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Anitra Brown

Are Medical Spas As Safe As The Doctor's Office?

By July 24, 2009

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Medical spas are the fastest growing segment of the spa market -- by far. Since July 2007, the number of medical spas has grown by 85 percent, according to the International Spa Association. They're the place many people go for Botox, fillers, laser hair removal, skin tightening treatments and more. But are they the best place to have these services done? And what questions should you ask when you go to a medical spa?

I've been talking with some friends at a realself.com, where you can post before and after photos of your nose job or Botox or whatever, including who did it, how satisfied you are, and how much it cost.

The folks there think the doctor's office is a safer choice. "A medical spa has been established purely as a business with the goal of making money, as is the case with any spa," says Tom Seery, CEO of RealSelf.com. "While this isnít necessarily a bad thing, it does make doing your research and asking the right questions even more important than when you visit a doctorís office, although doing so at both is critical."

I think that you have to be careful no matter where you get a procedure done -- and here's what you should ask. But even when it sounds good, you have to do your own research and dig a little deeper.

Here's why. A plastic surgeon who owns a medical spa (supposedly a good sign) once advised that I get microdermabrasion to get rid of brown spots. It didn't work - and isn't supposed to for brown spots. But he had credibility with me BECAUSE he was a doctor.

He also gave me Botox injections personally (supposedly a good sign) in a room that had a dirty wax pot. Ugh. And he upsold me on some injections that I didn't need. This doctor was definitely out to make money. And even though it sounded good -- the doctor owns the medical spa and does procedures himself -- it WASN'T good.

Another time, I got filler at a day spa. The doctor didn't own the place, but she did a fabulous job. The room was impeccably clean, and it was a much more satisfying experience.

So buyer beware, and realself.com is an interesting resource for you as you figure out what procedures you want -- if any. Maybe you'll look at those boob job photos and think, like I did, that the "before" shots looked better!

July 25, 2009 at 1:47 pm
(1) Jan says:

So true! Don’t be fooled by the little white jackets. A medical spa without a doctor in the building is odd to me. Some states say that a medical spa can operate as long as a doctor is affiliated with spa and is within 100 miles. That does not sound safe to me. If your going to put Botox in me, there better be tough safety rules in place and NO I will not sign any of my rights away as a client with the intake form. (Never do this!)

I think word of mouth is great – ask around – people know who does a great job and who is faking it.

By the way, Doctor’s are in the business of making money just like spas. So much so that they are not good employers. Lower wages usually.

Everyone do your homework before you think a med spa is really a med spa. Might be an imposter!


July 29, 2009 at 3:24 pm
(2) Madison (MST) says:

Totally agree with you Anitra. The argument that medspa’s are out to make money and doctor offices aren’t is just patently silly. If doctors weren’t out to make money I wouldn’t have to pay when I go to see them!! And frankly I wouldn’t trust them if I didn’t have to pay.

You are so right about needing to do your research and I think it is advisable to visit for a walk-thru any medspa one is thinking of utilizing.

July 30, 2009 at 11:50 am
(3) Eunice says:

Consumers have also evolved in the way they view facial therapies. Gone are the days that people view facial centers as establishments only for those with serious skin conditions. Now people are becoming aware that they need to take care of and be personally responsible for their on skin, body and total wellness. They want more than just the usual routine doctor and patient relationship and they will find ways of fulfilling their desires by looking for other healthcare professionals who offer a similar experience and almost the same (or even better) results. If you are the type who just visits for a beauty ritual or skin care maintenance, someone who is beauty conscious and do not have any medically related concerns (or infectious disease) for your skin, you might choose other facial centers or a medical spa instead. If, on the other hand, you have a skin disorder, I think a visit to a dermatology clinic will be a better choice. The bottom line here is that the consumer is still the boss and they make their choice, we only have to educate them and give them alternatives or choices. Choices that they are fully aware of the implications and effects, they need, they can afford and they like.

August 2, 2009 at 10:15 am
(4) Marie says:

After being in management at several Medical Spas, I must say that it all depends on the establishment. Most med spas that I have worked at, visited, and experienced have not had a doctor on the premises at the time of most procedures. It is left to (and this can go either way) a “competent” staff to follow through with sensitive procedures that most of the time are not FULLY qualified to perform them. I think that a thorough background check on the spa and the physisican in charge is recommended. Also,asking questions to include,”will there be a physician there at the time of my appointment” is something to research. Most spas, use the name of the physician to qualify for the right to call it “medical” in turn, for a percentage of proceeds, and he/she (physician) never shows up, it’s left up to estheticians with no guidance. Its a quick money maker for the Doctor and the spa owner…Beware!

February 24, 2013 at 1:37 pm
(5) WH says:

I feel a doctor that adds a spa seems overall less creditable but for some reason I feel if a spa adds a doctor, the spa seems more creditable.

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