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What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Wax?

By Madeleine A.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Signs of an allergic reaction to wax include redness, irritation, and itching. In addition, hives, swelling, and blisters can occur. Although most allergic reactions are generally mild, a serious allergic reaction can occur as well. Signs and symptoms of a serious reaction include swelling of the throat, tongue, face, and lips, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and chest pain or pressure. This type of reaction is referred to as an anaphylactic reaction and if not treated within about 20 minutes, the prognosis may be poor.

Wax is typically used as a depilatory to remove hair from the legs, underarms, facial area, and bikini area. Facial waxing typically involves the upper lip area and the eyebrow area. The wax is usually heated before it is applied, and although an allergic reaction is one risk factor when using the product, others include getting burned and accidentally pulling off the top layer of skin. Burns from hot wax cause cause blistering, which can lead to permanent scarring.

Treatment for an allergic reaction to wax includes applying a hydrocortisone cream to the affected area, taking an over-the-counter antihistamine, and applying ice to the area. In addition, taking a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help relieve irritation and pain. Although acetaminophen is helpful in relieving pain, it is not effective in alleviating accompanying inflammation the way ibuprofen is.

When a severe allergic reaction occurs that affects breathing or causes heart beat abnormalities and throat swelling, emergency services need to be notified. This type of reaction to wax is extremely rare, however, and is more common in those who have pre-existing allergies. People who have severe allergies to bee stings and other allergens may need to carry an emergency allergy kit with them at all times. The kit contains a pre-filled pen-like applicator filled with epinephrine, which can counteract the effects of the allergen.

In addition to allergic reactions and burns, waxing can also cause an infection. If the hot wax is contaminated with bacteria and gets into small cuts or abrasions, it can invade the bloodstream and cause an infection. Signs of this type of infection may include redness and swelling, drainage from the site, and systemic effects such as fever, chills, malaise, nausea, and vomiting. When this occurs, oral antibiotics may need to be taken to resolve the symptoms of the bacterial infection.

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Discussion Comments

By NashAuthor — On May 16, 2015

So, here's a question. I got puffy eyes for days and almost purple reaction when I got my eyebrows waxed. I now get them threaded to avoid that. I figured it was due to a medication I'm on. If I have that reaction when my eyebrows are waxed, would waxing my legs give the same reaction? What would an alternative be that would give the same result?

By Viranty — On Jan 18, 2014
@RoyalSpyder: Even though I don't have any allergies, I know how severe they can be, based on my personal experience. I once had a friend who ate an egg roll and then had to be rushed to the hospital. It turned out that the egg roll had been fried in peanut oil.

She was all right, but I can only imagine how hard it must be adjusting to a different lifestyle and having to be cautious at every turn. Not only does this article do a great job at discussing allergic reactions to wax, but I like how it ties into many symptoms one can experience, regardless of allergy.

By RoyalSpyder — On Jan 17, 2014
Allergies are something we all need to be cautious about, despite what we may be allergic to. What makes them so dangerous is that in some cases, you don't know you have it until it's almost too late.

For example, if someone has an allergy to bee stings, how would they even know unless they end up getting stung? Or if someone has a severe peanut allergy, how would they find out prior to their reaction? After all, even the most unusual of foods contains peanuts (Chinese food). Obviously, there are exceptions to this, but in those cases, it's completely unpredictable.

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