Medical spas can provide many great resources to people looking for aesthetic treatments and services that can help them to address their skin conditions. But for someone who has never visited a medical spa, it may be tough to identify the difference between these businesses and other places that provide skin treatments. Medical spas aren’t quite doctors’ or dermatologists’ offices, yet they aren’t spas, either. So what exactly are they, how do they help patients, and what is the experience like when visiting one?

The Skin Report is a podcast created to educate listeners on methods to improve skin health for people of all ethnicities and ages. On this episode, host Dr. Sethi discusses medical spas – what they are, what sort of services they offer, and what someone can expect from the medi spa experience. In addition, she shares her insight gained from her profession as a medical spa owner to inform listeners about the type of training that medical spa professionals require and what kinds of aesthetic medical treatments they can provide to visitors.

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This transcript was exported on August 2, 2022 -view latest version here.

Skincare can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether it’s finding the right products, ingredients, or treatments. There’s a lot out there, but not always for women of color. That’s why I set out to educate myself and others so that we can all feel beautiful in our skin. Hello, and welcome to The Skin Report. I’m Dr. Simran Sethi, an internal medicine doctor, mom of three and CEO and founder of Renew MD medical spas, and Skin by Dr. Sethi. Today, I want to discuss what a medical spa actually is, what sort of services they offer and what the entire experience is like. So let’s get into it. If you’ve been following the show for a while now, you know that I founded my own medical spa, Renew MD, in 2018 after working as an internist for many years. Some of you may have already been to a medical spa before and some of you have not. For today’s episode, I’d like to talk about what a medical spa actually is, what the experience is like and answer any other questions that a first time user may have.

So what is a medicalspa and how does it differ from other establishments like a typical spa? Medical spas are a cross between a doctor’s office and a spa. Medical spas are medical practices that focus entirely on cosmetic procedures that are non-surgical, but do require injecting or delivering energy through devices to deeper skin tissue. For example, we offer services like injectables, Botox, fillers, and laser treatments, such as the ones we discussed in episode 11. Medical spas offer medical aesthetic treatments and skin revitalization through deeper procedures to help transform the face, body and skin. Compare this to a typical spa, which provides non-medical services like massages, facials or waxing. These are not supervised by a physician because these treatments are superficial and not transformative, like the ones at medical spas. At Renew MD and many medical spas, facials are actually offered, but those are medical grade and are provided to supplement other deeper skin treatments, like microneedling or laser treatments. Typical spas are also geared towards offering a more relaxing experience. In medical spas, we try our best to provide a relaxing experience.

However, some of our procedures may create a little discomfort as they’re not superficial treatments. Next we’ll distinguish a medical spa from a dermatology office. If medical spas are a medical practice, how do they differ from seeing a dermatologist? Dermatologists specialize in medical skin conditions that are non-aesthetic, like skin cancer, eczema and autoimmune skin diseases. Medical spas on the other hand focus only on aesthetic treatments, like laser hair removal, acne scar reduction, hyperpigmentation, and wrinkle correction, and body sculpting. As dermatologists help skin conditions and diseases, most will be covered by insurance as these diseases impact your health and longevity. In medical spa, however, tackles aesthetic treatments, which are considered elective. Which is why they’re not covered by insurance. Medical spas do not have to be owned by dermatologists. As internal medicine doctors, plastic surgeons, or really any medical specialists can practice aesthetic medicine as long as they’ve had specialized aesthetic medicine training. Even dermatologists have to get aesthetic medicine training in order to provide any aesthetic services that medical spas offer. So how do these two establishments, a dermatologist and a medical spa coexist in your life?

It depends on the condition you want to treat. But for the sake of this episode, let’s say you’re suffering from severe acne. Most likely you’ll see a dermatologist who will prescribe an oral drug called Accutane to help stop the breakouts. Sometimes the acne will go away and unfortunately leave behind scars. This is where a medical spa steps in through treatment such as microneedling or [inaudible 00:04:41] laser like we provide at Renew MD. A medical spa can work on reduction of the acne scars after the patient has completed their Accutane therapy. Usually a medical spa and a medical dermatologist are doing independent things so they see a different set of patients. However, you can go to a dermatologist and a medical spa at different stages in your skin journey. Another thing to keep in mind is that as medical spas are medical offices, just like a dermatologist’s office they have a similar atmosphere as a dermatology office.

While we do our best to provide a luxurious and relaxing atmosphere, medical spas don’t offer robes or slippers for treatments the way you may experience at a regular spa. The reason for this is that our minimally invasive medical procedures do require skin breakage in most cases. So practicing proper sterility and disinfection rooms and between patients is essential just like in any doctor’s office. That is why we use a lot of disposable paper and keep surfaces clear as this prevents spread of bacteria and keeps our patients safe. Fabrics feel very relaxing, but tend to hold a small level of bacteria no matter how clean they are. That can lead to an increased rate of infections. Now, let’ssay you set up an appointment at a medical spa. What is the process like? Who will you see and how will your treatment plan unfold?

Laws around who can treat at a medical spa vary state to state but in most cases you will be treated by a doctor or nurse. In some states, estheticians are licensed to perform laser treatments and microneedling while other states prohibit this. In California, we have some of the strictest laws and almost all medical spa treatments have to be performed by a physician or nurse. As you can see, safety and hygiene are our number one priority during your visit to the medical spa. But when you leave, you’ll feel clean, beautiful, and radiant. And lots of people feel this way. We see patients between the ages of 18 to 80. Our most common age group is between 25 and 45, who are looking to correct acne scars and dark spots while reversing early signs of aging and preventing aging. For patients age 25 to 35, we tend to focus on correction of acne scars and body sculpting.

Above 35 years, most people are looking to start anti-aging treatments along with body sculpting. I feel that body sculpting is done by all age groups spread fairly evenly. If you haven’t already, go back and listen to episode 11 of The Skin Report, as we cover the different non-surgical body sculpting treatments. While the medical spa industry sees more women, we’re definitely starting to see more men in the 25 to 60 age groups. As we discussed in episode seven, a recent survey revealed that 31% of men surveyed would seriously consider an elective aesthetic procedure. Generally, men produce more oil as they’re either shaving regularly, or they may not use a moisturizer or serum to protect their skin barrier. As a result, their skin may overproduce oil leading to acne or acne scarring, dark spots, and more. The group of men who come to medical spas has been growing over a number of years and I expect it will continue to grow.

Before receiving a treatment plan, you will usually have a complimentary consultation that includes an assessment of your skin or body, depending on the concerns by a medical provider and consultant. During a consultation, do not hesitate to ask for before and after pictures of patients that the provider has worked with as well as which technology or products are being used. As we touch on in episode 12, it’s imperative to go to the spa that utilizes FDA approved devices. I also recommend asking who is performing the treatments, because if you have a darker skin tone, you’ll want someone who has experience with your skin tone. This is an important distinction as experience with darker skin tones allows providers to deliver treatments that are effective while being safe and preventing hyperpigmentation. Certain treatments such as laser resurfacing cannot beused on darker skin tones or used with care and consideration. When a provider doesn’t have experience with darker skin types, they may implement treatments that aggravate pigment in darker skin tones, worsening any existing skin conditions or creating new ones like hyperpigmentation.

The consultation should be followed by a plan to address your goals. You should receive a written plan and quote for the services. This can vary, but in my experience, a medical spa should provide a treatment plan that includes a series of treatments. The truth of the matter is that it takes a series of procedures to achieve proper correction or transformation. Your body and skin cells need time to adjust. However, services like lip fillers or Botox are one time treatments. You do have to repeat your Botox or [inaudible 00:10:12] or [inaudible 00:10:13] injections every three months. And fillers, every six months to two years, depending on the filler and the area it’s injected in. If a medical spa tells you that all you need isone session to get results when doing body sculpting or skin correction, then you should be wary and really research the treatment before pursuing it.

This is something I emphasize with all my patients at Renew MD, which helps them better understand theirtreatment plan and results timeline. I’ve discussed before on The Skin Report why I went into skincare after struggling with my own skin. I find that helping someone overcome an insecurity about their skin or body has a huge impact on their confidence andhow they present themselves to everyone else. Being a part of that journey is both intellectually and mentally so rewarding. So why did I choose to found my own medical spa instead of pursuing another aspect of skincare? The medical spa industry is very innovative and has new technologies emerging very quickly. I enjoy this pace of innovation and the ability to bring even more science backed solutions to my patients. The medical spa industry has made many aesthetic goals achievable as procedures are minimally invasive, have almost no downtime and are still cost effective.

Prior to medical spas, plastic surgery was the only option, which precludes many people due to cost and downtime. It also does not have any solutions for skin issues. Your skin is a vital sign and organ. It protects you and shows the state of your internal health. Investing in healthy skin makes a great impact on how you look and feel. Many times I find that my clients don’t fully believe this until they actually experience their skin transform and firsthand feel the impact this has on their confidence and appearance. Unlike makeup, we don’t wash our investment in skin off every day. It will stay with you just as your skin will always be with you.

If you have a skincare question or want to make an episode topic recommendation, please message me at, which is linked in my show notes. And I’ll be sure to answer your question in an episode soon. Thank you all for listening today. I hope you have a great summer full of fun plans and glowing skin.

If you have a skincare question or want to make an episode topic recommendation, please message me at, which is linked in my show notes, and I’ll be sure to answer your question in an episode soon. Thank you all for listening today. I hope you have a great summer full of fun plans and glowing skin.

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