June 2011

Lisa Kind - Editor

Esthetic Endeavors | by Judith Culp

Clearly Defining the Medi-Spas and Wellness Spas

The terms medical spa, also called, medi-spa, and wellness spa or wellness center are currently hot in esthetic circles.

However, they are terms that have different meanings for different people. To avoid misrepresentation, we need to have a clear understanding of what the terms imply and what services the consumer expects to find in each.

A medi-spa is often an adjunct to a physician's medical practice. A physician who practices on-site at this location supervises the spa. When considering selecting a medi-spa for services or employment opportunities, it is critical to obtain information on how the spa is managed.

State medical boards are continuing to crack down on facilities offering medical services where there is no attending physician. Nurses may do injections, but they can only do so under the direction of a physician. What this means varies from state to state. It may mean the physician is in the office, in the building, available by phone, etc.

As a side note here, Medicare requires those receiving allergy shots to receive them only when the physician is actually in the office. On the other hand, after the flu challenges, many additional medical personnel have been allowed to give flu vaccinations. This disparity would indicate that part of the guidelines for injections should be dictated by the risk factors involved and the ability of the practitioner to deal with them.

The medical education group mti.org posts this on their website: "In the US, there are the core four specialties that have the educational and formal training during the post-medical school years to give these injections. These specialties are Plastic Surgery, Facial Plastic Surgery, Dermatology, and Oculoplastic Surgery."

They point out that while other physicians "can" give injections, they have not had the same background and only these groups are required to take continuing education in these studies. Other physicians may take a weekend or a weeklong course to learn to do injectables.

They go on to point out the success with injectables is very technique dependent and there are subtle variations that require expertise for optimum results. The role of the esthetician within these offices varies depending on the state where it is located. This may include traditional esthetic services in addition to working with laser or IPL (varies with states), peels and assisting with client services in a variety of ways.

Client dissatisfaction most often occurs when the technician does not have the education or training necessary to provide the quality of services expected. This may be a non-licensed person who has learned on-site, or a licensed professional who is in need of additional education, which can be challenging to find.

Medical spas tend to be more clinical in atmosphere and appearance than spa facilities. The focus is medical level therapies with a respect to client privacy. Unlike spas, the client may never disrobe depending on the area of the body to be treated. Some medical spas do include relaxation services or expand their offerings into the total wellness philosophy.

In the wellness spa, the focus is more on spa ambiance, and may involve multiple practitioners from a variety of fields. In addition to massage and esthetics, wellness spas also offer acupuncture, Reiki, nutrition counseling, other counseling services, chiropractic, medical physicians (such as a gynecologist or osteopath), or other complementary and alternative therapy specialists.

It may also offer fitness specialists from a variety of philosophies, such as yoga or Pilates. Horology, aromatherapy, life coaching, reflexology and weight loss are additional areas that may be included. Rather than treating symptoms, the wellness spa will focus on dealing with the links between mind, body and health. It is possible the wellness spa could be a wellness medical spa offering both eastern and western approaches, but the focus is on the full person.

One advantage of the wellness spa is the fact that the clients may visit frequently. Rather than going in quarterly for injections, or perhaps monthly for skin therapies, the wellness client would probably visit weekly -- long term.

They may also have multiple services while they are there. All practitioners working within this environment must embrace the concept and support the client even when they are not seeing them for services.

When considering visiting a wellness spa as a client or as a potential employment option, it would be wise to research the background and credentials of those involved. Who owns the center? As these are newer styles of facilities, and the term "wellness" is not standardized, it would be important to make sure that their philosophy and style are ones you are comfortable with as a technician.

Wellness sounds wonderful, but it is dependent on what you expect and how well the facility meets your expectations.

Whether it is a medical spa or wellness spa, these types of centers clearly have requirements beyond the "day spa." In order to be successful and meet the goals and expectations of their consumers, proper training of staff and practitioners is critical.

Judith Culp, a CIDESCO Diplomat has been in the esthetics industry since 1980. A CPCP permanent makeup technician for over 18 years she served a 4-year term as a Director for the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals, two years as their president. She is president of Culp Enterprises Inc. and CEO of NW Institute of Esthetics. Judy Culp is available for consulting. For more information visit www.estheticsnw.com.