(WXYZ) — A metro Detroit woman says botched lip injections using "silicone" is what caused a severe infection. Now she's warning others while also bringing a lawsuit against the Dearborn Heights salon she blames for the incident.
"I woke up July 15, 2019 (and) I had this bubble," said Sue, who requested that her last name not be used. "It started spreading."
For 28-year-old Sue, it was her worst fear starting to materialize. The Dearborn woman had a strange sore forming on the most visible part of her body.
"I had these open oozing wounds, sores in my skin," she said. "I was devastated. I even hated looking in the mirror."
Sue said the sore opened on her face, on her cheek and below her lip. She added that the infection stemmed from injections she received three years prior.
In 2017, Sue spoke with 7 Action News, saying that she was facing some adverse reactions from lip and face fillers done at European Tanning Club & Hair Design in Dearborn Heights. Sue says she responded to an advertisement for Juvederm, a temporary facial filler widely used and FDA approved. Sue said that soon after the procedure, she began to feel some swelling and stinging.
A later MRI would show something foreign and more permanent was in her face. At least three doctors, from plastic surgeons to dermatologists, have told her they believe that foreign substance is silicone. The problem is that silicone is not approved as a cosmetic face filler by the FDA and is often fraudulently sold online in knock-off Juvederm packaging at a cheaper cost.
Black market injections are a big problem, according to Dr. Mazen Harake, a Troy-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon.
"On average, I’ll see 70 to 100 people a year with silicone injected," said Harake of the patients that come in looking to try to reverse the damage done.
However, it's easier said than done. Once in, silicone is extremely difficult to remove and it takes an unpredictable path. It can move around, shift to other areas and cause infections. In rare cases, it can even cause a pulmonary silicone embolism leading to death.
Since 7 Action News first shared Sue's story, five more alleged victims have come forward, though they have declined on-camera interviews. Two of them, along with Sue, filed a complaint with the state, both against the salon and the esthetician they say gave them the injections – a Dearborn woman named Abir Awad Ayyad, also known as Abby.
Sue says Abby claimed she was being overseen by a doctor, as is required by law. It was a plastic surgeon named Dr. Tayfur Ayalp, but it’s a claim the state and a court of law ultimately found to be untrue, and he was dismissed on that count.
As for Abby, for operating without medical supervision, she was put on probation for six months and fined $2,000.
Abby’s attorney has maintained her innocence, saying the product used was FDA approved, making the argument in a statement to 7 Action News that: "The presence of silicone was not confirmed by any medical practitioner. More importantly, a medical report accompanying the MRI scan confirming the presence of silicone has never been introduced by any of the plaintiffs because it apparently doesn’t exist."
However, one doctor’s assessment dating back to October 2016 does classify it as silicone.
Meantime, the salon, too, was fined. But when 7 Action News followed up for comment, the salon was no longer in operation. The company’s former owner tells 7 Action News that it dissolved after the Action News report, citing “irreparable harm to european tanning's business reputation.”
Today, the salon's former owner still denies “any wrongdoing,” shifting the blame entirely to the esthetician, that it says was an independent contractor “who leased space.”
In the salon’s place is a similar operation called Sun City Tanning & Hair. On paper, the two have different owners and when asked 7 Action News was told there was “no connection.”
As for Sue, she says doctors tell her the infection means she has a long road ahead. She's already had one surgery, and will have another later this month.
"I’m still suffering," Sue said. "I’m not done. It’s not over for me yet. I can only imagine what the days ahead will have for me. I don’t know."
Three of the alleged victims did file a civil suit as well. The doctor was found to have no direct connection. He’s been dismissed, and issued this statement to 7 Action News:
“Through thorough investigation and discovery by the State of Michigan and civil litigation, it was concluded that Dr. Ayalp did not have any liability or involvement with esthetician Abir Ayyad and/or European Tanning Salon with regards to any injections performed at that establishment. Dr. Ayalp has and will continue to maintain a reputable and well-respected practice in compliance with the standard of care.”
Meantime, European Tanning Salon & Hair Design's former owner Mohammed Saad has released the following statement:
"European Tanning denies any wrongdoing, but has accepted the State's findings and conclusions by pleading no contest to some counts in order to move on from the situation. I trust you have a copy of the consent order and stipulation. At no time has it been established that European Tanning itself engaged in any wrongdoing with respect to the allegations made in your newscast. Any alleged acts were performed by an aesthetician who was an independent contractor to European Tanning and who leased space from European Tanning (much like others that simply leased space), and to my knowledge, there have been no sanctions imposed against her. If there were, I am unaware of any.
As to your question pertaining to the dissolution of European Tanning, European Tanning existed for a period of thirty years without complaint or issue. Your factually inaccurate newscast stating that European Tanning itself or its staff committed the alleged acts resulted in irreparable harm to European Tanning's business reputation. The independent contractor aesthetician who performed the services in question had her leasing privileges revoked at European Tanning, and when European Tanning subsequently closed its doors as a result of the fallout the erroneous newscast, many other individuals lost their means of earning a living.
To be clear, European Tanning did not attempt to avoid any financial liability by closing its doors, but only did so when left with no other alternative because it could no longer afford to remain open. There is no connection whatsoever between European Tanning and Sun City Tanning and Hair. These are two separate and distinct entities with different owners. No further comment."
Also, attached is a full statement from an attorney representing esthetician Abir Awad Ayyad.
The alleged victims plan to file a criminal suit as well.