What to Look for When Choosing a Safe Medspa
An online search in the quest to enhance your appearance may lead you to a local medspa. Such facilities offer a wide range of services, from hair removal to fat-elimination treatments to skin injections. Usually more accessible than traditional medical centers, medspas have an undeniable draw, but since the concept is still relatively new, their actual credentials may vary.
Assess the risks, benefits and safety of a medspa before you book an appointment. And know that state regulations and oversight vary widely, as do the medical backgrounds of the people running medspas.
What is a medspa?
A medspa, or medi-spa, combines a spa-like environment with medical treatments. Medspas offer various services that can include facials, massages, dermal fillers and liposuction. You can find medspas as standalone facilities or located within a doctor's office. Some high-end shopping malls or beauty salons also house medspas.
Some states require medspas to have a supervising physician on staff. However, the standards may vary across the country or from one medspa to the next, and there are no federal regulations or standardized oversight for medspas, so it's crucial to do your research before scheduling invasive procedures. Even noninvasive treatments such as facials and manicures can present health risks if safety standards are not upheld.
3 questions to ask before going
Don't rely on online reviews alone. Ask these questions of a given location before you schedule a medspa appointment.
1. Is there a physician on staff? If so, what are the physician's credentials?
Ideally, you want to find a medspa with a board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist on staff. Doctors from other specialties often open medspas as a business opportunity, but they may lack the necessary training to produce optimal cosmetic results.
2. Who will be performing my procedure?
Just because a supervising physician is on staff does not mean this person will directly provide your treatment. Chemical peels, injections or other semi-invasive procedures should be done by a qualified health professional, such as a nurse, a nurse practitioner or a physician's assistant.
3. Are the products that will be used in my treatment FDA-approved?
Ask about the details of your desired treatment. You want to determine whether it will involve any "off-label" medications, fillers or devices, in other words, items not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Physicians are allowed, based on their professional judgment and expertise, to use products for purposes outside of their originally intended use. If this is the case, make sure your doctor has the experience and training to back up their procedural choices.
Additionally, it's recommended to ask for before-and-after pictures from past patients, as well as a cost breakdown. Inquire as to who will be financially responsible if a revision is needed or complications arise. Knowing such information upfront will prevent some difficulties should something go awry.
Medspa red flags
Some general signs may indicate that a medspa isn't all it's cracked up to be. If the facility is brand new or offering steep discounts, be wary. Medspas that have been around for years are established and haven't been shut down because of lawsuits or shady practices. Typically, a medspa offers discounts when the provider is inexperienced and looking for reviews and referrals. It's wiser to choose a facility that relies on its reputation rather than promotions to get customers in the door.
For surgical procedures, you should expect a pre-operative consultation to review the procedure and a follow-up visit after your treatment. The provider should want to know your medical history. If they're willing to schedule your procedure quickly, without really evaluating your candidacy for surgery, you don't want to go there. Also, a post-op visit within a week of your procedure is important, because it gives your surgeon a chance to check on your body's healing process and watch for signs of infection. No follow-up, no procedure.
Follow your gut
In addition to conducting thorough research, follow your intuition. If you have any doubts about the medspa you're considering, just walk away. Never settle for a facility that offers low prices at the expense of quality care. You're better off saving up for treatment at a facility that meets your standards.