Central Florida woman sues after getting skin infection following chemical peel

State records show procedure was performed by unlicensed worker

ORLANDO, Fla. – A Central Florida woman says she is suing a local medical spa for negligence after she discovered the person who performed the procedure was not licensed by the state.

Daria Sinyagovskaya says the chemical peel she received at The Cosmetic Institute in Orlando also led to a painful skin infection and permanent scarring to her face.

"If I had known about the risks associated with this chemical peel, I wouldn't have done it," Sinyagovskaya said.

Sinyagovskaya is from Russia but moved to the Orlando area a few years ago. She was looking forward to getting her first professional facial. She says she went to the Cosmetic Institute on Edgewater Drive for that facial Sept. 19, 2016. She says a relative recommended the place, and when she saw the place was affiliated with licensed medical professionals, she felt she could trust it to do a reputable job.

"I looked on their website and I saw she was wearing a lab coat, and everything looked legitimate," Sinyagovskaya said. "They say she had more than 30 years of in-depth industry experience."

The Cosmetic Institute's website shows pictures of the Institute Team wearing what appear to be lab coats. That includes Catherine Heideman, whose biography states she is a registered skin care specialist and has more than 30 years of in-depth cosmetic industry experience. But online records with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation show Heideman received her state license in March 2017, six months after Sinyagovskaya went to see her.

"Behind the lab coat and behind the scrubs, you have a person that had very little formal training in working on people's skin," said Louiza Tarassova, the personal injury attorney representing Sinyagovskaya.

The DBPR verifies a business needs to have a licensed professional performing any kind of cosmetology procedure.
Heideman's resume says she had been performing cosmetic procedures since 2011 and had performed more than a thousand consults and facial peels. Her resume also says that before joining the Vascular Vein Center, she worked for Macy's.

"What she has is experience in selling cosmetics; selling perfumes," Tarassova said.

Sinyagovskaya says days after she received her chemical peel, she started getting a strange breakout on her face. Then she started getting oozing sores.

"Very gross, very disgusting" Sinyagovskaya said. "And I was very scared."

A doctor diagnosed the lesions on her face as impetigo, a highly contagious bacterial infection of the skin that often happens when the skin has been compromised or irritated in some way. Sinyagovskaya says the doctor told her in her case, it was caused by her skin being compromised by the chemical peel. She and her attorney say both the Cosmetic Institute and Heideman should be held responsible.

"She didn't tell me anything about the risks," Sinyagovskaya said.

Sinyagovskaya says she missed a month of work while the lesions on her face healed. She says more than two years later, she still has some scarring on her face. Her lawsuit against the Cosmetic Institute and its parent company, Vascular Vein Center of Orlando, is seeking more than $15,000 to help pay for her medical bills, lost time at work, and alleged damages.

Defense attorneys for the Cosmetic Institute have filed a response to the lawsuit denying all claims of negligence. They have also filed a motion for a temporary gag order in this case.

News 6 made multiple requests for comment from the Cosmetic Institute, Heideman and their attorneys. News 6 received a statement saying, in part:

"Absent a court order or a waiver from Ms. Sinyagovskaya, we are not permitted to discuss any aspect of our involvement with Ms. Sinyagovskaya. HIPAA and Florida's patient confidentiality laws, with few exceptions, prohibit my clients from disclosing the protected health information of any individual, including Ms. Sinyagovskaya.

"We initially tried to have this matter heard by the court in February but were unsuccessful. We have a hearing next week to address this issue. Unfortunately, until this matter is adjudicated by the court, we are prohibited from discussing or disclosing any information pertaining to Ms. Sinyagovskaya. "--Wilbert R Vancol, Esq. "McEwan, Martinez, Dukes & Hall, PA"

There are two hearings set for March. On March 7, a judge will hear the plaintiff's motion to compel the defendant to comply with discovery. On March 8, a judge will hear the defendant's emergency motion for a temporary gag order or, in the alternative, a waiver of confidentiality protection of protected health information. The case is tentatively set for trial in July in Orange County.

The DBPR confirms in order to become a licensed face specialist, Florida requires a person to complete a minimum of 260 hours of training, and to become a full specialist it requires a minimum of 500 hours of training.

In addition, Florida students are required to complete 1,200 educational hours to become a cosmetologist.

To check if a business or provider has their license or a complaint on file, go to DBPR.