Medical spas, commonly called “med spas,” provide a way to get non-invasive cosmetic treatments in a relaxing atmosphere. While these businesses only offer non-invasive procedures, some of the treatments do carry significant risks. That’s why it is important to seek a reputable med spa staffed with qualified professionals.
What is a medical spa?
The American Med Spa Association defines a medical spa as “a hybrid between an aesthetic medical center and a day spa.” Some common treatments they offer are botulinum toxin injections (e.g. Botox, Xeomin, and Dysport), non-surgical fat reduction, laser skin resurfacing, tattoo removal, microdermabrasion, and laser hair removal.
The demand for these med spas is growing. According to one recent industry report, the med spa market in the United States is expected to more than triple by 2030.
How to Find a Reputable Med Spa
- Do your research. Before scheduling an appointment with a med spa, ask friends or family for recommendations. When you receive a recommendation, start by searching that particular med spa on BBB.org to view their business rating and read consumer experiences. Next, do a general online search for the business and read as many reviews as you can find, paying close attention to consumer complaints. If you notice any red flags, look elsewhere to get your treatment.
- Get to know the supervising physician. The laws regulating med spas vary greatly from state to state, which can affect how med spas are managed. Only a few states require a doctor to actually be present at med spas, and even then, they are only required to be there for specific treatments. Find out if the doctor will be on-premises or on-call during your treatment. While a skilled aesthetician might do an excellent job on basic treatment, doctors are better equipped to handle any complications that arise. Keep in mind too that med spas may be overseen by practitioners with unrelated specialties, like cardiologists or gastroenterologists, seeking to make extra money by running two practices. BBB.org advises finding a med spa under the supervision of a board-certified plastic surgeon.
- Look for a med spa that specializes in the treatment you want. Some large med spas offer a wide array of treatment options and perform all of them with expertise. Still, it may be wise to seek out a smaller scale med spa that specializes in the kind of treatment you desire. Before scheduling an appointment, ask how much experience the med spa has in a specific treatment, what kind of training and certification they require of staff, and whether they have before/after images you can view to examine the results.
- Ask to see a doctor. Many treatments done at med spas are technically medical treatments and therefore require an in-person exam with a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant prior to initial treatment. That said, med spas that are less than honest or even unaware of what constitutes medical treatment may offer you treatment without an exam ahead of time. Laws on medical treatments can change and may vary from state to state, so it’s important to do thorough research and make sure a med spa is safe and compliant.
- Find out who administers treatments. Each state has different requirements about what kind of licensed professional can do what kind of treatment. As a general rule, non-medical treatments, such as a facial, can be done by trained aestheticians. Medical treatments, such as Botox injections, should be administered by a doctor or mid-level practitioner, such as a registered nurse.
- Understand how the med spa handles medical emergencies. Don’t be shy about asking how a med spa handles complications. If a doctor is not on-site during your treatment, for example, inquire how they plan to manage any adverse reactions you may have to treatments. If the answer is vague or you don’t feel safe with the med spa’s procedures, seek treatment elsewhere.
- Read paperwork carefully. Before undergoing treatment, read paperwork carefully before you sign it. Make sure you understand who accepts liability for any risks associated with the treatment.
- Stay alert to avoid scams. Watch out for med spas that promise results that sound too good to be true or employ high-pressure sales tactics. These are two big red flags that you should not ignore.