Once upon a time, not so long ago, the word ‘med-spa’ may have conjured images of pseudo-shady spots in strip malls across middle America. Not anymore. These one-stop shops for cosmetic procedures are now everywhere, and, happily, more reputable than ever. That being said, some of them can still be the site of some questionable—not to mention potentially unsafe—stuff, so it’s important to do your due diligence before booking any kind of appointment. Here, experts share six ways you can easily determine if a med-spa is legit.
You’re evaluated by a medical professional
“Most services offered at med-spas are medical treatments, which means you should be examined by a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant before undergoing any type of procedure,” says Alex Theirsh, CEO & founder of AmSpa. This includes injectables such as Botox and fillers or laser treatments, though facials or chemical peels are fine without. Unsure about the credentials of the staff? All you have to do is ask.
There are options
Variety is the spice of life, right? It’s a good thing on a med-spa menu, too. And this means not only different kinds of treatments, but especially different options within those treatments (for example, various types of fillers or lasers). “Be wary if a med-spa only has one option for lasers, fillers, or even fat removal,” cautions celebrity cosmetic dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, founder of the PFrankMD brand and PFrankMD Skin Salons. “It means their scope of expertise is limited.”
It’s been open for a while
The longer, the better. “Most med-spas have a three- to seven-year lifespan, because usually, someone gets hurt, sues them, and the place ends up closing,” explains Dr. Frank. Longevity is a good thing and indicates a good track record. But that doesn’t mean a newly-opened med-spa isn’t going to be great. This is merely one thing to consider, along with everything else on this list.
It doesn’t offer discounts
It’s not that we don’t want you to get a good deal, but when it comes to med-spas, you get what you pay for. Translation: If they accept Groupons, go elsewhere. Why? Keep in mind that—even if it doesn’t seem that way to you—many of these locations are already offering treatments at a discount, catering to those who can’t afford full-price treatments from renowned cosmetic dermatologists, points out Dr. Frank. When it comes to Groupons, “the financial arrangement involves such a steep discount that the doctor ends up doing the treatment for free—because he or she has no experience—in the hopes that patients come back or tell their friends. This shows lack of experience and lack of moral conduct,” he explains.
They tell you what to do afterwards
“Patients should be given contact information in case they need to follow up with any issues of concern after treatment,” says Dr. Frank. Ask what the post-appointment protocol is to ensure the med-spa makes any kind of necessary follow-up seamless and easy.
They don’t perform surgery…
…unless the med-spa is associated with or run by a plastic surgeon, says Theirsh. Some offer more invasive procedures, such as liposuction or breast augmentations, but those should be performed by a specialist, he adds. While there’s not one type of procedure that you should not have done at a med-spa, proceed with extra caution when it comes to any type of surgery. As a rule, med-spas are non-surgical, so if they do offer these procedures make sure it’s a plastic surgeon or cosmetic dermatologist performing this type of aesthetic surgery, Theirsh says.