Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Warning: avoid eBay acid skin peels at all costs

You know when you impulse buy something really silly, then sit guppy-mouthing at it like an apocolypse zombie? Maybe it's being stuck in a heatwave I can only refer to as Trappuccino, but that's exactly what I did this week. The humidity has made my acne go from the quiet, weird lodger kind to the "I'm here and I'm queer" Asbo sort in a swift, messy coup. Panicked, I thought: "What I need is salicylic acid and lots of it", but with choices of such products being few and far between, I ridiculously ended up on eBay. What an idiot. 

When you search for salicylic acid on there, numerous products come up and I picked the first that did so, calling itself a skin peel. I thought that was just fine because I didn't want to use anything on my whole face, merely to spot treat the really nasty bastards - you know, the ones I'm scared people will Twitpic? Anywho, I admit information was a bit...economical, but they promised it was "made from only high quality ingredients, genuine concentrations, superior quality, introductory offer for a limited time!!!!1!" etc. Ok, I admit it, I should be made to take a special test before I can buy anything on eBay because I always fall for their ludicrous claims. Get me some sales patter immunity serum, stat. 

Nevertheless, and with one eyebrow firmly cocked in suspicion, I plodded on and bought the 5%. When I got the bottle the very next day, with instructions, let's just say it didn't exactly scream "pharmaceutical grade". It was more of the "poured into a Poundworld plastic bottle on the kitchen table" variety. I should have known it was seriously dodge when the instruction leaflet calmly stated: "Our 30% concentration is medical grade and should only be administered by professionals." Then why the hell are you selling it on eBay? It also stated that besides the alleged 5% of salicylic acid - who is even going to prove that? - the other ingredients were isopropyl alcohol and glycerine. Alcohol. It is my personal policy to never, ever use alcohol on my face. Take a look at how terrible it is for your skin - it causes cells to die for one thing. 

Anyway, for reasons of blogging integrity, I thought I must try out this junk and give it what no black man ever got: a fair trial. I sacrifice so, so much for you, Bossy Thing. With some trepidation, I took the bull by the horns. I do it all for you, dear reader. They recommended applying it with some fanbrush but I thought, Hell to the N-O. This pizza face needs every drop. So I opened it and got a little dab on my finger and...lawd. You know the stuff people use to clean blades and electrical components? Yeah? METHS? Yes, pretty sure this was meths, or something very similar, parading - rather unconvincingly - as a cosmetic formula. And I was about to put it on my face. That's one step away from toning with Cilit Bang or nail varnish remover - in fact, hold that thought because this here lists all the sort of things that routinely contain isopropyl alcohol, and it ranges from industrial metal cleaners AKA meths to car polish and antifreeze, and - oh look - nail varnish remover. Would you knowingly put nail varnish remover, or acetone, on your face? I don't think so. You might rinse this peel off after 2-3 minutes but gosh darn. This was a "genuine concentration" of neat alcohol all right.

So there I was; I very carefully dabbed a tiny drop onto my chin. Ouch. Instantly it was tingling, stinging, burning... That's because such a high concentration of pure alcohol stimulates the nerve endings, making the skin go red because it is being burnt. Don't be fooled into thinking that tingling means you can really feel a product working - it is your skin freaking out because you are casuing it serious harm! I lasted about a minute with it on my skin and I could feel the burn for hours after. But what do you really expect if you put meths on your face? The ironic thing was, I also came up in spots on that area - the very thing these eBay sellers tell you it will magically cure. That's because the alcohol dries the hell out of skin, conversely stimulating the pore into producing way more oil.

If I haven't yet convinced you and you are still determined to go ahead with a skin peel you bought on eBay, this is the Cosmetics Cop advice on doing peels at home:
We cannot stress enough how potentially dangerous these peels can be. If they're as effective as claimed or if they really contain the amount of acid(s) advertised and the pH is within range for them to work, you could be setting your skin up for some serious damage. In the wrong hands or used incorrectly or too often, at-home peels can cause burns, extremely sensitive skin, discolorations (from loss of pigment), and persistently dry, flaky skin that doesn't respond to even very rich moisturizers. If you decide to ignore our warnings and try this anyway, proceed with caution.
If someone came at you and threw acid in your face you would probably be devastated, so don't willingly mess with dangerous chemicals like this. It could leave you with terrible scarring. More than 1,300 people have sadly already bought the "peel" formula I did and if they are not as cynical as I am, they might have since done some terrible, irreparable damage to their skin. Don't fall for it. Try one of these topical commercial BHAs - they are safe and work a million times better.

To give a brief re-cap, using one of these products - which are little more than neat alcohol - is likely to:
  • sting and burn, possibly leaving you with chemical burns
  • make your skin peel off in strips - it is not safe for any at-home product to cause this
  • make your skin oilier - causing more acne
  • damage your skin's protective barrier layer, leaving it sensitised.
 Some of the self-proclaimed "brands" I urge you to avoid on the UK eBay include, among many others:
  • Juvais
  • MTY London
  • Forever Young / Active Solutions
  • British Institute of Skin
They are not to be trusted and I am amazed that what they do is legal. They knowlingly omit to mention in the product's description that the solution is alcohol-based - and if there is any salicylic in there at all it is probably negligible. I imagine that, unlike commercial cosmetic companies, they don't have to abide by strict regulations, if any at all.

What I'm saying goes for all the acid peels for sale on eBay - AHA, BHA, lactic, whatever. Don't do it.

While I am tempted to lobby Parliament to rid eBay of these dangerous, unlicenced products, I will instead take the more measured approach of telling eBay themselves to outlaw it. Please do the same. In the mean time, I am going to get a refund for this terrible product - having just about refrained from giving it to my brother to clean his chainsaw with.


  1. Hello there, I agree to a certain extent, I used to use the 5% Salicylic acid by Forever young, I purchased it back in early August before the take over had been complete, the product had been one of the best things I ever used on my skin, then I re-purchased it in October fearing i'd run out but only ran out of the original 125ml bottle last night, I opened the new bottle that I re-purchased in October and to my horror it was pure low grade nail varnish remover, it was pink and removed nail varnish, that wasn't going on my skin, I purchased a 5% on eBay today and it has been shipped it is by British Institute Of Skin, like you outlawed in your blog, hopefully it will be genuine, I know what Salicylic acid smells like, I really hope it works because it was the only thing that worked for me after the summer and my skin got really bad for some reason, it was like the healthier I got the worse my skin did, but that 5% salicylic acid I bought in august was one of the best things I purchased, now that company has gone down hill so fast it's actually sad,i had been buying salicylic peels from them since 2011 and never had an issue until they changed names.
    It's sad when things like that happen

  2. Do not confuse with hyaluronic acid serum (sodium hyaluronate) a natural substance produced in the skin.

  3. I realise this is from quite some time ago, however I felt compelled to write because your article is quite ill-informed and contains a lot of misinformation.

    Your claim that topical alcohol causes cell death is factually inaccurate - I can tell that you haven't read the articles cited in the link you provide to support this claim, because they discuss the damaging effect of ingested alcohol on the skin. This is obviously very different from topically-applied alcohol, which is in fact in countless beneficial skincare products.

    I agree with many of Begoun's opinions on skincare ingredients, but when it comes to alcohol, her opinion is not supported by dermatological evidence, and indeed many of her products contain alcohols! Alcohol, in it's many forms (which do not always necessarily have 'alcohol' in the name), is an important ingredient for facilitating the penetration of active ingredients into the skin.

    Salicylic acid is not water-soluble, thus any solution containing it must be either alcohol- or oil-based. BHA molecules are large and do not easily penetrate the skin, thus an effective salicylic acid solution must be alcohol-based. Salicylic acid peels administered by dermatologists are alcohol-based.

    Forgive me if this comes off as rude, but your comment that you wouldn't put isopropyl alcohol on your face because it is also in nail polish remover and industrial cleaner is laughable, and forms part of an entirely fallacious argument. I'll give you an example:

    Water is in facial moisturiser; it is also in urine, foecal matter and drain cleaner. Does this mean that putting moisturiser on my face is anything like putting urine, excrement and Mr Muscle on my face? Don't be ridiculous. Of course not.

    With regards to the burning sensation you felt when you applied the salicylic acid peel to your face, I'm not sure what you were expecting. A salicylic acid peel will sting whether you buy it from eBay, Boots or a Harley Street cosmetic surgeon, not because of the carrier ingredients, but because of the active ingredient. To think otherwise demonstrates a lack of understanding of salicylic acid, which is not the vendor's fault, but the user's.

    Furthermore, your comments about spots appearing where you used the peel also show a lack of understanding about the mechanism of action of the active ingredient you purchased. BHA is an exfoliant. A salicylic acid peel works - in simplified terms - by causing surface skin cells and cells lining the pores to shed, revealing fresher, younger skin and clearer pores. Following a peel, if any comedones were under those dead skin cells which have now shed, they are now at the surface of the skin. This is purging. You would have purged no matter what salicylic acid peel you used, whether administered at home or by an experience dermatologist. This is not a fault of the product you purchased. This is why one must undertake a course of peels (usually 3 - 6) in order to see improvement.

    You give a link to alternative BHA products to use: all of the ones I looked at contain alcohols of various kinds - remember that alcohol won't always have the word 'alcohol' in it's name. Also, they all contain much less salicylic acid than the product you write so scathingly about, despite being more expensive. The ones that don't cite the percentage of BHA may have too little in to even be efficacious - otherwise they would cite it. So your claim that they are 'a million times better' is ungrounded.

    1. Hey! Is it ok for me to ask you some questions as you seem very informed on this :).
      I'm looking at getting MYT London Salicylic acid on ebay I'm going to start with 10% do you think that will be ok? I'm very wary about applying this stuff to my face but I'v heard it works wonders on unclogging pores ect. Do you know anything on how to apply it? I've been looking everywhere but I can't seem to find any answers...

  4. …The reason they are more expensive is that, as anyone who works in the cosmetic industry will tell you, when you buy a branded cosmetic product, approximately one third of the price you pay is profit for the company, and one third goes on advertising. The remaining third is for the product and packaging. The small, independent, UK-based brands you urge your readers to avoid do not pay for advertising, take smaller profits, and spend less on fancy packaging. Would you rather pay more for a advertised product and get an expensive-looking bottle, or pay less for the exact same active ingredient - and therefore the exact same intended skin benefits - whilst supporting a UK independent business? I know what I'd do.

    I personally am a customer of one of the companies you blacklist - I actually found them through eBay about four years ago, and have bought from them countless times ever since. I've had absolutely wonderful results with their peels, and could never have afforded peels with a dermatologist. With intelligent use, these provide the exact same results as a salon peel - any problems that do arise are a result of errors on the user's part.

    I think it's incredibly irresponsible as a blogger to spread so much misinformation, and downright rude - and potentially libelous - to bad-mouth small independent businesses who have done nothing to deserve your unfounded criticism. Of course, you're entitled to your opinion, but the 'facts' you present are spectacularly inaccurate.

    Kind regards,

  5. I think you did not expect what will happen to your skin, you did no research on the product at all.

    I used this acid peel asked many questions before I did it.

    1 it is meant to make your skin fall off, in strips is an over exaggeration.
    2 your face will get oily that’s the process working

    It happened to me as well my skin drying out but oily looking like scab city , but when I did it the second time it did not, why?
    Because I did not moisturize my skin after, that means when the skin gets dry moisturize sometimes five times in the day.

    Furthermore you mention nothing about neutralizing, that’s just plain stupid of you.
    The last thing is, looks like you did not even use sun block, which also is a must.

    I know this because I have done it several times with success.

    Do your research first before complaining about your short comings.

    1. If you want to look like Freddy Kruger with sunburn that's all your own choice. Bye babe

      PS. zzzzzzzz

  6. You clearly haven't got a clue. Everything you have said is a load of bollocks as what you have described is exactly what is supposed to happen. My best friend is a dermatology nurse and has been for years and this is a recommended product to use for anyone with acne...
    The salicylic acid along with the alcohol etc is actually helping kill the bad cells in your skin which prevents spots and scars.

    I think you should realise that you know nothing about the products and what they do and retract this as you may stop people from using a product which will actually make a huge difference to their lives.

    1. Your friend sounds very highly qualified :) get her to give you a treatment.

  7. It isn't brain surgery, honey. How qualified do you need to apply a peel. Pretty basic stuff, if you know what to expect and do your research. Brittish Skin Institute is a good product I use them. Don't try to hurt businesses with your irresponsible blogging.


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