This Woman’s Scary Result Shows the Dangers of a Chemical Peel Gone Wrong

Social media can be a place where misinformation runs rampant, with many unqualified users spreading skin-care tips and tricks that may do more harm than good. It’s also a place where users can spread the word on what has gone wrong in their experience to serve as a cautionary tale for others. In the case of TikTok user Michelle Heath, who visited an Atlanta aesthetician to treat her chronic breakouts, the warning involves undergoing a chemical peel in the wrong hands.

After having a dermaplaning treatment to remove dead skin cells and peach fuzz, Heath was then treated on the same day with a heavy duty chemical peel that left her face burned and scarred her face. Many TikTok commenters noted that the combination of dermaplaning, which is an exfoliating treatment, along with a strong chemical peel left on too long, yet another exfoliating treatment, contributed to Heath’s burns.

To find out what went wrong and how to avoid a result like this, we reached out to the pros who say this should never happen to anyone.

What Went Wrong?

According to Washington D.C. dermatologists Tina Alster, MD, this highlights a bigger issue than what steps went into this unfortunate results. The dermatologist shares that medium-to-deep peels done professionally should be administered under the supervision of a qualified doctor. “People should avoid having chemical peels at any spa without dermatologist oversight,” she says. “The post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation will take a long time to improve and will need expert care by a dermatologist who is an expert in wound repair.”

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH, is a discoloration of the skin that is caused by inflammatory wounds. PIH can be more severe and longer-lasting in those with medium-to-dark complexions, which is why doctors recommend a gentler approach to treatment to avoid inflaming melanin-rich skin.

“This case is an unfortunate example of why an aesthetician should not do a deep chemical peel such as the TCA peel this patient had,” adds Greenwich, CT dermatologist Lynne Haven, MD. “This procedure in the wrong hands can cause significant post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, scarring or infection.”

Are the Burns and PIH Permanent?

Unfortunately, our experts say there is no quick fix for PIH. The the good news is that, typically, the scars and darkening of the skin are not permanent. It can take a long time for skin to return to normal, but with the proper care and treatment it and can be resolved within six to 12 months or more.

What Can Help with Healing Now?

Dr. Haven says treatment options vary and depend on each individual case, but strict avoidance of the sun is rule number-one. “Treatment options include sun protection, lightning topicals, and possibly lasers such as Picosure Focus to improve the pigmentation.” No matter the approach, anything done to help correct the PIH will need to be slow and steady. “All the treatments should be very conservative and gradual,” she shares. “However, the condition should be treatable over time.”