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Wednesday, 25 June 2008 15:28

Double Dip Debate

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Two forms of wax are used in spas, with one being a 'must have' hair removal tool that has been used in the beauty industry for generations, and the other being a traditional barrier therapy utilized for hydrating the skin for as long as skin care has been performed. Both deem a closer look at for safe use, epsecially as spa clients are demanding higher levels of safety now. Spas must answer client demands for obviously safe protocols, or lose them, one at a time, to spas that do.

Epilatory Hair Removal
Waxing is very profitable for spas. Most successful facial departments will say that 30 percent of their gross income is from waxing, a low cost, high repeat, and often sought after service. Consultants will suggest to spas that are struggling, aggressively pursuing the wax business of their existing clients; it's one of the easiest ways to upgrade a skin department's income. individual aestheticians should suggest waxing services to every client if they want an immediate raise in their income. It's quick, it's easy, and everyone wants it.
A controversial issue in the waxing world, however, is double dipping: the re-dipping of a wax applicator into the wax heater after use. Is it OK to double dip? Opinions differ, but actually the controversy centers on a specific question: Can microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi, molds, and yeast) grow and replicate in wax? "Probably not," says David R. Caprette, Ph.D., department of biochemistry and cell biology, Rice University, Houston, Texas. "Microbes need water to grow and multiply. However, this does not mean they cannot be transferred to another person after languishing in the wax, and that a pathogen (disease causing agent) or an opportunistic pathogen (an agent that will take advantage of a compromised immune system) 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 a 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.
What does it take to not double dip? Most aestheticians that quit the double dip say that it is just a habit to break, and they conscientiously established a more appropriate one. After that, they performed the procedure mindlessly just as before, and in the same time frame. A small, closable plastic bag can be taped to the table where the wax pot is residing. Lay the wax sticks close to the pot or have them in a nearbycontainer. Then, drop the used stick in the bag, pick up a new one, move to the pot and dip. It's repeated, mindlessly then, when finished, close and dispose of the bag of sticks. It's the safe thing to do.

Paraffin has many uses in the real world, from industrial to forensics, and played an important role in heat therapies long before paraffin beauty treatments were designed. Paraffin from baths is a very inexpensive treatment for a spa to offer and is highly pampering. But the primary purpose in paraffin beauty therapies is in placing a temporary barrier on the surface of the skin (occluding) to prevent the evaporation of the added water that its heat brings to the area. "After paraffin is applied, the heat draws moisture from the underlying layers of the skin and increases the blood supply to the area," says Mark Madson, President of Amber Products in Imperial, Pa. "Then occlusion allows infusion of the retrieved moisture into the layers of the skin, thus hydrating it and adding nourishment through the increased blood supply." Paraffin is a very healing treatment, and can also partner with products that are applied to the surface prior to application of the paraffin in treatment modalities.
Paraffin is traditionally applied from a paraffin bath. "These baths keep paraffin heated to above its melting point to allow it to maintain its liquid form," says Marlina Jusef, the brand manager of GiGi, American International Industries, in Los Angeles, Calif. "The temperature is usually a comfortable 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit."

Double Dipping – Or Not
Clients are developing an unease concerning the traditional practice of dipping their hands into what they call 'communal baths' of paraffin. Is their anxiety about potential transfers of disease valid? Caprette has the same concerns for paraffin baths as he has for epilatory wax pots, but Matson does not. "We estimate there have been over seven million professional and retail (for the home) paraffin baths sold over the last 30 years and millions and millions of pounds of paraffin, and there have been no reported cases of injuries or infections to the FDA," he says. Capprette agrees that if there are no cases or suspected cases in which pathogens are known to have transmitted through paraffin and disease resulted, there probably is no cause for concern. Could it be because the paraffin treatments usually are included in treatments where the hands and feet are cleansed and scrubbed in the service prior to their being dipped? Dawn McCormick the owner of Nailtique Skin and Nails in Columbus, Ohio, dips her clients' hands for treatments. However, in doing so she has cleansed them with anti-microbial gel cleanser and sprayed them with a sanitizer in the manicure or pedicure protocol. She has also exfoliated them well with a scrub to remove all dead and loose cells as part of the treatment. "My clients know I am picky about the cleanliness of the hands that go into my paraffin bath so none have expressed concern," she says.
Persons should not dip their hands in a paraffin bath without cleansing first, but unfortunately it happens in a salons and spas. For example, hair designers will walk into the manicure department and dip their sore hands into the bath, saying, 'oh that feels great!' Instead, in the case of damaged or unclean skin of any kind, an alternative method should be used for the treatment. In the case of sore hands, McCormick dips a fully opened 4x4 piece of gauze into the paraffin bath, allows it to drip, then wraps the hand. She adds more until the hand is encased and may add more paraffin by dipping the wrapped hand. Then, she pulls a plastic bag over it and puts it into a terry mitt for heat retention. "Hands with any damage do not go directly into my bath unless they are clean and exfoliated," she says.
Another alternative application of paraffin to the hands and feet is to pour one-fourth to three-fourth cup of paraffin, depending on the size of the hand or foot, into a thin plastic bag, then place the appendage in it and manipulate the paraffin over the surface. Then place it in a terry mitt to maintain the heat. After, fold the plastic bag ends to inside the paraffin, pull, and the entire glove of paraffin slips off, leaving a soft hand or foot. DeBorah King with Headlines Salon and Day Spa in Oviedo, Fla., uses this method at the skin care chair for hands and feet. "It takes practice, but once you have performed three or four of them, you'll love not having hands and feet in your paraffin bath and the client can remain reclined," she says.
McCormick always uses gauze for applying paraffin on hands and feet when the client is relaxing on the facial chair. "I don't want them to get up and this is much more relaxing. Also, many times I don't have time to exfoliate them, so I don't want them in my bath," she says. The method for the feet is the same as mentioned above for the hands. "Clients love this method as it feels especially pampering," she says.
She also uses dipped gauze for paraffin application for facials, using 2x2 and 4x4 gauze squares, unfolded. She tucks tissues around the headband to keep the paraffin from going on the hair or band, applies her mask, then dips, drips, and places the gauze across the forehead, across the center of the face over the nose; then she places a small strip across under the nose, and a last one across the lower face, which usually includes under the chin. "I prefer these over those facial gauze masks that never quite fit," she says. She places eye pads before beginning the placement. She then paints paraffin over the gauze to about one-fourth of an inch thick, or applies more gauze.

New Equipment for Paraffin
Two new and unique systems are available now for performing paraffin treatments without the bath. Both prevent cross-contamination, and provide treatments on short notice, eliminating the wait for a bath to heat up. The units are lightweight and very portable for transfering from one location to another. Both also are individual treatments, meaning a full treatment is used, per client, and then discarded. Efficiency is a key to both, and messiness is not a factor in their use. One is a spray system, spraying the paraffin from a plastic, individual cartridge which is heated and ready for use within 20 minutes. A nozzle is affixed, then the product is sprayed on any treatment area of the body. It is easily transported to any client in the spa. Shanna Garonzik with Paradise Salon and Day Spa in Pikesville, Mass., uses the unit in her facials and body treatments and says her clients love it. "They say it has a very silky feel," she says.
The second system is a portable, stand-alone unit that requires no electric and no heating elements for treating the hands and feet. A set of hand or foot treatment mitts are placed in the unit and an activator added, then, after heating, are removed and slipped on the hands or feet. After the treatment, each 'glove' is removed and discarded. "I purchased the unit and phased out dipping treatments for the hands and feet," says Karen Hodges, owner and licensed manicurist and aesthetician, Morning Glory, Key West, Fla. "It turns out a few of my clients had trepidations that they'd never shared with me about dipping into the community bath." The cost per treatment for these treatments is higher than for the traditional bath method, so spas must raise their prices per treatment to cover costs or stay with their bath methods.

Waxing and paraffin are important treatments and add to the bottom line of spas. But more and more clients are wondering about what they believe are inherent contamination issues in these services, so, factual or not, spas must deal with them. Upgrading prevention in these services is not difficult and doesn't have to cost a lot of money; it can merely mean changing protocols or habits. Or, with paraffin, a spa can invest in the new technologies that emphasize safe use. Either way, ignoring the concerns of our clients is tantamount to waiting for a problem or for watching many clients leave for what they see as a safer environment for their treatments.

Janet McCormick, M.S., is a licensed nail technician and aesthetician, a former salon owner, seasoned instructor of nails and skin care skill, consultant and author. McCormick has achieved status as a CIDESCO diplomate and holds a master's degree in allied health management. She has authored over 200 skill and business articles in industry trade magazines. Her newest book, Spa Manicuring for Salons and Spas, describes a new, profitable focus for the industry: skin care based manicuring. Janet may be contacted via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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