We’re seeing new med spas pop up all the time, but what are they, exactly? The reality is they run the gamut from glorified nail salon to state-of-the-art skincare clinic.
Med spa (short for medical spa) is actually more of an umbrella term than a precise descriptor. It encompasses everything from a treatment room within a plastic surgeon’s office to a storefront in a strip mall where you can get a mani-pedi with a side of Botox.
A big reason for the discrepancy is that med spas are pretty loosely regulated. A med spa, for example, can be affiliated with a doctor, but even that can mean anything from having a board-certified plastic surgeon on site, supervising every procedure, to a doctor who doesn’t even specialize in skincare merely lending his or her name to the establishment (for a cut of the profits, naturally).
Which, then, begs the question: Why take the risk, even for a procedure in which the risk of complication is relatively slight?
So, beyond the extent of the treatments, the differences between most med spas and a board-certified plastic surgeon’s practice basically come down to mission and expertise.
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A med spa, in a nutshell, provides treatments that target cosmetic concerns. But its aim is to capitalize on those treatments, yes, by luring you back for additional treatments but also by selling you products that supposedly complement your treatment.
Back in the day, when department stores were a thing, you’d step up to the glass skincare display and ask for a particular facial moisturizer. But it was never that simple because the woman behind the display was compelled to show you serums and oils and other creams from the same collection, all of them meant to function as a whole, not in pieces, she’d say.
Most med spas are kind of like the modern-day department store skincare counter. You may come in for a particular treatment, but you shouldn’t expect to leave without being bombarded with multiple sales pitches.
What’s really going on here?
Now, if you anticipate it, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that—unless you interpret it as a truly comprehensive approach to your skincare and wellbeing. The treatments at a med spa are provided by an aesthetician, not a board-certified plastic surgeon, which means that no diagnosis is being made. Nor is the treatment taking into consideration anything other than your immediate concern.
An aesthetician specializes in skincare from a purely cosmetic perspective, not a medical one. You could walk into a plastic surgeon’s office and ask for the same treatment, but that doctor’s going to take a much different approach, a more clinical one. He or she understands the nuance of the anatomy and aging, so they’ll consider your medical history, skin type, and sensitivities that influence the use certain products and procedures.
It’s a more meticulous approach to your concern. The surgeon is not only treating it but also trying to pinpoint the underlying reason for it. So, where a med spa may send you home with an armful of products and the promise of a better tomorrow, the surgeon is the only one actively working toward that end.