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4 ways to lower your risk when visiting a spa

September 23, 2008 |

A medical spa may seem to offer the best of both cosmetics-treatment worlds: a lush spot where you can go to be pampered, while enjoying the very latest in technology to improve your appearance.

But despite the adjective “medical,” you can’t assume that these spots are always the healthiest places to go. More than half, or 56 percent, of dermatologic surgeons surveyed in 2007 said that patients had come to them for help after developing complications from a cosmetic procedure that a non-physician had performed. These complications included burns, scarring and skin discoloration.

There are steps you, the consumer, can take to make sure that you lower your risk when visiting a medical spa, says Trisha Brandon, online health editor with Consumer Reports, which currently features an article on the topic on its Health Web site.

Here are some tips from Brandon:

1 Check credentials: Make sure that the medical spa you want to visit actually has a doctor on board, and look into his or her credentials.

For instance, you may not need to have a doctor involved if you’re having laser hair removal, but if you’re there for an injection such as Botox or anything else that’s FDA-regulated, you’d want a doctor behind the needle, Brandon says.

2 Do your homework: Consider your skin type before you make any decisions that could turn out to be rash in more than one sense of the word. Because laser treatments can have some complications, you might want to ask whether the spa routinely does patch tests first, Brandon says.

Also, learn about possible side effects to guard against unpleasant surprises.

3 Check hygiene: Make sure the equipment used is clean. Also check to see that the spa cleans properly between clients, Brandon says.

4 Don’t assume least-expensive equals cheapest: Some medical spas may offer cut-rate procedures, but that may turn out to cost more in the long term, Brandon says.

Shari Rudavsky


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