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What You Need to Know about Medical Spas

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Seems everyone is trying to make a buck from our current obsession with youth and beauty. That includes doctors, other medical professionals and those who would pass themselves off as “experts” in helping you look your best. Medical spas are springing up everywhere, and standards and oversight are spotty at best. So how can you evaluate a medical spa effectively?

First, consider the difference between a simple superficial treatment and one that is truly a medical procedure. If you’re going to have a facial, for instance, the chance it will do you lasting harm is nearly nonexistent, and dissatisfaction will mainly impact your wallet. You can have a facial at a medical spa without much worry, or you might also choose a salon or skin care center.

If, on the other hand, you’re considering Botox injections, wrinkle fillers, a deep chemical peel or a laser skin treatment, know that these are procedures that, while generally safe, do pose some measure of risk as they penetrate deeper layers of tissue. They should be performed in a physician’s office or a medical spa in the true sense of the term. And a trained medical professional under the close supervision of a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon should administer them.

Not only will the critical eye of a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon help mitigate risks, this level of expertise will also help ensure you get the treatment that’s best for you. If you’re looking to smooth out the first signs of aging skin on your lower face, for example, will a chemical peel or laser treatment do the best job? Chances are you can’t answer that question yourself, nor should you leave the answer to an esthetician alone.

Here’s what to find out to determine whether a facility is a true medical spa deserving your consideration:

Is the facility’s medical director a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon? Are they on site or do they make frequent visits? How is supervision performed?

Can you have a consultation with this board-certified physician if you choose to?

Is the person who performs treatment a trained medical professional, such as a physician assistant, nurse or nurse practitioner?

What happens if something goes wrong? What are the options for revision and follow up care?

Approach the search for a qualified medical spa with the knowledge that these facilities are businesses looking to cash in on a craze in a very competitive marketplace. That may help you filter out some right away—those that make you feel rushed into a procedure or press you with the dreaded “upsell” should be crossed off your list first.

Find a medical spa with the right medical director and medically trained staff and see if they answer all your questions in a way that makes sense. Then, trust your instincts. You should be able to sense whether your safety and satisfaction are at least on par with the medical spa’s goal to turn a profit.

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EmpowHER Guest

Cathy, this is an important issue and I'm glad that you've written about it. People do need to not be afraid to ask questions. The questions you suggest are great. And if they don't get good answers to them then they should walk away and search elsewhere. A clients health should be the first and foremost passion of any spa or medical spa.

I'll link to your piece on twitter.


June 15, 2009 - 2:42pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.