A Meditation on Medi-Spas

Published on March 3, 2012

Medical spas, also known as “Medspas” or “Medi-Spas,” seem to offer the ideal combination of relaxing comfort with cosmetic medical procedures. When set up and maintained appropriately, under the supervision of a qualified health care professional, they certainly can provide a safe, pampered environment for aesthetic medicine. And because the combination of comfort and care seems right to anyone with common sense, medical spas have proliferated in recent years.

Unfortunately, many unscrupulous business people have sought to capitalize on the idea of the medical spa by opening “Medspas” that are unsafe and even illegal. While the idea of getting Botox or a laser treatment may seem simple to perform, a significant amount of training is required. At the very least, each and every one of these procedures is a medical procedure, and should be treated as such. This means that a qualified health professional (preferably the physician) should examine every patient before any procedures are considered.

And while registered nurses and physician assistants may perform laser treatments or simple injections of Botox (or other neuromodulators) and fillers (such as Juvederm, Radiesse, and Sculptra, among others), a qualified physician should be available in case any questions or concerns arise during the procedure. Some medical spas have a doctor who may not be on site when they perform procedures and could be more than an hour away—too far to come in an emergency.

In addition, many physicians who initially trained in emergency medicine, obstetrics, or internal medicine may run medspas. Ideally, a physician with training specific to your cosmetic concerns should be responsible for your care, such as a facial plastic surgeon, a general plastic surgeon, or dermatologist.

A list of other important points to consider is included below:

  • Make sure you know who will be performing the procedure. For the face, you would ideally like to go to a facial plastic surgeon. A licensed nurse, physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner can also perform medical procedures; however, the doctor should be on site during the procedure. You can verify licensing status at www.mbc.ca.gov, click on Check Your Doctor. Check a nurse or physician’s assistant credentials at www.rn.ca.gov  and www.pac.ca.gov.
  • When the price seems too good to be true. If cosmetic procedures are being offered at a notably low price, there is a good chance you will not get what they are advertising. Authentic Botox and other injectables are expensive, which gives you reason to be suspicious of a great deal. There are countless stories of unethical practitioners diluting the Botox, so you could just be getting expensive salt water. In serious cases, unqualified individuals have injected patients with industrial grade silicone and other toxic or counterfeit drugs, causing patients to become very ill or disfigured. In rare circumstances, such events have even resulted in death.
  • It’s important to be informed about risks, as all procedures carry risks and conscientious practitioners will fully disclose them. Make sure you ask about complications, and see who is available to handle them if there is an emergency.
  • Be observant. Any medical procedures should be done in a clean and sterile environment. Make sure hands are washed and gloves are used.

Make sure you do your homework to get the results you seek. Don’t hesitate to ask questions instead of risking a bad outcome or future complications from a medical spa treatment. Rely on health professionals you trust because they are fully competent, have the necessary training, and never cut corners. This is your face and your body, and they can never be replaced!

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