The Food and Drug Administration recently warned consumers about potential hazards associated with the use of chemical skin peeling products. The agency also has started investigating the seriousness and precedence of injuries which have actually occurred.
"We are warning consumers about the use of skin peelers because they can cause serious injuries, particularly when not used under the supervision of a physician," said Commissioner David A. Kessler, MD
The FDA issued the warning after it received reports of several injuries caused by chemical skin peeling products. The products in question contain ingredients that are recommended to remove wrinkles, blemishes, blotches and acne scars, usually claiming that they restore youthful-looking skin. But the FDA says they may penetrate the skin too deeply, causing severe skin damage. In several cases, persons have been hospitalized for severe burns, swelling and pain.
Harsh chemical peeling products contain different ingredients and their strengths vary, as may each person's reactions to the chemicals used. Peeling products usually contain different acids such as resorcinol, phenol, lactic acid, trichloroacetic acid, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid and other alpha hydroxy acids. These are generally applied to the skin for a brief time each day, for 6 to 12 days. The skin initially reddens, like a sunburn, then darkens and finally peels away, revealing what manufacturers claim will be "new skin." But treatments may be painful and leave permanent scars.
Chemical peels used to be performed only by plastic surgeons and dermatologists. However, they are now administrated by a variety of non-medical professionals such as cosmetologists and beauticians, some using newlymarked preparations. Some of the products can even be purchased by mail. Many have evidence instructions; none have been approved by the FDA as being safe and effective.
In the course of conducting its investigation, the FDA will review all products marketed with skin peeling claims. Dr. Kessler said FDA is working with state attorneys general who are also taking measures to stop the sale and use of hazardous skin peeling products.
In a warning letter sent to one manufacturer, the FDA said that it considers their product to be a new drug that can not be legally marketed without FDA approval, and that the product is misbranded and presents a significant health hazard.
Other over-the-counter products designed to renew and rejuvenate are not affected by this announcement. Learn to read the labels on the products you use and choose those that are non-toxic and safe. For more information, see our article on Skin Care Product Labels – Natural vs. Toxic Chemicals.