Putting the medical end of your medispa under the microscope

June 17, 2013

Where does a beauty treatment stop and the practice of medicine begin?
Where does a beauty treatment stop and the practice of medicine begin?

If you think that 'medical' and 'spa' do not go together like coffee and donuts, you're not alone. Many national medical societies (plastic surgery and dermatology alike) consider any use of lasers, lights, electrical impulses, chemical peels, injections, insertions or tissue augmentation to fall under the practice of medicine and, as such, be performed by a physician or midlevel health professional, such as a physician assistant, under a doctor's supervision.

Some medical spas offer excellent care. But for those that are not up to snuff, here are some of the problems to be aware of:

• Doctors trained in unrelated specialties may supplement their incomes performing cosmetic procedures they are not trained to do.

• Medical spas typically offer Botox, facial peels, laser skin treatments and other minimally invasive cosmetic procedures. But some facilities also offer procedures that require a rigorous medical setting and emergency equipment, such as breast implants, tummy tucks and liposuction.

• Only a few states require medical spas to be licensed. In some states, procedures, from laser hair removal to liposuction, can be performed by nonmedical personnel. Most facilities require a medical doctor to oversee the services—though not necessarily to be on site or even in the same state.

The June 4, 2013, the Wall Street Journal reports: "States are tightening regulations on medical spas—and wading into some ugly disputes over where beauty treatments stop and the practice of medicine begins." Here is some new legislation designed to improve medical spa safety:

• A month ago, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a new law directing the state health department to oversee cosmetic surgery facilities after one woman died and two others became seriously ill with infections following liposuction.

• Florida now requires that liposuction, removing more than two pounds of fat, be performed in a state-licensed surgical center with emergency equipment on hand.

• In California, it is now a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine, for a corporate entity to own a medical spa; the majority owners must be M.D.s.

• Fourteen states are considering "truth in advertising" laws, many of which would require medical spas to list personnel's training and credentials in all marketing.

• The proposed medical-spa law in New York would require doctors advertising themselves as "board certified" to specify which board. The American Board of Medical Specialties recognizes dermatology and plastic surgery but not cosmetic, aesthetic or anti-aging medicine.

For the most part, you still cannot rely on your state to oversee cosmetic procedures. For the best results, make sure your provider is board-certified in an appropriate specialty and performs the procedure in a licensed hospital or outpatient facility.


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

Search by location (Zip, City, or Country)

Related Articles

Plastic lips to get rid of wrinkles?

September 25, 2013 - Remember those wax lips you used to chew on when you were a kid? Well, they seem to have inspired the latest fad in the anti-aging realm.

Yet another anti-wrinkle cream faces lawsuit

September 17, 2013 - It seems to be almost cyclical - every few months, a brand new, game-changing anti-wrinkle cream is introduced to the market, only to face lawsuits due to suggestions that the "scientific" claims made on the side of the bottle are absolute bunk.

Study: If you've got wrinkles, thank Mom

September 12, 2013 - Have you ever wondered why some people get wrinkles at a young age and others don't?

Handy tips to keep your hands looking youthful

September 10, 2013 - When people talk about the first signs of aging they noticed, they typically say they were shocked to see new wrinkles forming on their face.

"Facial facelift": the new buzzwords for anti-aging packages

August 28, 2013 - A facial facelift has slim resemblance to the facials your mother swore by.

Latest Articles

Plastic surgery on the runway at New York Fashion Week

September 26, 2013 - plastic surgery, plastic surgery before-and-after photos, Botox, Cosmetic Surgery, nose job, rhinoplasty, liposuction, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

Plastic lips to get rid of wrinkles?

September 25, 2013 - Remember those wax lips you used to chew on when you were a kid? Well, they seem to have inspired the latest fad in the anti-aging realm.

Illegal buttock injections are more common than you think

September 19, 2013 - How many times have you read a story about illegal plastic surgery in the news?

Yet another anti-wrinkle cream faces lawsuit

September 17, 2013 - It seems to be almost cyclical - every few months, a brand new, game-changing anti-wrinkle cream is introduced to the market, only to face lawsuits due to suggestions that the "scientific" claims made on the side of the bottle are absolute bunk.

Study: If you've got wrinkles, thank Mom

September 12, 2013 - Have you ever wondered why some people get wrinkles at a young age and others don't?

About ASAPS
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

WE ARE AESTHETICS.

Website: www.surgery.org
Follow ASAPS on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ASAPS
Become a fan of ASAPS on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AestheticSociety
Join Smart Beauty Guide: www.smartbeautyguide.com
Locate a plastic surgeon in your area:  http://www.surgery.org/consumers/find-a-plastic-surgeon

Copyright © 2009-2012 ASAPS. All Rights Reserved.