Medical spas are more popular than ever, with about 1,750 across the US today compared to 471 in 2003 (according to the International Spa Association). With the rise in the number of med spas has come the rise in complaints, injuries, and even death. This has lead many states to re-think their regulations on med spas.
A med spas typically falls somewhere in between a day spa and a plastic surgery center, with non-surgical services such as Botox, laser hair removal, facial peels and more. While these may be non-surgical, it wouldn’t be accurate to say they’re all non-invasive. In fact, many of the services offered by med spas are very much invasive.
The issue that arises when you’re dealing with procedures that have varying levels of invasiveness is training. Should a licensed esthetician be injecting Botox and other fillers? Should a oral surgeon be performing laser liposuction? Should a hair stylist be performing laser hair removal? All of the aforementioned professionals have unique skills and training, but the issue is the relevancy of those skills in relation to medical spa procedures they’re performing.
States across the US take varying stances on med spas. Some require the med spas to be licensed. Some require a medical doctor to oversee the services, although this doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be on site (or even in the same state)!
You can see a breakdown of what various states are doing to address the concern of med spas by checking out this article from the Wall Street Journal. The Journal also mentions a 2007 survey by the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association that found that 56% of the responding dermatologists reported seeing an increase in patients with complications cause by non-physicians performing cosmetic procedures.
The tricky thing with med spas is that each is so unique. Some focus mainly on laser technology, some run traditional day spas with a few cosmetic services sprinkled in, and some walk the line of being a surgery center. As the total number of med spas grows it becomes harder to define exactly what a med spa is.
Many states are actively pursuing legislation to ensure the safety of patients seeking med spa treatments. Some, like New York, may even require board-certification (either in plastic surgery or dermatology). Others, like Pennsylvania, are simply looking to require the practice’s credentials and training be listed on all marketing material.
As the technology improves and the population ages there will continue to be a demand for medical spas. However, the days of the “Wild, Wild West,” where there was little to no regulation, may be behind us. Look for states like New York and California to lead the way in passing stricter laws, with other states following suit over the next few years.