Two young beautiful women relaxing and enjoying at the spa

For many women, a salon visit is one of life’s guilty pleasures.  There’s nothing like being pampered and fussed over to melt away the stress of a hectic week.  However, some of the most commonly indulged beauty treatments can cause some serious health risks, from infections to even cancer.  Here’s a list of four popular salon treatments with expert advice on how to avoid the dangers and stay beautifully healthy.

Ear candles

Ear wax blockage can be painful and annoying.  One solution offered by some salons is ear candles – hollow cones that are actually burned in the ear.  Proponents say they remove the wax, improve hearing, and take away toxins and impurities in the process.

If the procedure sounds dangerous to you, you’re right.  It can be.  The FDA cautions that ear candles can cause burns, ear canal blockages, and ear drum perforations.

Gordan Sigel, M.D., and associate professor of clinical otolaryngology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, says, “The ear is a sensitive organ. I don’t think that I would trust any sensitive organ to a salon.”

Sigel compares the procedure to sticking a vacuum cleaner in your ear.  Some of the damage may heal in time, but in some cases surgery is required and long-term hearing loss can result.

If you’re bothered with ear wax, there are over-the-counter products available that soften the wax, and then remove it with syringe irrigation.  Your best bet, however, is to prevent build-up in the first place by applying a few drops of half peroxide/half water mix in the ear.  Never clean inside the ear canal with a Q-Tip as it can push the wax back into the ear or cause a perforation.

And if you do decide to try ear candling, make sure you visit a homeopathic practitioner.


Who doesn’t love a pedicure?  Unfortunately, pretty toes are a high price to pay for a viral infection (such as warts), bacterial infection from aggressive filing, or a fungal infection of the toenail.

Jackie Sutera, a New York City podiatrist, recommends bringing your own tools such as cuticle nippers, toe clippers, a nail file, and last but not least, a foot file. “That’s one of the dirtiest things in that whole salon,” she says. “There’s a misconception that because they put it in a blue solution or because they put it in a thing that looks like a toaster oven, it’s clean — but it might not be.”

She also suggests going in for an early appointment before dozens of feet have soaked in the same bath your feet will be in.  Also, don’t linger over a relaxing soak – in less sanitary salons foot baths can be a cesspool of germs.

And skip the foot razors that promise to shave your heel callouses for those sexy sandal feet.  “It’s really dangerous,” Sutera explains. Going at the heels too hard can reveal deep layers of skin that should never be exposed, leading to permanent damage or even scarring. Instead, just keep a pumice stone in your shower to keep up with the daily maintenance yourself.

Gel Manicures

Going for a gel manicure is like sending your hands to a tanning bed.  That’s because the UV-A nail lights used in the treatments could contribute to an increased risk for skin cancer, according to a study published in the Archives of Dermatology.

Other possible health problems include possible nerve damage, so make sure the technicians have had proper training before putting your hands in theirs.

Bikini Wax

A smooth bikini area may make you feel sexy and confident, but if you’re not careful, getting one can send you to the hospital. New Jersey banned the Brazilian bikini wax entirely when two women suffered complications that led to hospitalization.

Just like with eyebrow waxing, burns are a possibility with any kind of bikini wax.  And because the skin is damaged when the hair is ripped out, there is a risk of bacterial, fungal, and viral infection.  But Brazilian waxes are even riskier because the skin area in the back is in closer proximity to bacteria.

Make sure your salon complies with state licensing procedures and keep an eye out for questionable moves such as “double-dipping,” or placing a wax stick back into the community bowl after it has contacted your skin.

So if you’re thinking you may need to forego your much-needed salon pampering, no worries – you don’t have rough it from now on. Forewarned is forearmed. Now that you know what to look for, feel free to indulge in your guilty pleasure . . .  but without the guilt of knowing you may be sacrificing health for beauty.

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