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The Inclusive Medical Spa

By: Howard Murad, MD
Posted: February 25, 2009, from the March 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
woman receiving massage with flower petals

In order to know where you are going, you have to know where you have been.

This is true of many things, including the evolution of the spa field and the medical world. Skin care products and treatments have evolved considerably in direct proportion with scientific research—trends have pushed estheticians, physicians, cosmetic chemists and manufacturers to work together. The proliferation of medical spas is direct evidence of this collaboration. Building upon what is known, the cosmetic and medical industries are completing the puzzle, so to speak, to get a better picture about how to treat aging and problem skin.

Although today’s high-tech skin care is still moving into a more medical realm, the holistic approach of treating the whole to cure the part is very much alive—skin care professionals and physicians have started to layer their therapies, and have combined nutrition, supplementation and exercise programs into their protocols for total body wellness. What’s clear is that the next discovery may not be just a single ingredient or method, but rather an inclusive system of care that will address all avenues of health through a multitude of therapies.

The spa and medical office

The countless advances in cosmeceutical research and clinical esthetics have shaped the skin care, medical and spa fields, and these have guided the profession to where it is today. Greek philosopher Plato once described necessity as the mother of invention. Throughout the years, it has become clear that in order to beautify the outside layers of a person, internal and emotional health must be addressed, as well, for lasting results. Simply put, when you’re healthy, you’re beautiful, and when you’re beautiful, you’re healthy.

If you were to talk about the science of skin care in the 1970s, you would barely have had an audience. Esthetics was just beginning to gain popularity in the United States, and most of the skin care salons, as they once were called, offered nothing more than modified versions of European skin care. The esthetic industry imported its treatment methods, which consisted mainly of cleansing, pampering and relaxing, and this lasted into the 1980s until science came into the picture and gave skin care professionals one of the industry’s biggest discoveries: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).