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Permanent makeup infection raises eyebrows

We’ve all heard of infectious laughs. But how about infectious eyebrows?

That’s what 12 women from Switzerland were left with after a freelance artist with a pot of tainted ink applied permanent makeup to the women’s brows, resulting in a serious mycobacterial infection.

This particular kind of nasty infection is becoming increasingly common as a complication of cosmetic procedures, according to the case study, reported in the Oxford Journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases.

 They’re also nothing to sneeze at, says Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a dermatologist and board certified cosmetic surgeon from Omaha, Neb., who didn’t treat the Swiss women (whose median age was 56, by the way).  

 “A mycobacterial infection is way more severe than a staph infection, and staph infections can be fatal in some cases,” he says. “Mycobacterial infections are just not as treatable. Once it takes hold, there’s very little that can be done to fix it other than a very long course of antibiotics or excision of the affected area.”

 Of the 12 women infected, 10 had to undergo surgery. Some had to have a “partial paroditectomy” (meaning they had to have the lymph nodes in their neck taken out because the infection was lodged there).  Others had to have their infected eyebrows surgically removed.

But that wasn’t all. All 12 of the women had to take a harsh triple-whammy of antibiotics (clarithromycin, cipoflaxacin and rifabutin) for weeks -- or months -- on end (some had to take the concoction for nearly a year).

Schlessinger says infections like this are often the result of “fly- by-night” medi-spas and salons that don’t adhere to safe, sterile practices.

“We see a lot of people enter this field with little or no training and less strict ideas of how they maintain their instruments,” he says. “They may share instruments between people without cleaning them or throw them in a very minimally sterilizing instrument bath for only a few minutes. Typically, sterility is the first thing to go in these operations.”

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