Medical Spas Vs. Day Spas

Written by on January 31, 2014 in Features - No comments

Are They So Different?

Medicine is evolving beyond just treating illness to a quest for wellness; one of ideal health that combines balance of mind, body, spirit and emotions.

Gone are the days when doctors were just pill-pushers.  Patients want much more like being treated, as a person, not a disease, and the physicians that cling to the past will be relegated to it!

We’ve come to recognize that when someone has a symptom, rather than just prescribing a medication like analgesics, all potential factors must be considered to relieve this.  (That an imbalance in one body system will affect all others). Relief may include diet and lifestyle changes, decreasing stress, increasing self-esteem and making someone comfortable “in one’s own skin”.


Spas are delightful centers to relieve stress and relax both spirit and aching muscles. They offer aesthetic pleasures to boost self-esteem thereby changing our outlook on life and consequently our choices and actions.

If you are looking for a specific therapy, it helps to know what services are offered in both Medical Spas and Day Spas so that you can make the right choice.

Medical Spas

As implied by the name “medical spa”, physicians perform or supervise treatments, which may be done by nurses or licensed and trained aestheticians.  Staff consists of doctors and medically trained employees, which are both insured.

The fundamental focus of a medical spa is offering long-term solutions to a range of issues related to fat, cellulite, muscle, hair, unwanted capillaries, pigment, acne and wrinkles. Sophisticated medical equipment may be utilized.

Staple services offered may include:

  • Liposuction
  • Acupuncture
  • Diets and diet supplements
  • Permanent hair removal
  • Laser skin therapy
  • Facial fillers
  • Photo facials

Some of these services may be offered individually at the office of dermatologists, plastic surgeons, gynecologists, general practitioners, neurologists, general surgeons, and internists. This necessitates a person looking for these or multiple services to make many inquiries and go to more than one place for the procedures sought.

Day Spas

Unlike having to spend long times in waiting rooms among patients suffering from various maladies in traditional doctor offices, day spas are typically more luxurious and elegant since the focus is on relaxation and feeling better.

On the other hand, most of these spas don’t require personnel to be medically licensed. Massage therapists are licensed however.

If you are looking to be pampered, relaxed or achieve temporary fixes, then a day spa is just the place for you but don’t expect permanent or complicated solutions in most cases.

Services offered generally consist of:

  • Massage- Swedish, deep tissue, hot stone
  • Facials- seaweed masks, alpha hydroxyl acids, clay
  • Light based therapy (Limelight Facial, Cutera) for skin rejuvenation and decreasing pores, softening wrinkles and fine lines
  • Hair removal- usually waxing, occasionally with light or laser therapy
  • Lash enhancement- Latisse application

Treatments may take 5-6 weeks to see results and are usually harmless.

Some also have skin filler injections and teeth whitening.

Hybrids- The best of both worlds

There are day spas that bring in medical professionals to amass professional services in one location.  This is a win-win situation, which serves to:

  • Boost the reputation and credibility of the spa
  • Make the spa more effective
  • Increase the following of the physicians or health providers
  • Serve as an additional source of income for physicians
  • Serve as an alternate work location for physicians that may be reluctant to offer these services in their primary office for fear of credibility loss

The treatments help empower individuals to take responsibility for well-being and arrive at ideal health.

Additional services offered besides massage, weight loss programs with nutritional guidance and manicure/pedicures, many of which are FDA approved, include:

  • Acne and Scar treatment
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Facial fillers (Botox injections, Juvederm, Radiesse)
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser hair removal
  • Laser removal of capillaries and spider veins
  • Body contouring
  • Treatment of hyperhidrosis
  • Teeth whitening
  • Chiropractic services
Which One is Best?

As with all facilities and professionals, there are those that are very good at their job and those that are incompetent.

While both environments can achieve desired results, the crucial aspect of choosing a facility is the expertise and credentials of those performing the therapies.

Look at the experience, and length of time that the practitioner has had honing the craft.  A physician may be one who only completed a weekend course and then has embarked on treating others while an aesthetician may have been at it successfully for 2 decades.

There is a Medical Spa Society, which is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to educating both professionals and consumers, “improving professionalism in the medical spa industry” and providing more training.

Questions to ask: (or to prepare answers for)

  • Who will be performing the procedure?
  • What is the training and licensing of the one performing the services?
  • Is there a doctor on premises?
  • What happens if something goes wrong?
  • How am I monitored?
  • What kind of equipment is used?
  • How old is the equipment?
  • What result can I hope to achieve?
  • How many treatments will I need?
  • How long will it take to achieve the desired goal?

Before undergoing any procedure, do your due diligence. Get a referral from someone you respect, ask questions, and ask for recommendations and testimonials from people that have undergone the same procedure.

By Barbara Hales, M.D.

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