Medical Spa Treatments
One of the quickest increasing segments of the health care industry is the Medical Spa Treatments.
A medical spa is a facility that is, in many ways, a combination of a spa and a medical center.
The staff provides less-invasive treatments intended to improve the patient’s physical appearance, in contrast to plastic surgery, a surgical specialty that involves alteration of the body.
The number of medical spas in the United States skyrocketed from 500 in 2004 to more than 2500 just five years later.
Since 2018, there were more than 5,000 medical spas, each bringing in more than $1.5 million a year, making medical spas a $10 billion industry.
WHAT ARE MEDICAL SPA TREATMENTS?
Unlike a day spa, a medical spa is overseen by a medical doctor, usually a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist, although more general practitioners are being drawn to such facilities.
While the doctor may not perform every procedure, they will oversee them and may well be involved with the initial examination.
The staff at a medical spa often includes practitioners such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, who are licensed and experienced.
In addition, many medical spas employ certified technicians to perform certain procedures.
Many procedures can be done at a medical spa facility, some of which may be done at regular day spas (such as a spa facial).
Others are considered medical procedures like Botox injections or dermabrasion (though the definition may vary depending on the state where the medical spa is located).
WHAT FACIAL PROCEDURES CAN BE DONE AT A MEDICAL SPA?
- Botulinum toxin injections (brand names Botox, Dysport, Jeuveau, or Xeomin). In these injections, a small amount of botulinum toxin A is inserted into the face or neck muscles. The injection can reduce or eliminate wrinkles temporarily. These injections can also be used to treat medical conditions, including lazy eye, overactive bladder, and excessive sweating. Note that each of the brand-name injections includes a slightly different compound.
- Microdermabrasion and dermabrasion. These procedures smooth the surface of the skin and help reduce scars such as those left from injury, surgery, or accident. They can as well be used to remove tattoos. The skin is numbed before the procedure, in which a rotating device is used to remove the outermost skin layer. The skin returns to normal after about three months.
- Permanent makeup. A tattoo needle is used to apply color to the cheeks and lips and along the lashes.
- Thread facelifts. In a thread facelift, semi-invasive procedures in which barbed threads are used to tighten the skin. Unlike a traditional facelift, in which the plastic surgeon removes loose skin on the face, part of the skin is stitched up and suspended in a thread facelift.
WHAT OTHER PROCEDURES CAN BE DONE AT A MEDICAL SPA?
- Cryolipolysis (brand name, Coolsculpting). In this procedure, which freezes and destroys fat cells, the targeted part of the body is placed between two paddles that cool down rapidly. The paddles stay in place for 35 to 75 minutes. During that time, about a quarter of the fat cells in the target area are killed, but because fat cells are more vulnerable to low temperatures than other cells, other tissues are not harmed. The immune system removes the dead cells over the next few weeks, so the effect is not immediately apparent.
- Liposuction. In this fat-removal procedure in which suction is used to remove fat deposits. This procedure is used for people who have specific areas of fat that have not responded to diet or exercise. Several kinds of liposuction can be used, and all are considered surgery.
- Sclerotherapy. In this procedure, a saline solution is injected into spider veins or varicose in the legs. The saline irritates the walls of the veins, causing them to collapse. Several treatments may be needed, and time will be needed for the veins to fade.
- Medical spas can also offer laser treatments (such as laser hair removal) and hair replacement procedures.
DOES INSURANCE COVER MEDICAL SPA TREATMENTS
Because many of these procedures are considered cosmetic treatments, they are often not covered by insurance.
A thread facelift costs, on average, about $2,250, and cryolipolysis can cost between $2,000 and $4,000 per session, depending on the size of the area being treated.
Sclerotherapy may be covered, especially if the veins are causing physical issues, such as pain and swelling. However, check with your insurance company to make sure.
HOW ARE MEDICAL MEDICAL SPA TREATMENTS REGULATED?
There is no national regulation of medical spas; each of the states has its own set of regulations.
Some states require that medical spas be owned entirely by physicians, while others require only a majority ownership share.
In addition, the person performing the procedure must be trained and licensed to do that procedure.
For example, someone with an esthetician’s license may not perform laser hair removal, even if a doctor or nurse supervises.
However, that person may exfoliate a patron’s skin through microdermabrasion as long as the procedure does not penetrate the skin; if it does, it is then considered a medical procedure.
The line between cosmetology and medicine can sometimes be blurry, and that makes regulation difficult. In the hands of people who are not licensed, injuries and even death can occur.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Before you begin any medical spa treatment, make sure that the staff is currently licensed.
Meeting with the physician in charge of the facility is the idea of what to find out about the process you are interested in and any risks involved. Ask about sterilization procedures.
If you can, ask friends who have undergone medical spa treatments about their experiences.
Ask if they would do it again and what problems they encountered, if any.
“Botox injections.” Mayo Clinic. February 2, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/botox/about/pac-20384658 (accessed April 29, 2021).
“Dermabrasion.” Mayo Clinic. September 3, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/dermabrasion/about/pac-20393764 (accessed April 29, 2021).
Hiu-Kan, Ken. “Botulinum toxin.” DermNet NZ. January 2020. https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/botulinum-toxin/ (accessed April 29, 2021).
Lucie, Erin. “Legally Beautified: Understanding Medical Spa Regulation.” Dermascope. April 5, 2018. https://www.dermascope.com/medical/legally-beautified-understanding-medical-spa-regulations (accessed April 29, 2021).
“Medical Spa Treatments.” American Med Spa Association. https://www.americanmedspa.org/page/TreatmentDirectory (accessed April 29, 2021).
Shelton, Ron. “Tumescent Liposuction: Overview, Indications, Contraindications.” Medscape. March 26, 2021. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1835414-overview (accessed April 29, 2021).