American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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Planning a nonsurgical procedure? What to look for in a med spa

what to look for in a med spa

The popularity of nonsurgical procedures like fillers and neuromodulator injections like Botox is booming. According to the new 2023 ASPS Plastic Surgery Statistics Report, cosmetic minimally invasive procedures have surged. Neuromodulator injections have grown 9 percent in just the last year alone, while dermal fillers have jumped 8 percent.

With time constraints and price being significant factors for busy individuals wanting to look their best and shave a few years off their appearance, med spas have become increasingly affordable and popular. Med spa is a general term for a facility specializing in aesthetic, nonsurgical treatments.

Med spas may seem an appealing option for those planning a nonsurgical procedure. However, there are several things you should consider before you book your next appointment.

What to look for in a med spa

The use of the term "med spa" is not regulated by any oversight organization. Still, most med spas are overseen by a medical director, which is a medical doctor in charge of managing the facility. Technically, in many areas, a doctor can specialize in nearly any area of medicine, such as internal medicine or cardiology. They do not specifically need to be board-certified plastic surgeons or board-certified dermatologists to run a med spa.

Smita Ramanadham, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon based in New Jersey who oversees a med spa facility within SR Plastic Surgery. She said that when looking for a quality med spa, one of the most critical factors is knowing who is in charge.

"The biggest thing is to look to see who the injectors are and who the medical director is," said Dr. Ramanadham. "Medical spas, oftentimes, can be run by plastic surgeons, dermatologists and facial plastic surgeons. Those are the med spas you want to go to. You know that any person within that spa that's providing treatment has been trained by the plastic surgeon, dermatologist or facial plastic surgeon, so you are getting the right treatment."

Figuring out who is in charge at the facility and if they are onsite is truly one of the most important things you should do when selecting a med spa.

"It is critical to find out who is the medical director of the med spa," said Kristy Hamilton, MD. "It should be a board-certified plastic surgeon or board-certified dermatologist."

She said it is also vital to take things one step further and ensure that the medical director is physically present in the building. At a minimum, she suggests that the facility's medical director be based locally in the area.

Board certification and the proximity of the medical director can be crucial, especially in emergencies.

"Worst-case scenario, if there is a complication, you have the experts right there to address it," said Dr. Ramanadham.

The med spa's medical director and credentials should be easily found on its website. It is a red flag if this information is not easily available.

Questions you need to ask before a med spa procedure

Some individuals want a nonsurgical treatment to be as easy as walking into a med spa, choosing a procedure from a menu and getting down to business. Doing in-depth homework about the facility and its staff is probably the last thing on your mind, but this is your face you are talking about. You want the job done right. Not only that, but most patients don't realize that although many med spa procedures are nonsurgical, there can be life-threatening complications when not administered properly.

Dr. Hamilton wants people to remember qualifications and certifications are not required to inject filler. In fact, anyone can do it.

"I mean, anyone can inject a filler or Botox or perform a laser," said Dr. Hamilton. "Depending on the state, no specific training or credentials may be required for them to legally inject you."

She recommends going in with a list of questions, including:

  • What qualifications do you have for performing this procedure?
  • How many of these procedures have you done?
  • Is this a routine procedure for you?
  • Who trained you?
  • Do you have before and after photos?

You need to ask yourself the most crucial question: Do you trust these individuals and believe them to be ethical and honest?

Along with asking who the medical director of the spa is and what their credentials and board certifications are, Dr. Ramanadham also recommends asking about the licensing and qualifications of the staff who perform the procedures themselves.

"Is it a PA (physician assistant), nurse, or a nurse practitioner? You want to ask questions to make sure you are in the right hands," said Dr. Ramanadham. "How long have they been doing it? What has their specific training been?"

Dr. Ramanadham noted that attending a weekend course and then injecting people is much different from being a medical professional with medical and injectable training and specialization.

"Seek out a board-certified plastic surgeon or surgeon-supervised injector because we are held to the highest standards by our board and our societies," said Dr. Hamilton.

One more suggestion from Dr. Ramanadham is that price matters. If you call around and find a med spa significantly cheaper than other area facilities, proceed with caution and do your research. Not all med spas are created equal, and the old adage is usually accurate: If it's too good to be true, it probably is.

To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.


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