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Many lymphedema therapists recommend that women with lower extremity lymphedema do not use leg waxing. This article answers the question, ”WHY NOT? ” There are several important reasons why this, and other unwanted hair removal treatments are not recommended for those with lymphedema.
WHY WAXING IS NOT RECOMMENDED
The wax must be warm to melt. Placing heat on lymphedema affected tissues is not recommended.
A cloth is dipped in hot wax and then applied to the skin. Here it is allowed to cool and then the cloth is pulled off. In addition to removing the hair, this treatment can also damage the skin.
Skin affected by lymphedema is very sensitive and ,ust be treated gently. “Waxing is not a gentle treatment.”
The wax gets into the hair follicle (root)and pulls the hair from the root. This potentially opens a break in the skin that could be an invitation to infection.
This procedure does not produce permanent hair removal and must periodically be performed reeated.
A depilatory is a strong chemical that is used to remove unwanted hair. Since skin affected by lymphedema is fragile, there is always the danger that a depilatory treament, even when performed by a professional, could damage the skin.
The removal of unwanted hair through the use of electrical current to destroy those hair follicles is know as electrolysis. As with any procedure of this sort that is performed in a commercial setting, there is always the danger of infection due to contaminated equipment. Also because skin affected by lymphedema is sensitive, there is always the danger of breaking, irritating, or damaging the skin.
LASER HAIR REMOVAL
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends, “A laser hair removal system, which has been approved by the FDA, may not claim that laser hair removal is either painless or permanent.”
This means that although laser treatments with these devices will permanently reduce the total number of body hairs, they will not result in a permanent removal of all hair.
Since skin affected by lymphedema is easily damaged, it is prudent to forego having this procedure performed on lymphedema affected tissues.
WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
The National Lymphedema Network (NLN) recommends very carefully using a razor to shave affected legs.
Another alternative is to shave very carefully with a properly maintained electric razor that is used only for this purpose.
Maintenance includes keeping it clean and replacing the razor heads as needed.
Shaving under an arm that is affected by lymphedema is difficult because of the swelling and unusual folds in these tissues.
Another factor is the loss of the sense of touch in this area. Rather than taking chances, it may be best to not shave under this arm.
Hair removal is an annoying enough process as it is, but when you’ve got lymphedema, it’s important to take even more care around your affected areas. Any nicks or cuts can expose your limb to infection, which can create problems.
According to the National Lymphedema Network, the best hair removal technique is shaving. In order to ensure that the razor is clean, it’s important to replace the razor heads often. Also, it may be good to have a designated razor head for your lymphedema limb.
If your limb is too swollen to shave, it’s best to avoid shaving that particular area altogether so as not to risk any nicks or cuts.
Waxing, depilatories, electrolysis, and laser hair removal are not recommended, as they can damage your sensitive and already fragile skin. Waxing is especially dangerous, as it puts unnecessary heat on your lymphedema-affected tissues!
People with lipolymphedema are at high risk of wounds occurring in affected skin areas. You need to be prepared to treat these injuries or infections or have an emergency plan for treatment at your doctor’s office or emergency room.
Assemble and keep a first aid kit at home suitable to treat your condition. In addition to the standard kit, you may want to include non-allergic medical tape, assorted gauze size bandages, topical cortisone or antibiotic cream, and your emergency antibiotic prescription for bacterial infections.
Personal hygiene is essential to preventing fungal infections, skin tears and wounds in fold creases and reducing areas where bacteria might enter your body. Trim your toe and finger nails short to avoid accidental scrapes and cuts. Keep your skin hydrated and use special moisturizers to repair dry skin and lock in hydration, such as Eucerin or CeraVe. Always check with your medical professional(s) whenever something looks or feels wrong.
Chatham, N. & Thomas, L. (2013). Lymphedema and lipedema: What every wound care clinician should know. Wound Care Advisor. Retrieved from: https://woundcareadvisor.com/lymphedema-lipedema-every-wound-care-clinician-know/
Ercolano, A. (2011). Hair Removal & Lymphedema: Healthy Grooming Tips. The Lymphie Life. Retrieved from: https://thelymphielife.com/2011/11/10/hair-removal-lymphedema-healthy-grooming-tips/
(2012). Safely Removing Unwanted Hair. Lymph Notes. Retrieved from: http://www.lymphnotes.com/article.php/id/278/