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Med spa versus day spa - what's the difference?

Posted January 17, 2019 4:23 p.m. EST

Med spas offer non-surgical medical and cosmetic treatments. (Photo Courtesy of Sona Dermatology & MedSpa)

This article was written for our sponsor, Sona Dermatology & MedSpa.

There's nothing like taking some time for yourself by going to the spa for a little relaxation and rejuvenation. Whether your skin needs some TLC or you're looking for a specific type of treatment, it's important to keep in mind that not all spas are created equal.

You or someone you know has probably been to a day spa before. Perhaps you got a deep tissue massage or had your nails done for a special event.

However, there are also medical spas. These med spas are a bit different than a typical day spa in that they offer non-surgical medical and cosmetic treatments.

Med spa services versus day spa services

Medical spas provide treatment and services for a variety of skin conditions, like fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and sun damage, acne, and more. Day spas provide services like massages, pedicures and manicures, facials, and mud baths.

Day spas are more for relaxation and pampering, while med spas are more for rejuvenation. Rejuvenation is the correction of skin issues and treatments that create noticeable changes in the appearance of your skin. Med spas can also medically address skin conditions with treatments that have longer lasting results.

A med spa isn't quite a doctor's office, but it's more than just a day spa. Treatments and services of a med spa can include:

  • Lasers — laser treatments that are used to remove hair, address wrinkles, texture issues, etc.
  • CoolSculpting and body contouring — freezing of fat cells with noninvasive tightening technology that restores skin to a firmer state
  • Skin tightening — employing heat to tighten skin and reduce the appearance of cellulite
  • Botox, dermal fillers and other injectables — neurotoxin protein and other prescription medications that reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and help replace lost volume
  • Dermatological treatments — treatments that address acne, sun damage, wrinkles, and more with things like peels, lasers and other technology
The medical distinction

Another notable difference is that a med spa requires professional oversight by a physician because a med spa administers medical treatments with potential side effects.

In many states, only physicians and physician-owned corporations can engage in the practice of medicine and receive payment for medical services due to a doctrine known as the corporate practice of medicine.

For example, in North Carolina, only a licensed physician may own a medical spa.

Med spas must also be staffed by specialty trained and licensed physicians like nurses and dermatologists, for example. When looking into a med spa, it's important that you choose one that has all the proper licensing, accreditations, and a specially trained staff of treatment providers and physicians so that you can get the best and safest results.

The rise of the med spa

Day spas are more common than med spas, but the med spa industry is growing.

A report from Marketdata Enterprises, Inc. stated the number of medical spas exploded between 2007 and 2009 and is projected to grow by 20 percent annually.

The popularity of Botox, CoolSculpting and laser treatments continues to increase, and these services are no longer just for the Hollywood elite.

"When you go to a med spa, you're getting more than a day of pampering. You're getting a treatment that truly rejuvenates your skin, but all in a spa environment," said Dr. Carol Trakimas, a board-certified dermatologist and medical director for Sona Dermatology & MedSpa's Raleigh market. "Med spas are redefining the doctor's office visit when it comes to your skin health and appearance. We provide our clients and patients with high-quality skin care, using leading-edge technology and medical expertise from our doctors on staff."

When deciding whether to make an appointment at your local day spa or a medical spa, consider what you're looking to get out of your self-care session. If you desire longer lasting results and a more in-depth revitalization of your skin, then a med spa may be the place you'll want to spend your time and money.

This article was written for our sponsor, Sona Dermatology & MedSpa.