Waxing services are on the rise, particularly with the popularity of various "Brazilian" services. In this article, I'm only addressing sanitation practices and not the waxing procedures themselves but as there is a higher risk of injury with waxing than other services, my advice out of the gate is to find someone that has made waxing their specialty. There is also increased opportunities to come into contact with blood and fluids with waxing so sanitation is especially important.
Cleanliness - Look for basic cleanliness when you enter the room - fresh paper, no trash, plenty of disposables, no excessive wax drippings. Waxer should wear gloves. Before you say anything, gloves in stock photos like the one above are as rare as seat belts in the movies. As previously mentioned in Part 1 Facial Services, any product should be removed from jars or tubes with a swab or spatula, not fingers.
The Dreaded Double Dip - Hopefully it goes without saying but if your waxer spreads the wax on your body and then puts that same spatula back in the wax aka "double dipping" just go. Even if you have only one eyebrow done. Seriously, that's nasty. HOWEVER when I read professional waxing forums it's clear that double dipping is much more common we would like to think and often waxers are told by their employers to do it to save on time and disposables!
"I emphasize that I would not trust low heat to destroy microorganisms in contaminated wax,"
Double dipping waxers and their employers will say that the temperature of the wax kills all the germs. To address that assertion David R. Caprette, Ph.D., department of biochemistry and cellbiology, Rice University, Houston, Texas was interviewed for salon trade magazine, Dermascope , "...microbes likely won't grow and reproduce in the warm wax due to the lack of water. However, this does not mean they cannot be transferred to another person after languishing in the wax, and that a pathogen won't take advantage of its application to the next warm skin," he says. "All you need is the transfer of a viable organism to a new, nice, warm-blooded environment." He is especially concerned if damaged skin is associated with the procedure, such as with cuts and abrasions. Caprette believes that heating wax in a heater will kill most of the microorganisms, if it is heated for an extended time. Time is always the factor, and that can be a problem in busy spas. "Sufficient time is required for microbial kill," he says. But, he adds, the scientific fact is that a typical low heat wax heater will not kill a resistant bacterial spore, as that takes a much higher temperature than it is designed to achieve. He was especially concerned when told that skin and products can contaminate the wax, and that this method of hair removal plucks hair out of the follicle, sometimes causing bleeding. "I emphasize that I would not trust low heat to destroy microorganisms in contaminated wax," he says. The problem is magnified when the skin is not meticulously cleaned prior to waxing. Many aestheticians do not appropriately clean the skin, pre-waxing, leaving high microbial numbers to be transferred in the double dip method of waxing. If that isn't enough ick factor for you, pubic hairs are often trimmed prior to waxing and the trimmed hairs can stick to the applicator to be returned to the wax pot in a double dip. Even lacking the presence of germs, I'm not keen on having anyone's pubes spread across my upper lip. If the wax pot is behind your head, how do you know if someone is double dipping? In salons and spas that want you to be confident there is no double dipping, they will often apply the wax and then snap the stick so you can hear it.
This is a good place to mention paraffin services. Beware of any salon that has you place your hands or feet directly into the bath! The proper method is to pour the warm wax into a disposable container that clients can then place their hands or feet in. I specify disposable because I'm told the price of paraffin is tied to the price of oil so there have been times that it's been quite expensive, which may incentivize practitioners to remove the paraffin from your skin and return to the bath to remelt.
Bottom line, waxing is a popular, effective and accessible service and there many, many conscientious and capable practitioners so I emphasize there is no need to avoid the service. Instead I hope you'll use this knowledge to make sure you can expect and ensure the safest and healthiest experience possible.