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Quack chemical peels leave women with burns, scars and allergies

Friday, 05 July 2013 09:52 Written by 

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It’s not legal for beauticians to do treatments like cosmetic peels, but many in the city freely do, sometimes with disastrous results



Would you like a more youthful complexion? Why don’t you get rid of damaged skin? Wouldn’t you like a face free of acne? If your friendly neighbourhood beautician is doggedly asking you these questions, beware. Many high-end beauty salons are offering chemical peel treatments to treat common skin problems. Not only are beauticians not qualified to do so, but their treatments are also patently dangerous.


Dermatologists (doctors qualified to treat skin ailments) say people are being deceived by chemical peel treatments. “They are totally unaware these treatments are illegal, and undergoing such treatments is extremely risky,” says Dr Sudheendra Ubalker, consultant dermatologist at Fortis hospital. Doctors treat many patients who come to them with complaints of burnt-out skin. Dr Aruna Prasad of Columbia Asia Hospital says, “Beauticians are offering cosmetic peels and microdermabrasion treatment. This is absolutely illegal.” She gets three to four people every month, seeking help to remove scars and burns caused by the chemical peel treatment.


“The beauticians do not buy the chemicals doctors do… they buy chemicals that are easy to use, and put the patient’s life at risk,” she explains. Dr Aruna Prasad has seen patients develop secondary infections not easy to get rid of. While some problems caused by chemical peels can be treated, others are not. Beauticians use steroids liberally,and the healing takes time. She remembers a young girl who had developed skin tags, scars and black patches after opting for a chemical peel. “She had severe allergies, and had developed permanent scars. I treated her for all her allergies and she is getting better,” she says. Dr Sudheendra Ubalker says patients rushing to dermatologists for solutions to problems created by beauticians is common today. “Patients don’t know how unqualified these beauticians are. They blindly agree to chemical treatments,” he says.


Chemicals illegally procured


chemicalChemical peels and cosmetic fillers are not to be sold to anyone other than dermatologists and cosmetologists, who are medically qualified experts. “We don’t really know how these beauticians procure them. It is as if anyone can buy the most dangerous substances easily. Since there is no regulation, there are too many people doing too many things. The government should step in and block this,” he urges. On an average, Fortis Hospital on Bannerghatta Road receives three patients with chemical peel problems every month. Dr Ubalker says the patients are typically aged between 20 and the early 40s. “They undergo these treatments at high-end beauty parlours. There are different kinds of chemical peels like superficial peels, medium depth peels, and deep peels. Sometimes, these peels cause long-term problems,” he says. Though there are different kinds of peels available in the market, dermatologists say it’s the glycolic peel that is the most popular. Dr Balraj, HCG Hospitals, gets patients who complain of allergies after undergoing the glycolic treatment. At many beauty parlours in the city, ‘beauty therapists’ conduct the treatments, with dermatologists on call. That way, they manage to stay, even if barely, on the side of the law. “Parlours don’t have in-house dermatologists.


They just hire doctors when there is a need, sometimes with one doctor visiting 10 centres,” he reveals. Dr Balraj, who also runs a clinic in Kalyan Nagar, says he receives about three patients every month suffering from the side-effects of chemical peels. Women who underwent microdermabrasion and undereye dermal roller treatments at beauty parlours are also consulting him. A 25-yearold woman, who came to him a year ago after undergoing a full depth melasma peel at a small beauty parlour, had developed severe pigmentation (darkening of skin) and acne scars. “It’s been over a year and she is still undergoing treatment,” he says. Thank heavens, he jokes, beauticians have at least left Botox and facial fillers to dermatologists. Dr Surinder DSA, who heads Cosmesis India, rues the alarming rise of beauticians as quack surgeons. “When women go for beauty treatment, the beauticians recommend a chemical peel and laser treatments. People get carried away by their stirring speeches, and are convinced beauty parlours are a cheaper alternative to a doctor’s clinic,” he says.


How do beauticians get hold of the stuff?


Talk did a reality check and found many pharmacies refuse to sell the chemical peels across the counter. Bharani, who runs Bharani Medicals in KR Puram, says, “You won’t find chemical peels here.” How do beauticians get them, then? “It all happens behind closed doors. They have contacts with pharma companies who deliver the chemical peels secretly to them.


” A chemical peel is a concentrated acidic solution that helps exfoliate the outer layer of your skin, exposing the soft and supple skin underneath. Different types of peels are prescribed for different skin types. The most common ones are the glycolic acid peel, the lactic acid peel and the salicylic acid peel. A doctor recommends the right peel, depending on the problem and how the skin responds to the treatment.


Your guide to peels


1. Glycolic acid peel:


This is the most commonly used peel in beauty parlours not only because it is easy to use, but also because it is considered one of the lightest peels. It is used for obscuring acne marks and other dark spots. It deep-cleanses the pores and evens the skin tone.


2. Lactic acid peel:


This peel is used to treat hyper pigmentation. It reduces light wrinkles and gives a healthy glow to your skin. This is considered a light peel too, and is used mostly on dry skin.


3. Salicylic acid peel:


This is deeper than the first two. It is used mostly for oily and acne-prone skin. Patients with deep pores and scars are treated with this peel.


4. Mandelic acid peel:


Considered a gentle peel with very little topical discomfort for the patients, it is said to be less irritating than the glycolic acid and lactic acid peels. It is mostly used on darker skin tones to exfoliate dead skin cells.


5. Enzyme peel:


Made of fruits, it exfoliates the surface of the skin without being harsh, like other chemicals. It is mostly used for people who have very sensitive skin.


6. Jessner’s peel:


Recommended for people with acne-prone skin and a notso- sensitive skin. As it is made up of alcohol, it is stronger than salicylic and other acid peels. This peel solution is a combination of two or three acids. Thus, it takes a little longer for patients to recover.


7. TCA or Trichloroacetic peel:


This medium-depth peel is used to treat acne marks and hyper pigmentation. It helps repair tanned skin, and reduces acne scars, wrinkles, and skin tags. Many say that this is quite painful when compared to the other peels.


8. Phenol peel:


This superficial peel is one of the strongest and is not used on dark skin. It helps in giving various results like reducing wrinkles, freckles, acne scars, and improving skin discoloration. As it is very strong, medicines are usually given post procedure. As a result, expect your skin to remain red for at least three months.


FAV Glycolic is the most popular chemical peel


Even as Talk was interviewing Dr Surinder, 35-year-old Lavita (name changed), a HP employee, walked into his clinic at Eva Mall, Brigade Road. She looked pale and teary.


Tearful victim at clinic


Lavita (name changed) had first visited a posh beauty parlour in Sadashivanagar three months ago for a weight loss treatment. When she went to pay her weight loss package fee of around Rs 15,000, she was asked if she’d like an IAL filler treatment (IAL treatment helps improve the hydration and elasticity of the skin), for a little extra. When she told them her age, they said her skin needed rejuvenation.


They assured her their treatment would make her skin look younger. Dreaming of better facial features, and hoping to get rid of her double chin, she agreed and paid Rs 1.16 lakh for the treatment. She had to pay the amount in full before the treatment began. The IAL filler left her with a swelling under her right eye. The fillers on her face never disappeared, as the beauticians had promised. She had clogs on her skin. When Lavita consulted them, the beauticians tried to counsel her into believing the problems would disappear soon. But a month later, Lavita’s swelling and clogs showed no signs of reducing.


That was when she decided to consult a dermatologist. An Internet check helped her find Cosmesis India. Shockingly, Lavita had no answer when the doctor there asked her what kind of filler they had injected her with. Dr Surinder says,“Only when we know the exact filler injected into the patient’s skin will we be able to treat her.” Minus this knowledge, the treatment becomes very difficult. He has asked Lavita to fetch the details from her beauticians. Lavita doesn’t know whether the treatments were performed by dermatologists or beauty therapists.


“They said they had a dermatologist on board but I found out later there was only one doctor who travelled from Delhi to all branches in the country,” Lavita says. Sadly, she is not in a position to avoid or confront the quacks, despite her predicament, as Rs 60,000 is still stuck with them. “I have my body sessions with them. I know they are terrible but not going for the remaining sessions will mean losing my money,” she says. 


Up to the patients


That is precisely the problem, says Dr Krupashankar of Manipal Hospital. He believes patients should be alert and proactive, and find out the qualifications of the doctor before undergoing any treatment. “You are putting your life at risk. First, ask the doctor to show his certificates. Whoever does surgeries and treatments should hold an MD degree as well as a Karnataka Medical Council Registration certificate,” he says.


Consumer rights activist YG Muralidharan says, “I have heard of such illegal treatments in the city but no complaint has come to my notice. If I get concrete evidence, I will definitely bring it to the notice of the drugs controller.” Somashekar V, managing trustee of Grahak Shakthi, a consumer rights NGO, says he has come across many such cases in the recent past. Such illegal treatments fall under the Magic Remedies Act.


“Facial treatments should be done only by dermatologists. Beauticians who do this should be banned. In fact, according to the Advertising Council of India, even advertising and claiming that you are successful in these treatments, without proof, is wrong,” he says. Why splurge your hard-earned money and put your life at risk by going to an untrained beautician? Instead, go to your nearest dermatologist and not just be in safe hands but save money too!


When you ask for a chemical peel…


Kaya Skin Clinic


This luxurious beauty clinic with many branches offers all kinds of skin treatments, from age-control peels to skin resurfacing. Talk discovered that the clinic does have dermatologists round-theclock. All surgical procedures and facial treatments are performed by them alone. “We only take doctors who are certified by the Medical Council of India,” said Dr Rosanne Dalgado, dermatologist at Kaya. A chemical peel is not confined to one session and doctors say a client may require four or more sittings. The treatments are pricey when compared to the competition. A chemical peel costs between Rs 7,000 and Rs 13,000. The charges must be paid before the session begins.




When Talk called the Jayanagar outlet of VLCC slimming centre, they insisted the reporter go there in person, saying consultation was free. When pressed for solutions to an acne-prone skin, they explained, “There are glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid and many more treatments. Please visit us and we will make sure you have beautiful skin.” They only have a visiting dermatologist. A chemical peel here can cost anywhere between Rs 8,000 and Rs 12,000.


Leading beauty parlour


Pai Layout, KR Puram This huge beauty parlour in Pai Layout, KR Puram, hands out a card with a variety of facials, manicure and pedicure treatments, but nowhere are chemical peels mentioned on it. In person, this reporter asked what they would recommend for acne-prone skin.


“There are various kinds of treatments. We do chemical peels mostly and for your skin I would suggest the glycolic peel,” a woman at the parlour said. Price: Rs 1,200 a sitting. And the sittings could go up to five. Isn’t it illegal for beauty parlours to conduct these treatments? Her explanation: “There is a big difference between what the dermatologists do and what we do. They barely spend 10 minutes on these treatments. They probably give you an ice massage and pack you off. What we do is entirely different. We are trained to look into the skin deeply and perform these treatments methodically. Our results are far better than what you’ll get from any doctor.” In addition, she said, beauticians today were well educated and knew how to offer these treatments. “In a comfy and posh salon like mine, you’ll only get authorised treatments,” she asserted. The beauty parlour is recognised by Shahnaz Hussain and Habib’s.


Chik Mik, Ulsoor


This parlour only offers facials and haircuts. When this reporter asked if they knew of any other parlour that offered chemical peel treatments, their reply was a blunt ‘no’. Angel, who has been running the parlour for 10 years, said, “We are not supposed to do those treatments. So, our focus is only on what we know. I teach the same to my students as well.”




Columbia Asia, Fortis, Cosmesis and HCG Hospitals offer chemical peel treatments, charging between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,800 a sitting. Their fee is lower than what many beauty parlours charge.

Read 9995 times Last modified on Monday, 08 July 2013 10:35
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