Many people think of a med spa as a kind of one-stop shopping for all their personal cosmetic needs. In theory, a med spa – short for medical spa – is a cross between a doctor’s office and a day spa, where all treatments are performed under the supervision and authority of a licensed physician. The reality, however, is quite different.
Not all medical spas cater to the same clientele.
If you want to treat yourself to a facial using the latest French products or a comprehensive back massage, your best bet is to look in the phone book for the nearest medical spa. However, if you want an invasive procedure, whether it’s a laser hair treatment or a chemical peel, be sure to do your research beforehand.
Better safe than sorry
A visit to a medical spa should be fun, relaxing and productive, and not result in an emergency room visit, infection or permanent scarring. The non-invasive treatments performed at most spas carry a lower risk of complications than plastic or cosmetic procedures, but serious injuries can still occur. Ask these questions before making an appointment:
Is there a doctor on staff? Regulations for spas vary from state to state. While medical treatments theoretically can only be performed under full medical supervision, often the doctor is not even on site, let alone in the same room. And in some cases, unlicensed staff with only rudimentary training in a particular procedure will be working on you.
Make sure a licensed, full-time medical director and nurse are on site – preferably in the same room as you or at least in a supervisory position overseeing qualified medical personnel. It is advisable that the physician be either a licensed plastic surgeon or a member of an affiliated group such as the American Society of Aesthetic Medicine.
Does the staff have experience with certain procedures? A medical spa may have a total of ten years of experience – but only two weeks of experience with the procedure you want performed. Inquire about who your doctor will be and ask how many times he or she has performed the procedure you want – in the last year, month and week.
Also inquire about how often serious side effects occur – this should be less than one percent of the treatments offered. Finally, check references and inquire about training and background. If the staff seems offended in response to your questions, you should see another doctor.
Is the consultation up to standard? There is no point in visiting a spa where the staff is condescending to their customers and either dismisses or does not allow questions. Real spas encourage their patients to ask as many questions as they need to until they feel completely comfortable, and give them up-to-date information to take home and go over in private. The consultation should take place in private with a healthcare professional, not a secretary, and you should be satisfied with the outcome and not feel uncomfortable or confused.
What does the equipment look like? Not only should the equipment be up to date, well maintained, and sterile, but the right selection for different skin types should be available – for example, different types of FDA-approved lasers. Revitalization equipment should also be available, especially if the spa offers procedures such as varicose vein removal and deep chemical peels. Not only should the equipment be clean, but the entire facility should be sanitary and have proper hand sanitizers for guests and staff. If the facility can’t afford to invest in quality equipment, you can’t afford to invest in it either.
Are customers satisfied overall? Find out if patients come back because they are so satisfied with the spa’s reputation and practices, or if they vow never to return. Some spas entice customers with seemingly low prices, but for some reason no one ever comes back. Find out why. If you’re interested in a particular procedure, ask if the spa can give you contact information for satisfied patients. A trustworthy doctor will be happy to do so – or they will make sure their patients contact you.
Is the price right? Beware of scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is – and if the price is prohibitive for you, what good is it? Med spa websites that make impossible promises or offer prices that are significantly cheaper than other facilities in the same area are usually not trustworthy. And remember that overzealous spa staff trying to sell you a range of treatments usually don’t have your best interests at heart (unless you’re impossibly ugly, that is). In most cases, their main goal is to make money.
Tips and tricks for choosing the right med spa.
Now that you know the basics, you may think that everything is easy from here on out. However, many people get seduced by incredible promises and make decisions they later regret. Here’s some advice to follow to make sure you get the best treatment at the right price….
Take your time when searching for a wellness center that is right for you, where you feel comfortable and where the staff is well trained, certified and licensed. The time you invest now will save you hours of correcting mistakes later.
Make sure the clinic or facility in question specializes in med spa procedures and aesthetics in general. You don’t want to be treated by a chiropractor who makes a little extra money with a third-rate medical spa. Or by a proctologist who has no training in dermatology and makes his money doing facials.
Don’t be ashamed to leave if something doesn’t suit you. Often, our gut is all we have. Rely on it. If something seems more than a little fishy to you or something doesn’t feel right, there’s probably a damn good reason for it. Rely on your intuition and go somewhere else.
Make sure all medical procedures are performed by medical personnel and not unlicensed or non-medical personnel. Check with state laws to see if procedures such as injections and deep chemical peels must be performed by a physician or if nurses can perform them under a physician’s supervision. And if you see an untrained secretary administering injections or performing a chemical peel, don’t be afraid to report them. You may be doing someone a big, big favor in the future.
Do NOT go to someone’s home, hotel room, or temporarily rented space for medical treatment. You wouldn’t have your tonsils out on your doctor’s kitchen table, would you? Also, be wary of locations in shopping malls or near nail salons that are not medical facilities.
Even if they are reputable, there may not be resources available if something goes terribly wrong. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons recommend only visiting spas that are located within a doctor’s office. If you are looking for a med spa and are in need of relaxation, for information please visit Sierra Brown .