamomile soothes the redness. Not “medicated,” per se, and not a gel, but something you could — oh God, if you dare — test out at home, in an inconspicuous spot, using a similar kit by Parissa (Whole Foods sells them, and they’re readily available online). There’s a lot of contradictory post-waxing advice and tips out there, and a lot of it advises against lotions and oils of any kind for the first 24 hours or so because of ingrown hairs. I don’t have a lot of problems with ingrowns — redness and swelling is more my bag, but didn’t notice the azulene caused any. But oh, it’s all so hit or miss when it comes to skin.
As for trying to nail down the exact remedy your waxer used…hmm, what does your mom’s waxer use? Where did all the techs and employees from your spa end up? They’ve got to be working SOMEWHERE, right? (I’m guessing this was the spa you went to? The blog author appears to be in contact with the owner, so perhaps you might get a lead about where your waxer ended up or how to contact her if she’s not officially with another spa yet.) And chances are, it might not be anything too mysterious or magical — it’s just a matter of explaining, pre-wax, pre-appointment even, the extent of your skin sensitivities to a new technician. An experienced one will have seen skin like yours, I’m sure of it.
300-1.jpgAnd now, some totally random shots in the dark, courtesy of my cache of beauty forums and Google skills…could your tech have been using Bikini Zone Medicated gel with lidocaine? After Wax Cooling Gel or any of the dozens of other post-waxing products by GiGi? Fragrance-free aloe vera gel mixed with some topical pain relief?
I’m sorry you don’t have a ton of time to sort this out before your wedding. Personally I would start by getting your mom to pester her spa and find out exactly what they use for her. Send an email to the blog I linked above and beg for some help (use the “my wedding’s in a mooooonnnnnth!” panic to your advantage here). And then, if those leads get you nowhere, make an appointment at the next posh spa over but oh my GOD, be loud and vocal and as shrill as you need to be to fully express the depths of your sensitivity and the need for them to whip out whatever magical ointment they’ve got of their own.
But…hit up the local beauty supply shop before you go and pick up a couple remedies of your own — the Bikini Zone stuff, azulene oil, diaper rash cream, all of the above. If your wax still ends in disaster, at least you’ll have options to help treat the problem at home. And for God’s sake, schedule the appointment as far in advance of your wedding day as your brow regrowth rate will allow. Good luck (and let us know if you ever figure out what the miracle gel was).

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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21 Responses to “Super-Sensitive Brow Skin & the Case of the Shut-Down Salon”

  1. Tamara Jun 09 at 9:55 am Reply Reply

    I use Tend Skin post waxing, and it HELPS with the bumps. My skin is really sensitive, too You can get it at Ulta or Sephora… It is great. Also good on pimples.

  2. Allison Jun 09 at 10:11 am Reply Reply

    I recently had a similarly horrible brow wax experience. My lids swelled to the point that I was barely recognizable. This was followed by the mosquito bite rash that you described. Weeks later I still have discolored patches. All this to say that I will never wax my brows again. Have you considered finding someone who will just pluck? Or perhaps threading?

  3. Lemmonex Jun 09 at 10:24 am Reply Reply

    Short term solution, but maybe try threading before the wedding for the brows and erm, shave the sensitive bits? Seems the wax is the issue and threading is obviously wax free.

  4. Nerwal Jun 09 at 10:32 am Reply Reply

    Please, please, please share the secret formula! My skin is also very sensitive to waxing. I went to a salon once and had them wax my eyebrows and they used some magical after-wax stuff but I don’t remember who they are. :( And everywhere I’ve tried looking for them leaves me with angry red eyebrows and the people thinking I’m crazy.

  5. The Muse Jun 09 at 10:49 am Reply Reply

    Oh, honey, I have the same problem with brow waxing (but somehow, not with bikini waxing) when it comes to the painful, red, angry skin that can look all pimply when its done.
    My remedy? No more brow waxing. I’ve actually started to get my brows threaded. If you’ve never heard of it, the technique is from India, where the beautician wraps a length of cotton thread (like the kind you sew with) around her hands and holds one end in her teeth, then twists the threads and runs it along your brows, pulling out the hairs at the root.
    I find it a little less painful than waxing (though it takes an extra minute or two), but I’ve always had great results with it. I do end up with slightly reddened skin after, but because there’s nothing actually sitting ON my skin, there are no bumps that follow.
    Also, if you have any concerns about, er, upper lip fuzz, threading is a great way to get rid of that, too!!
    Best of luck!

  6. ak Jun 09 at 11:10 am Reply Reply

    if waxing irritates your skin, definitely find someone who can tweeze/pluck your brows instead. it takes longer and some places charge a little more, but your skin will thank you.
    after waxing, my salon uses an aloe-witch hazel gel. .. it’s super intense and really helps. maybe that’s it?

  7. slynnro Jun 09 at 12:12 pm Reply Reply

    My salon uses the GiGi stuff and it is great.

  8. Alana Jun 09 at 1:11 pm Reply Reply

    I have the same problem, but I also have very unruly brows, so giving up waxing is not really an option for me. After a lot of grief, I finally went to an esthetician who told me to go home and apply a thin layer of Polysporin cream to the waxed area, followed by “why has no one ever told you this before?!”. Needless to say, I have yet to have a bumpy reaction (mine look like little pimples more so than mosquito bites), and aside from a fair bit of post-waxing redness, I’ve had no problems whatsoever with maintaining my regular waxing routine (though bikini waxes are a whole other awful story).
    I would definitely recommend trying Polysporin or a similarly medicated cream next time you wax. Otherwise, like a few other people have mentioned, threading might be a great no-wax alternative.
    Good luck!

  9. jodifur Jun 09 at 1:21 pm Reply Reply

    See if you can find a salon that does threading. I find that does not cause my sensitive skin to break out at all. It’s an ancient Indian method that uses thread to remove the hair, instead of wax. It still hurts though.

  10. Liz Jun 09 at 1:48 pm Reply Reply

    I’m going to chime in with the threading, also. I haven’t personally done it, but a friend with very sensitive skin swears by it. Also, if you can make it into Manhattan, Bliss Spa uses hard wax, which is a world away from regular waxing (it’s a wax that only binds to the hair, not the skin, so hardly any redness at all). I have pretty sensitive skin myself and that’s where I booked my pre-wedding waxing and was completely happy.

  11. jodifur Jun 09 at 3:18 pm Reply Reply

    lesson learned, read the comments before you comment. I thought I was being so novel with the threading idea. I had no idea 5 other people had suggested it.
    Good luck!

  12. qwyneth Jun 09 at 3:31 pm Reply Reply

    If you find out the magic stuff, PLEASE tell us!
    I once had a bikini wax where, instead of laying out the strips of cloth, the technician used blobs of wax to remove the wax. It was funky, but the least painful wax I have ever had. I routinely bruise black and blue from waxing and have several times lost entire layers of skin, so I’m desperate to figure out what that divine stuff was. (Unfortunately, I’ve since moved away from the salon.)

  13. Cheryl Jun 09 at 4:10 pm Reply Reply

    I noticed following the article back to the original news site that some of the commenters were updating where the former employees have landed. Hopefully she can find her aesthetician and it all ends happily ever after. Raw deal for everyone, though.

  14. Kimmers Jun 10 at 8:27 am Reply Reply

    I’ve never waxed my eyebrows (I pluck them, myself, pretty obsessively) but i’m wondering if anyone has any bikini waxing tips they want to share while we’re on the topic of waxing? Im super obsessed with being smooth – I shave my legs every day and have no sensitivity issues whatsoever, provided that I use good quality razors and shaving cream. But my bikini area is ALWAYS a mess of red bumps and irritation. I’ve tried every razor and shaving cream combo out there and nothing seems to get around it. Ditto on the topical stuff. I’ll be honest – this is probably TMI – but I’m pretty much taking it all off so maybe that’s part of the problem… I was thinking maybe I need to start waxing? Does this eliminate the irritation? And how long do the results last? Do I have to suffer with stubble in between waxes? Thanks in advance guys, I’m desperate!!

  15. missKC Jun 10 at 11:06 am Reply Reply

    OMG – she posted my question! I’m all aflutter! After much searching, I have a message in with one of my old salon’s former employees, and have had no luck locating someone who does threading. Still trying on that one. As time is getting terribly short, I made an appointment (June 24) for waxing at another posh salon who claims to have a gentler wax for sensitive skin, as well as a couple of after-wax potions to alleviate the irritation. On Amalah’s suggestion, I will also stock up on a few tricks of my own.
    I promise – if anything works, I’ll let you know! And thanks for the suggestions!

  16. umi Jun 10 at 11:09 am Reply Reply

    I vote for the threading on the brows. My skin’s pretty good for the most part, so I get absolutely no redness from it. My friend, though who is always a red mess after waxing just tried it and is now a convert. There was minimal redness and no bumps.
    For the bikini area, I have had no problems (burning or otherwise) with sugaring.

  17. KM Jun 11 at 10:03 am Reply Reply

    my salon uses finipil on me after all of my waxing. I have also used a mixture of witch hazel and tea tree oil (found at Trader Joe’s in beauty products) on following days, but the more I wax, the less irritation I deal with. Oh, and they baby powder all areas pre-wax as well because of my skin sensitivity.

  18. Miss W Jun 11 at 3:28 pm Reply Reply

    Also in Rochester NY. I don’t have the sensitive skin/waxing reactions that you do. However, I’ve been going to Brow Diva and find that the wax that they use is much more gentle than any I’ve had done elsewhere. They also have a variety of products to soothe the skin as they go (I always opt for the lavendar essential oil). Of course, if you have anything to say about other salons (still haven’t found one for my hair since moving here 3 years ago…) I’d love an email with your suggestions ;)

  19. MissKC Jun 12 at 7:04 pm Reply Reply

    Dear Miss W – also not a Rochester native and would be glad to share, but I’m a total novice at this blog/comment thing. It is a mark of how desperate I am that I submitted a question! All that is to say – I would email you but have no idea how to get your email address out of this…

  20. Miss W Jun 13 at 4:13 pm Reply Reply

    Eep…I thought that this blog was set up so that clicking my name would let you…it isn’t ;) If you happen to see this it’s misssw [at] gmail dot com.

  21. Emily Jun 18 at 4:03 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with sugaring. Professional sugaring, not the Nads stuff of the infomercials. The technician uses a blob of the sugary stuff (which is room temp to slightly warm, avoiding potential burning issues you can get with wax), spreads it against the hair growth, and then sort of flicks it off in the direction of growth. The same blob is used for the whole treatment, so you avoid the double-dipping issues of waxing (dipping the same stick into the communal wax pot). It hurts less, costs about the same, and doesn’t stick to skin at all (so no removing a fine layer of skin!) They can also remove hair that is MUCH shorter than you can with waxing, so you don’t have to get as hairy in between treatments. I just had my legs and underarms done for the first time (I had done my lip before), and it was awesome! It honestly didn’t hurt at all – the worst was some slight discomfort on my shins, but I wouldn’t classify anything as pain. And when I get my lip done, it barely turns red (whereas with waxing, I look like a clown for hours). I have very fair, sensitive skin, and discovering sugaring as been awesome.
    Other suggestions (for any kind of hair removal that pulls the hairs out) include taking an antihistime before your service (the redness/red spots are a histimine reaction), keeping the area CLEAN afterward (avoiding the little pimpley bumps), and exfoliating the area religiously (avoiding ingrowns). Oh, and moisturizing like crazy.
    For brows, though, I’d totally find a salon that’ll tweeze them. It’s totally worth the extra expense for your wedding and you can get an absolutely perfect shape.

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