5 Beauty Treatments That Could Turn Deadly

A woman receiving botox

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A trip to the spa or salon is all about pampering yourself and feeling beautiful and rejuvenated, but sometimes simple beauty treatments and cosmetic procedures can go terribly wrong, resulting in scarring, infections and occasionally, death. While most of these procedures are perfectly safe when performed by doctors or licensed technicians, you might think twice after seeing the ugly side of these beauty treatments.

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Manicures and Pedicures

Photo: Smoobs/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

In a place where nails are cut, calluses are buffed and feet are soaked, it’s no surprise that you can pick up fungal and bacterial infections — including MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria — in nail salons. And while it may be hard to believe, these infections can be deadly. In 2005, Kimberly Kay Jackson went to get her monthly pedicure, but her heel was cut by a pumice stone and she developed a wound that wouldn’t heal despite antibiotics. The 46-year-old died seven months later and her family sued the salon.

Experts advise that you evaluate a salon’s general cleanliness when you first enter, and check out these other consumer safety guidelines. If you notice signs of infection around your cuticles or nail bed after visiting a nail salon, see a doctor immediately.

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Brazilian Blowout

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If you long for sleek, shiny locks — and have a few hundred bucks to spend — then you might be tempted by the popular Brazilian Blowout line of hair-straightening products. But be warned: The products have “dangerously high levels” of cancer-causing formaldehyde, according to the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, the FDA’s analysis found that the products contain 8.7 percent to 10.4 percent formaldehyde, putting it in the range of embalming fluid used by funeral homes — OSHA requires levels of 0.1 percent to have an occupational hazard alert.

Brazilian Blowout users have reported nosebleeds, chest pain, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, rashes and breathing problems, and some salon workers and customers even wear gas masks during the procedure.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a lawsuit pending against the FDA for failure to act on a 6-year-old petition requesting an investigation into the treatments.

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Botox injections


Although the cosmetic use of Botox is generally safe when used as directed, the drug comes with a Black Box Label, the FDA’s most stringent warning. Consumer group Public Citizen petitioned the FDA for the warning in 2008, citing 180 reports of adverse effects in the U.S. and 16 deaths. Botox can spread to other parts of the body after injection, causing serious side effects; however, the chance of this occurring when the drug is used for cosmetic purposes is extremely unlikely. Serious side effects are more likely to occur in children being treated for muscle spasms.

If you’re considering getting Botox injections, experts advise that you ask about the qualifications of the person performing the injections, ensure the person is using real Botox from Allergan and watch to see if proper sanitation standards are followed. If you experience any symptoms of botulism after the injections, including difficulty swallowing, slurred speech or muscle weakness, seek immediate care.

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Photo: Evil Erin/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

It's ironic that people climb into tanning beds to get a healthy glow when cancer experts have deemed the devices as deadly as mustard gas and arsenic. In fact, an analysis of 20 studies concluded in 2009 that the risk of skin cancer increases by 75 percent when people start using tanning beds before age 30. According to the National Cancer Institute, female tanning bed users are 55 percent more likely to develop malignant melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

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Laser hair removal

Photo: Dr. Braun/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

When performed by a skilled professional, laser hair removal is typically a safe procedure, but the treatment’s side effects can include skin damage, bacterial infections and permanent scarring. However, it’s the use of skin-numbing products prior to the procedure that led the FDA to issue a public health advisory in 2009. The topical anesthetics lessen the pain of laser hair removal, but they can also be deadly, as was the case with 22-year-old Shiri Birg. In 2004, Birg applied the numbing gel as she’d been directed, but she had a seizure, lapsed into a coma and died eight days later from lethal brain damage.

If you’re considering using a topical anesthetic before laser hair removal, talk to a doctor first and check out the FDA’s safety guidelines.