A mum has been awarded £130,000 compensation after she was scarred for life by clinicians who put too much ACID in a chemical face peel.
Distraught Mary Hope, 42, had no idea staff at her local beauty clinic had never carried out an Obagi chemical peel before they applied the lotion to her face.
Instead of eradicating her acne scars the mum-of-four was left looking like an “acid attack victim” from the £1,200 peel with permanent scars over her cheeks and chin.
Mary – who had been an outgoing fun-loving woman – endured 18 months of wearing a plastic compression mask almost 24 hours a day to limit the damage.
She found herself cruelly taunted in public and barely left her house for years.
When she bravely returned to work as a primary school teacher she had to reassure her shocked young pupils ‘don’t be scared, it’s only me’.
Three years on, Mary was awarded £130,000 compensation – but had to promise she wouldn’t reveal the name of the company responsible.
It now has dozens of branches across the UK and the clinic she visited still carries out the treatment.
And while the number of patients going under the knife in Britain is declining, cheaper non-invasive procedures like peels are more popular than ever.
In the final three months of last year, there was a 91 per cent increase non-surgical facelifts such as chemical peels.
With celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Kim Kardashian rumoured to have turned to peels, they are expected to be the most popular non-invasive treatment of 2017.
But brave Mary is speaking out about the risks of the Ogabi peel not being carried out properly.
Mary, from Birmingham, said facing her burns gave her the strength to tackle breast cancer – and she’s kept her compression mask as reminder of how far she has come.
She said: “Obviously not all beauty clinics are the same but when I see their name it makes me feel sick.
“I think I was used as a guinea pig as they didn’t know what they were talking about.
“I saw it on TV and thought I’d get it done.
“At the time I didn’t know they were inexperienced. I thought they knew what they were talking about.
“Even if it doesn’t involve a knife – but still is Botox or a non-invasive procedure – do your homework and make sure they have qualifications.
“You just can’t trust appearances – just because the clinic looks nice and is expensive doesn’t mean anything.
“You have to take your knowledge into your own hands.
“I have had friends talk about cosmetic surgery like boob jobs and I just think ‘you look beautiful, you really don’t need to’.
“Thankfully I’ve never been so confident, even with the scarring.
“At the time with the scarring I was devastated but it didn’t kill me. As the years went by it did make me stronger, and I realised I didn’t die from it.
“Sometimes I do wonder if the scars on my face were a precursor to make me strong when my breast cancer diagnosis came.
“I’m feeling glamorous again and I love it.”
Mary decided to try the Obagi Blue Peel treatment when she saw it on TV programme 10 Years Younger.
Unhappy with acne scars from her teens, she booked an appointment at a clinic near her home with her mum paying the £1,200 fee, in February 2009.
She had seen the well-known high street clinic advertised on TV and felt she was in safe hands when she met the male surgeon and woman assistant.
The treatment is described on the Obagi website as an “in-office facial chemical peel […] performed by professionally trained specialists”.
It is designed to “reveal younger, healthier-looking skin one layer at a time”.
But Mary’s treatment was “agonising” – something she thought was “normal” at the time – and she returned home to find her face was red and swollen.
Over the next 48 hours her skin exploded with bloody pus, she claims, but an emergency number at the clinic went unanswered over the weekend.
She was “fobbed off” when she finally got through on Monday but a few days later turned up at the clinic.
They gave her some medicine and sent her away, but she claims the scars developed over the following months.
She launched a complaint and claims the clinical director of the clinic company even CRIED at meeting at their head office when he saw her face.
He confessed neither the surgeon nor healthcare assistant had performed the procedure before and he suspected too much acid was used, she claims.
She added: “I had a meeting with him a couple of months after I realised that the scarring was going to be permanent, and asked what the clinic was going to do about it.
“He cried when he saw my face.”
Having lost confidence in the clinic, she started trying to find help elsewhere.
Desperately seeking a way to reduce the scarring and redness, Mary eventually found a maxillofacial surgeon who could help her and fitted a specialist mask, in December 2009.
For 18 months Mary wore a compression mask to help her skin heal, but the burns left her severely depressed.
Prescription antibiotics and steroids had little impact and she spent nearly £5,000 on specialist treatment, including laser surgery treatment to reduce the redness.
Mary said: “I used to wake up in the morning and think ‘I can’t believe I have to walk around like this.’
“The burns were exactly like an acid attack victim – I had veins that were matted, it was bright red and I had scars forming.
“I’m a party girl – hair, make up, clothes.
“I was married with children but I was still going out with my friends all the time, but after the burns I had four years of not going out.”
Things hit a low on a visit to the Imperial War Museum with her family when Mary was taunted by a group of school children who started screaming.
Celebrities such as Kylie Jenner have confessed to using non-surgical cosmetic procedures, sparking a soar in popularity.
But worryingly, the procedures are not regulated, according to Ashton Collins of camapaign group Save Face Ltd which provides advice to people like Mary.
Ashton said: “Lip fillers for example soared in popularity when Kylie Jenner admitted to getting hers done.
“The issue with that is, as the popularity of procedures increases, sadly, also does the number or complications and procedures gone wrong.
“We receive around five to ten patient enquiries every week seeking advice where something has gone wrong.
“These procedures are not regulated – frighteningly, they can be administered by anyone regardless of their training or experience.”
For Mary, the consequences effected all aspects of her life.
She took legal action against the clinic and won the six-figure payout as part of a deal which means that the clinic cannot be identified, in 2012.
And even her solicitor who fought for an out-of-court settlement told her: “No amount of money can ever truly compensate you for what you have been through and are still going through.”
Mary found the courage to face the world again without the plastic she had come to loathe, on the day her mum died.
She said: “My mum paid for the treatment and she felt dreadful.
“The last time I wore the mask was the day my mum died. It fell on the floor and broke.”
Instead of throwing the mask away Mary saved it as a reminder of what she had overcome.
A devout Catholic, Mary believes her years of pain from the botched treatment gave her the strength to face breast cancer with a smile.
When doctors broke the news one breast would have to be removed, she insisted she wanted the other done too.
As part of her new-found confidence she agreed to a hysterectomy earlier this year to reduce the risk of further cancer.
Mary said the past ten years has taken its toll on her family, but ultimately brought her closer to children Sean, 13, Isobel, nine, Jacob, five, and Evie, three.
She said husband John, 41, never gave up telling her she was beautiful despite her appearance.
She said: “It was tough for him. I wasn’t a nice person to live with. He was absolutely brilliant.
“You couldn’t find somebody better. He’s my guardian angel.”
The self-employed electrician stood by Mary the whole time.
She added: “My extended family and friends are amazing – people stepped up to the mark and stayed.
“It changed my aspect on life. When I hear people moaning about little things I just think ‘you are alive, you are well, you are healthy’.”
Mary has vowed she will never try to alter her looks again and has warned her friends off having cosmetic treatments – including chemical peels or Botox.
Although the scars will stay with her for life and restrict how much Mary can move her mouth, she disguises them with make up.
“It is fine – I go out, I still talk to people, I still have fun,” she said. “I don’t think about my scars.”
Obagi said only fully qualified nurses, dentists or doctors who had undergone thorough training and passed their qualifications were allowed to treat using their products.
The CEO of the company, John Curran, said that they had even invented the blue peel procedure using dye so experienced staff can look at the colour and determine when to remove it from the patient.
He said: “We are shocked and our heartfelt sympathies go out to this patient. We know that any medical procedure can encounter problems.
”However, Obagi has to date no awareness of a patient encountering problems using the Obagi Blue Peel System.
”We strongly advise patients to check that the practitioner they have chosen is certified to use the products they have selected.”
Celebrity cosmetic specialist Dr Nyla Raja of The Medispa in Wilmslow, Cheshire, said: “As a clinic which uses Obagi, I can attest to the rigorous training the company provides. In the hands of a trained practitioner, this procedure is extremely safe.
”However, this case does unfortunately highlight a wider issue regarding a lack of regulation in the industry.”