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Medical Spas: An Overview

A recognized phenomenon growing at warp speed--the emergence of medical spas

"It is true that spa-time is all about self, self, self, self, but it isn't necessarily bad. When we take care of ourselves with time to focus, rejuvenate, celebrate or even mourn, that investment resonates in the lives of people around us. When we take care of ourselves we have the where-withal to care for others."

-Mark Kulmer | Owner, The Kura Door, Salt Lake City

There is a recognized phenomenon growing at warp speed — nationally and locally. It's the emergence of medical spas, and according to the International Spa Associations (ISPA), medi-spas have had the highest growth rate at 133%, more then any other type of spas in the last 5 years.

Who are the majority of medi-spa goers? The former hippie generation, better known as Baby Boomers who make up more than 51 percent of our population and will, in five years, see the largest transference of wealth in the history of the world as they inherit their parent's living wills. The bottom line is Boomers (better known as Zoomers) want to look younger, feel better and experience an escape from their daily demands and be nurtured by any kind of Zen-ish modality. They find this type of getaway at the local medi-spas. By combining the best of Western and Eastern wellness, medi-spas are giving the traditional medical offices and hospitals a bit of competition since technology has allowed folks to spend a day in a luxury atmosphere while experiencing blissful pampering.

Medical spas are basically defined as any facility that is a combination of medical practices and spa treatments. The key componet of a 'medi-spa' lies within the 'medi.' The spa is literally under the direction of a medical doctor.

James A. Brinton M.D., Medical Director of Elase Medical Spas says, "One of the most important questions a client should ask when researching medical spas is whether or not the medical director and the technicians have appropriate experience. Clients should make sure that the "spa" is run by an on-site physician. Because this is such a fast growing industry, many newer offices do not have the experience necessary to provide an effective and safe treatment. Many chains are run by businessmen, not doctors, and many doctors leave all of treatments to their staff with little supervision. Medical Spas offer clients great services that can provide wonderful results, but they can also be ineffective or even dangerous if not done correctly."

There is a potpourri of different types of services under the medi-spa umbrella, which can become confusing to clients, thus, understanding the variety of choices can help future customers pick and chose carefully. The following is a list a brief overview of some of the more popular treatments available and how they work:

  • Laser Hair Removal is a procedure that removes hair by utilizing "near-infrared laser" light that is absorbed by the pigment, which is located in the hair follicle. Dr. Brinton says, "The most common and effective lasers for hair removal are Alexandrite and ND: YAG lasers. Only the ND: YAG laser is FDA approved to treat all skin types including tanned and African American. Clients should ask what type of lasers are being used for hair removal - especially Asian, Latin or African American patients. As a patient goes through their treatments, the color and density of the hair changes. Different lasers must be used to catch all of the small, fine hairs." It pays to get laser-educated, so again, ask and research.
  • Photofacial is a laser skin treatment that uses lasers or Intense Pulse Light (IPL) technology which improves the appearance of aged skin, removes age spots (sun-induced freckles), rids most benign brown pigments and redness caused by broken capillaries. Dr. Brinton notes that, like Xerox or Kleenex, 'Photofacial' is actually a trademarked term, not the name of a treatment. Most spas refer to this treatment as Skin Rejuvenation. A catch-all term to include brown & red spot removal, skin tightening, wrinkle reduction etc. Both lasers and IPLs can perform these treatments effectively." The good news is that there is no patient downtime.
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is the newest of treatments which works well on acne, psoriasis, warts, photo-damage and other skin conditions. PDT also involves a topical application and irradiation with light or laser. The feedback that most customers say is that Photodynamic Therapy leaves the skin feeling smoother looking, refreshed and radiant without any painful ramifications.
  • Mesotherapy, long been popular with the European rich and famous, is emerging as one of the newest & most exciting treatments available. Tiny needles are injected into the meso layer of the skin as a mixture of vitamins and amino acids works to dissolve cellulite pockets. It is a fast & painless procedure. "Our results are not surgical, there are fewer complications and less downtime, and that's why mesotherapy is going to become as popular as liposuction," says Harry Adelson, ND, Director of Docere Clinics.
  • Microdermabrasion, which has been around for a while, is effective in reducing fine lines, "crow's feet," age spots and acne scars. It stimulates the production of skin cells and collagen. Although the process is a sand paper type feeling on the skin with the microdermabrasion instrument the result is still among the best of facial treatments.
  • Chemical Peels. "Along with microdermabrasion, chemical peels are some of the most effective treatments for reducing fine lines and evening out discoloration. Typical peels include glycolic peels for anti-aging, salycilic peels for acne reduction and lactic peels for hydration. More advanced peels are offered at higher end spas such as layered Jesner peels and TCA peels which combine multiple acids to accomplish more in a single peel," says Dr. Brinton.
  • "Another benefit of visiting a Medical Spa is the availability of 'Cosmeceuticals,' a the term used to describe skin care products that can only be purchased and dispensed under the supervision of a physician. A cosmeceutical line will offer the client a higher concentration of active ingredients and a lower PH, meaning that they are getting a deeper penetration of stronger ingredients. Many people do not realize that the FDA regulates that strength of products that can be offered in a retail store, a day spa and a medical spa." James A. Brinton, M.D. | Medical Director, Elase Medical Clinics | 801.495.2737
  • BOTOX® Cosmetic is a non-surgical, treatment that can temporarily smooth moderate to severe frown lines between the brows and around the eyes. It is the only treatment of its type approved by the FDA, but should always be administered by a medical practitioner. The results are almost immediate improvements that can last up to 3-6 months.
  • RESTYLANE® also should be given by a medical practitioner who has been around since 1996 and is produced in Sweden. It is a treatment that works well by producing volume that fills in lines, scars and can restore contour to the lips and can usually last from 3 to 6 months.
  • VelaSmooth™ is a newcomer in the neighborhood of body treatments and is the first FDA approved medical device to reduce cellulite. It uses deep penetrating radio frequency combined with more superficially active infrared energy to stimulate fat cell metabolism reducing the size of fat cells and eliminating cellulite. This device also kneads the affected area and applies a pulsating suction to improve local circulation, encouraging lymphatic drainage, and elimination of fat byproducts. The suction acts to stretch fibrous bands that cause dimples, resulting in a smoothing of cellulite. The overall result yields, a 60-70% reduction in cellulite, sharpened body contours, and a reduction in overall circumference of the treated areas. This modality can get you back on the beach looking great in any bathing suit.
  • Spider Vein Treatment. According to Ehsan Hadjbian, M.D. who is Medical Director of The Medi-Spa at The Vein Institute of Utah, vein treatment in a Medi-spa setting is extremely successful and patients can go back to work the same day. Laser vein treatments can be done with no downtime and no side effects when performed by skilled technicians. Generally spider veins will disappear after your first visit.
  • Thermage is creating a buzz in the "how to look younger" industry, and is a favorite of Douglass Forsha, M.D., Medical Director of South Valley Dermatology Center. "Thermage, a radio frequency skin tightening treatment is one of the newest services offered at medi- spas. One treatment generally leaves noticeable improvements in the skin. As technology advances, less invasive medi-spa treatments show greater results with little downtime."
  • Spa Treatments. If you're ever searching for a great, unique gift, try a gift certificate to a favorite spa. Spa certificates are a great local-getaway gift. There is a literal buffet of beauty services, massages, and relaxation treatments available throughout the Wasatch Front, and if you have never indulged, you're really missing out. If you're a spa newbie, may I suggest that you begin by getting a facial. It's a soothing introduction to all that is available at a great spa.

Although we are the generation that is pressured daily to preserve our youthfulness, especially when we are inundated nightly by popular TV shows such as "Nip and Tuck," "Extreme Makeover," and "I Want a Celebrity Face," the grueling task isn't as challenging since the Medi-spa boom. Now, if we can only miraculously discover how to live to be 120 and look like we're 30-something. Perhaps the future pop rating series will be coined "I Want a Face Like My Great Grandma (or... Grandpa!)"

Also see:

  • Video - Dr. Weiss discusses Botox | >>>
  • Botox - Am I a candidate? | >>>
  • The Truth About Botox | >>>
  • Cosmetic Procedures on the Rise Again | >>>
  • Restylane & Juvederm | >>>

Article Reviewed: August 8, 2012
Copyright © 2014 Healthy Magazine

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