5 Questions to Ask At Your Medical Spa


True or False (answers below):

1. Botox and laser treatments are easy and can be done by an aesthtician or spa staff.

2. A physician must be present at all times in a spa that performs procedures.

3. Chemical or facial peels are safe and can be done in a beauty salon.

The term “spa” is derived from a town in Belgium where healing waters have been used to promote health since Roman times. “Spa” is now loosely used to describe any relaxing environment or beauty salon where rest, health and beauty are promoted.

At one time it was easy to distinguish among a beauty salon, barber shop and a doctor’s office. Not anymore. As cosmetics has become more medical and medicine has become more cosmetic, the two have met in the ubiquitous Medi-Spa. An establishment labelled a medical spa or medi-spa is generally one where medical procedures are performed or medicines are administered in the pursuit of beauty.

There is nothing inherently wrong with extending the field of medicine to include the state of beauty. Nor do I think it is problematic for the field of cosmetics and aesthetics to use medicine and surgery to accomplish its goals of making you more beautiful. But as a consumer, the burden is upon you to know what you are buying and from whom.

The allure of income from cosmetics is great, and physicians of all specialties have incorporated it into their medical practices. Gynecologists offer Restalyne, opthamologists offer Botox, family practice physicians have laser hair removal in their offices.

You do not need to be a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to perform cosmetic medicine. In Southern California there is even a pediatrician who treats cellulite (on adults, of course). This does not mean that he is unqualified to perform your cellulite treatment — he might be quite good at it.

More concerning is the fact that many people with no medical license are performing procedures. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to ask what qualifications and experience people treating you at the medi-spa have so you can make an informed decision.

Anytime an injection is given, a prescriptive device (such as a laser) is used, or a drug is prescribed, a licensed physician must be responsible for your care. Only licensed providers such as registered nurses, nurse practioners, or physician assistants can perform procedures. Other staff such as medical assistants or aestheticians are not licensed and are prohibted from practicing medicine.

The next time you go to the spa, be sure to ask the following questions for your safety:

  1. Who is performing the procedure?
  2. What is his or her license?
  3. What experience has he or she had?
  4. What are some complications or bad outcomes that have occurred?
  5. Is a physician present in the facility or nearby to assist if there is a problem?

Photo: Axel Hecht

Answer to questions 1-3: false.

How Safe Are Procedures in a Doctor’s Office? 5 Tips to Stay Safe

The (un)safety of cosmetic procedures is getting more media attention this year especially after the death of Kayane West’s mother, Donda West, following cosmetic surgery. So are procedures in a doctor’s office safe? Here are five tips you’ll need before going under the knife. Continue reading “How Safe Are Procedures in a Doctor’s Office? 5 Tips to Stay Safe”

Does Your Cosmetic Cream Eliminate Wrinkles? Or Alter Skin Collagen?

Not unless it’s a drug. That’s not me talking, it’s the FDA.

In order for a cosmetic to be labeled a cosmetic, by definition it cannot alter the structure of the skin. If your cosmetic cream did actually eliminate wrinkles, then it would alter the structure of the skin. As such, it could no longer be labeled a cosmetic and would be categorized as a drug.

What about a cosmetic that “penetrates deeply” or “causes collagen growth?” These would require that the product penetrate the skin. A cosmetic, again by definition, cannot penetrate the skin.

“But, my cosmetic cream is actually a cosmeceutical,” you say.

Sorry, no such category exists for the FDA. Your product is either a drug, and would be required to undergo intense safety and efficacy scrutiny, or is a cosmetic and need only show only that it won’t hurt you. Nothing more.

The good news is if your cosmetic cream only sits on the surface and cannot change your skin in any substantive way, then it probably won’t hurt you.