By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Spa and medical spa: what’s the difference?
At many salons and spas, clients can receive facials, peels, microdermabrasion, massage, and care for skin, hair and nails.
A medical spa may offer some of those services, but specializes in care not available at salons and spas, including more invasive and medically-based treatments overseen by a medical doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or registered nurse.
That distinguishing factor makes a difference.
A medical spa may include thread lifts, injected products, micro-needling, hydro-facial, skin resurfacing, skin rejuvenation, Cool-Sculpting, vein therapy, migraine therapy and more.
Many medical spas augment the medical care provided by dermatologists or plastic surgeons. Any elective services they provide are generally not covered by health insurance.
“A medical spa is governed by the same rules and regulations as a medical practice,” said physician Vito Quatela, board-certified facial plastic surgeon at The Quatela Center for Plastic Surgery in Rochester.
He said that each state has different requirements regarding what type of licensed professional can do what type of treatment in a medical spa.
“Botox is considered a medical treatment, and most states recommend an RN or higher-level practitioner perform Botox or injectable procedures,” Quatela said as an example. “Microdermabrasion is a more superficial technique that is often performed by aestheticians.”
In addition to the procedures, the products offered at a medical spa are medical grade in nature.
Trish Hohman, practice administrator at Helendale Dermatology and Medical Spa in Rochester, said their treatments offer medical grade answers to skin issues such as wrinkles, discoloration, blemishes and redness.
A medical spa can use treatments with a higher percentage of glycolic acid for faster, more effective results.
Hohman said that Helendale has changed over its 15 years, dropping services such as pedicures and massage therapy. In the medical spa’s early days, “patients asked for these because they heard the word ‘spa,’” Hohman said.
Now that patients have a better understanding of what medical spas offer, they seek Helendale for more advanced services, including dermatology, Hohman said.
Helendale’s physician Elizabeth Arthur is board-certified in dermatology and serves on the faculty at Rochester General and Strong Memorial Hospital. She monitors patients’ skin not just for unwanted wrinkles, but spots and moles that could indicate skin cancer.
Another example of a medical spa, Vitalize Medical Center in Rochester focuses on rejuvenation, such as medical weight loss, anti-aging and well-being. Alicia Caiola-Hicks, nurse manager and practice manager at Vitalize Medical Center in Rochester, said the center offers a “broad spectrum” of treatments.
“Many clients here are men and women who come in for hormone replacement,” Caiola-Hicks said.
As at Vitalize, that can only be offered under a medical provider’s care.
“Aestheticians can only put needles into a certain depth,” Caiola-Hicks said. “We can go to a deeper depth and offer skin peels that are a higher grade. We are able to push the envelope a little more.”
Unlike a doctor’s office, a typical place for older adults to seek hormone therapy, the providers at Vitalize function on a more concierge level.
“When you pay $2,400 a year for hormone management, we’ll answer questions on a Sunday morning,” Caiola-Hicks said. “That sets us apart from a primary care office.”
Most medical spas sell skin care lines a so clients can maintain a regimen at home.
“The skin care lines we carry are medical grade products with medical grade ingredients you can’t get at any spa,” said physician Ben Tracy, who has training in aesthetic medicine and operates Monroe MedSpa in Rochester.
Some people aren’t sure what they want to do, but desire an enhanced appearance — not necessarily to look 20 again. Some want to not appear tired and haggard or sad, as the effects of aging have caused their face to sag. During the mid-20s, the production of collagen begins slowing, which means skin doesn’t have as much elasticity.
“A lot of people come in for a free consultation and say, ‘This is my face; what would you suggest?’” Tracy said. “Some do things; others go on their way.”