Please note: This article contains graphic images of a medical nature.
A woman has been awarded £130,000 compensation after she was scarred for life by clinicians who put too much acid in a chemical face peel.
Mary Hope had no idea staff at a 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 endured 18 months of wearing a plastic compression mask almost 24 hours a day to limit the damage.
When she 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.
Now, Mary is speaking out about the risks of the Obagi 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.
“Obviously not all beauty clinics are the same but when I see their name it makes me feel sick,” she said.
“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,” Hope continued.
“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.
“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.”
Mary decided to try the Obagi Blue Peel treatment when she saw it on TV programme.
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.
However, it didn’t ‘reveal younger, healthier-looking skin one layer at a time’. Instead, 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.
“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,” she said.
“He cried when he saw my face.”
Mary eventually found a maxillofacial surgeon who could help her and fitted a specialist mask to reduce the redness and scarring, 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 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.
“We are shocked and our heartfelt sympathies go out to this patient. We know that any medical procedure can encounter problems,” he said.
“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.”