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Updated 15 November 2017

GRAPHIC: Routine pedicure leaves woman with horrific 3rd degree burns

After visiting a salon for a normal pedicure and callous treatment, a US woman walked away with nothing but pain. Warning: Images in this article might upset sensitive readers.

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Spa treatments are usually synonymous with rest and relaxation, but this unfortunate woman experienced none of that – she walked away from a pedicure treatment with 3rd degree burns.

Cindy Dillon told Fox4 that she requested a callous treatment at a beauty salon. They happily obliged, but according to Dillon the technician dropped some of the callous remover gel on her foot, then proceeded to wrap her feet in plastic and hot towels.

Concentrated salicylic acid

A day after the procedure, she went to see a doctor who diagnosed 3rd degree burns – and Dillon has spent the two months since then recovering from her terrible experience.

"I bent over and saw this terrible burn on my foot," Dillon told Fox4. 

The callous gel that caused the burns is believed to have a high concentration of salicylic acid, a common ingredient in certain face care products that target acne.

Salicylic acid is known to basically dissolve the bonds in skin cells, allowing for excess skin to be shed at a much faster rate and to minimise pore clogging. Many face care products have a percentage ranging between 0.5 and 2, while callous gel may contain 6% or more salicylic acid. Some products can contain up to 35% salicylic acid.

Directions for the use of medication should be adhered to at all times. Burns like Dillon's may occur when the gel or medication is left on for too long.

Allergic reactions

But there are a few other red lights people need to look out for when using salicylic acid. One of these is a sensitivity to the substance. You may be using the product cautiously and sticking to the instructions, but still experience an adverse reaction.

Salicylic acid is derived from Willow trees, much like aspirin, and people who are sensitive to aspirin may have a sensitivity to salicylic acid as well. Certain people may be allergic to the acid, which can result in a number of allergic reactions and possible hospitalisation.

Salons and spas are meant to be cleaned and have their tools and equipment sanitised regularly, but not all of them follow the protocols designed to protect their staff and clients. It turns out that there are certain establishments in the area where Dillon resides that do not follow basic sanitation procedures and protocols, allowing for bacteria and fungi to thrive.

Head of Dermatology at the University of Kansas, Doctor Daniel Aires, mentioned in the interview that he's "seen it all". He added that he is strongly opposed to certain options people go for, such as acrylic nails and cuticles clipping, because there are so many fungal infections that clients can pick up in the process.

Importance of sanitising equipment

Aires said: "I've seen oozing pus. I've seen bright red, painful fingers. I've seen people who've lost part of a finger. I've seen it all."

When heading to a spa or a salon for any treatment, there are a few things you need to check before going ahead with your treatment:

  • Is your technician qualified or experienced enough to do your treatment correctly?
  • Is the salon or spa clean?
  • Does your technician practise good hygiene, such as washing their hands between clients, or changing latex gloves regularly?
  • Are tools and equipment clean and sanitised, or are they dirty, used and lying everywhere?
  • How does the spa or salon clean their tools?
  • Are basins or footbaths sanitised and are filters cleaned regularly?

Sanitising should be done with industrial strength or hospital strength cleaner to kill off all possible bacteria or fungi. Equipment shouldn't just be rinsed, it should be soaked for a prescribed period of time as well.

For your own protection, don't remove any hair (shave, wax, epilate etc.) before going for a spa or salon treatment.

Your salon or spa should also warn you about any treatment that may be harmful to your health or wellbeing.

 
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