OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A popular technique for shaping your eyebrow also has some serious risks. FOX4 Problem Solvers spoke with a woman who developed an infection that caused her to lose most of her eyebrows, and while the problem is rare, it can happen and there are ways to protect yourself.
A year ago, Sophia Williams' eyebrows were so infected she was required to take medical leave from her job as a nurse.
So what happened? Williams blames eyebrow threading, a technique that originated in the Middle East and is growing in popularity in the United States. Thread is used to remove hair on eyebrows, lips and even legs. Although it's quick and often painless, there are risks.
Williams says her eyebrows started showing signs of infection the day after she had them threaded.
"The next day I woke up and it was little bumps, and I remember looking in the mirror, 'oh that's weird,'" Williams recalled.
As the day progressed her eyebrows became more and more irritated.
"I was at work and I literally thought something was falling from the ceiling. I went to the bathroom and I realized it was pus," she described.
Then her face started to swell. She went to a doctor who immediately treated her with antibiotics and anti-fungals. Williams said it took almost a month for the infection to go away, and now, a year later, her eyebrows have finally grown back in enough so that she feels she looks normal again.
Doctor Atieh Jibbe with The University of Kansas Hospital says a sterile environment is key with eyebrow threading.
"It creates small tears that you might not be able to see with the naked eye," Dr. Jibbe said.
Those tears can become a route for bacteria, including staph, strep, herpes and warts.
"It's very important prior to getting it done make sure the people doing it have a cleaning technique prior to doing the threading," Dr. Jibbe said.
"They should be washing their hands before treating you, and cleaning your eyebrows with alcohol before threading, and never reusing thread or any other utensil that's been used on someone else."
Dr. Jibbe says customers also need to take care of their eyebrows for a week or so after having threaded, making sure to clean the area thoroughly and not touch it too much.
Williams blames Brow Art 23 in Overland Park for causing the infection. Although the salon gave her money back for the procedure, Brow Art's insurance company denied the salon was responsible.
"It's a ridiculous stance to sit there and say you didn't cause the woman's eyebrow injuries when her injured area is in the eyebrow, and she went to Brow Art 23 to get her eyebrows done," said attorney Reginald Stockman.
Problem Solvers requested the last four years of state inspection reports for the salon. Up until January 2017 the salon had perfect inspections. Then in February 2017 the salon was sold to the current owners.
The first inspection showed no problems, but the very next year, just two months before Williams was a customer. The salon failed in six areas, four of them involving cleanliness, including not having containers with enough disinfectant to fully immerse instruments, and not properly storing and labeling instruments that had already been used.
FOX4 shared the reports with Williams' attorney.
"Honestly at the end of the day, it's a public safety issue," Stockman said.
FOX4 called Brow Art 23 twice to get its side, and were told someone would call us back, but they never did.
Williams, who has permanent scarring from the infection, is now back at work and back to leading a normal life, but says she never plans to go back to a threading salon.
It's important to note that infections are rare, but they can happen. If you notice redness, or a heat sensation or pus, you should see a doctor immediately.