As a beauty editor, it’s part of my job to lug home a bajillion products and test, try, swipe, soak, spray, spritz, apply, etc. to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Although there isn’t an inch to spare in my medicine cabinet due to my product hoarding, testing gives us key insight into the user experience. Now trust me; I get it—we’re not saving lives here, and there are far more dangerous jobs than that of a beauty-obsessed journalist writing about the mascara she can’t live without, but sometimes this testing could be considered, well.….an occupational hazard. Take, for instance, the time I suffered second degree burns from an at-home hair-removal wax kit.
To explain: I heated up the wax in my microwave according to the directions and although the bottom of the pot was thoroughly melted, the top portion never liquefied. This created a hard disk, which misled me to believe the entire pot was still solid. When I went to test this “solid” theory with the wood stick by inserting it into the jar, it pushed one side of the hard disk down into the liquid bottom and created a catapult-like effect that launched lava-level hot wax straight onto my wrist and arm.
Ouch would be an understatement. My reaction involved something more along the lines of a lot of text symbols like: $@#!%&@#!!!!!!
This is actually not an uncommon incident. Debora Heslin, RPA-C, who treated me along with Neal Schultz, M.D., a dermatologist at Park Avenue Skin Care, let me know that their practice sees many patients who come in with this exact issue, whether it happened at the salon or was self-inflicted at home. However, as a beauty editor experienced with not only using these kits, but also writing the directions on how to use them, I felt like a total dope for hurting myself so severely. On the bright side, I now consider myself an expert at all things burn-related (adding that to my resume!). Here are the best tips I picked up along the way:
1. Release The Heat: After arriving at my derm’s office, Heslin first froze the wax to make it easier to remove. This also helped reduce the heat stuck beneath the skin’s surface and it felt insanely blissful on my burn. I spent the next two days icing my arm on and off which helped ease the pain.
2. Keep It Moist: Heslin described that when it comes to skin treatments, usually less is more, but not when it comes to burns. She urged me to slather my prescription ointment on excessively multiple times a day, then later, I switched to BeautyRx Healing Balm ($9, call 855.BEAUTY.RX to order).
3. Don’t Suffer: In an attempt to act all cavalier about my injury, I told everyone I was fine, but the truth is a burn is a very different kind of pain and it hurts! It’s like a dull, pulsing sensation mixed with a stinging feeling, which is the strongest during the first few days. Heslin said popping a few aspirin is best for treating burns for its anti-inflammatory properties.
4. Cover Up: Protecting the burn with bandages and changing the dressings two to three times a day is the most annoying part, but it’s so important. It not only keeps your ointment in place, but it also protects your burn from dirt and germs that can cause an infection. I went through boxes of Johnson & Johnson Red Cross Mirasorb Gauze Sponges ($11, walgreens.com), Johnson & Johnson Red Cross Hurt-Free Wrap ($5, walgreens.com), and Band Aid Large Waterblock Plus Bandages ($5, walgreens.com). Although bandages are really not the chicest things to wear around for weeks, you just have to do it (when I had to attend a black-tie wedding, I disguised them with an oversized gold cuff bracelet).
5. Hands Off: As your burn starts to heal, it could be tempting to pick the dead, fried skin that is shedding off or mess with the blisters but it’s crucial not to touch. Your skin will heal without your help and you could risk worse scarring if you pick.
6. Keep It Clean: My incident happened right before I was headed to the beach so Heslin told me to keep my arm out of the sun, sand and ocean water. Shower water is OK and you can rinse it with a gentle soap and warm water when showering or bathing.
7. Milk It: No, I don’t mean make your boyfriend and your mom wait on you hand and foot due to your “very painful, badly burned arm” (though this kind of manipulation will work and you should use it to your advantage). Once the blisters have emptied, Dr. Schultz advised soaking the burn in equal parts skim milk and water. The milk has proteins in it that help reduce inflammation and the burning discomfort.
8. No Sunshine When It’s Gone: Once the burn is healed enough (meaning no blisters, shedding skin or scabs) it will just look raw and pink. During this stage, it’s crucial to keep it out of the sun, which can turn the pink pigments brown causing annoying hyperpigmentation which can be difficult to remove.. Apply an SPF of at least 30 to the area daily, reapply after swimming or sweating and cover it with a zinc-based sunscreen if outdoors for an extended period of time. Also, don’t reach for scar creams or patches right away—those are made for raised scars, which are more common from things like cuts or surgery. Plus, if you take really good care of your burn (like me!) you won’t have any scarring.
Listen, accidents happen. And even the most skilled person can flub when it comes to hair removal so follow the directions and use caution. If you get badly burned, see a medical professional and reference the tips above. Otherwise, you might just want to leave the tough stuff to the pros.