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Dying to Be Beautiful

Beauty may be only skin-deep, but dangers associated with some beauty procedures can cause damage to the core.

WebMD Feature

From pedicures that can net you a nasty infection, to antiaging treatments that can land you on a ventilator, the message seems clear: Looking beautiful sometimes carries a huge price tag.

And while in the right hands experts say most beauty treatments are safe, in the wrong hands the trade-off can be steep.

“It’s an unknown risk because you’re dependant upon the technical ability and integrity of the person performing the treatment – and the types of organisms you may be exposed to can run the gamut from bacteria to viruses, to other types of organisms, like fungi, even micro bacteria related to the tuberculosis organism," cautions Phillip Tierno, PhD, director of clinical microbiology at NYU Medical Center in New York City.

And in some cases, says Tierno, exposures can be deadly.

This was the case recently in Fort Worth, Texas, where a wrongful death suit claimed a woman died after contracting antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus following a pedicure at a local nail salon.

This incident, says Tierno, parallels another, even more widespread calamity that occurred when 110 people who received pedicures at a Santa Cruz, Calif. nail salon contracted a potentially dangerous infection causing treatment-resistant skin abscesses and boils.

But if you think that dangers lurk only in nail salons, think again. Within the past several years the FDA has issued consumer warnings about dangers linked to other beauty treatments as well including makeup that is permanently tattooed on.

Citing numerous reports of adverse reactions ranging from allergiesallergies to serious, disfiguring infections, the FDA cautioned consumers about the use of certain shades of inks and dyes, particularly in the red family.

But Tierno points out allergic reactions are not the only problem.

"Any time you breach the skin's surface there is a chance of getting an infection," he says. While it's usually bacterial in nature, he says it also means viruses, including HIV.

Indeed, in December 2003, a jury in San Antonio, awarded a woman more than a half million dollars after it was proven she contracted hepatitishepatitis C while having permanent makeup applied at a local salon. In Canada one patient contracted HIV.

Moreover, experts say you may run into other serious problems if you decide to reverse your color choice via standard laser tattoo removal.

"There are certain dyes used in permanent makeup that, when exposed to a laser for removal, will turn the area injected with the dye permanently black, requiring a complex surgery to fix it," says dermatologist Sumayah Jamal, MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology and microbiology at NYU Medical Center in New York City.

Facing Facts

When it comes to the pursuit of youth, perhaps nothing has garnered more attention than "injectables" -- treatments like Botox, Restalyne, and silicone, which have successfully filled wrinkles and relaxed brows for millions of men and women.

Brush Up on Beauty

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