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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.
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This introduction could not have taken place without researchers who asked “Why?” and experimented with the stratum corneum. With the introduction of AHAs, educational facilities and esthetic programs were developed. Suddenly, estheticians armed with a little knowledge about skin physiology began asking more questions and probing U.S. manufacturers to provide even more education and better formulations to improve results and protect skin. And these manufacturers responded with better ingredients, vehicles, delivery systems and systematic protocols. The medical world took note of the scientific advances, and some early pioneers started to merge their practices with esthetic professionals, seeing the benefits of having a multidisciplinary approach.
The trend coaxed the medical field to create vanity drugs, such as Botox* and tretinoin, while the skin care field explored the use of more noninvasive products, such as AHAs and topical vitamin C. Today, it is plain to see how the professions mirror each other. For example, estheticians have their own high-tech solutions and cosmeceuticals with designer formulas featuring exfoliators, antioxidants, enzymes, botanicals and peptides. On the other hand, the medical world has a variety of injectables, such as dermal fillers, including hyaluronic acid and human collagen, as well as lasers, peels and more invasive surgery. Spas that provide feel-good services offer respite for clients suffering from chronic and cultural stress, while medical offices offer tranquilizers and antidepressants to help patients deal with the same kinds of stress. Aromatherapy, herbal teas and massage in the spa offer a holistic solution for insomnia, while the medical world can offer prescription sleep aids. For hair loss, spas can offer topical solutions, nutritional guidance and supplements, while physicians can suggest hair-growth drugs and transplants.
The transformation to medical spas
The lack of noninvasive solutions, human touch and personal care, in addition to the status of the United States’ failing health care and insurance plans, has led physicians to explore the spa world. By the same token, the need for more clinical solutions has moved spa owners to embrace medical solutions. Together, the spa field and medical realm complement each other within the medical spa environment, where services are layered, combined and cross-promoted. But there is still a need to go further. In relationship terms, the medical and esthetic worlds have been dating, are now engaged, but are not married ... yet.
What has been learned through this collaboration is that there are a multitude of avenues that can be used to lead clients or patients to their goals. This line of investigation has taken researchers beneath the surface of skin, looking at the internal aspects of the body, unfolding the mechanisms of inflammation, disease, hormones and their complex interactions with the epidermis. The biggest discovery only confirmed what should have already been known: Everything is connected—all organs, systems, tissues and emotions. Knowing this, the current trend in medical spas is to make realistic changes in internal health and emotional composition to augment therapeutic esthetic treatments and ultimately produce profound results in clients.
It is now known through direct clinical examination that the key to longevity, youth and health is found at the cellular level. Cellular research has demonstrated that aging is more than skin deep. It involves internal, external and emotional factors, so now medicine is closer to the spa and esthetics closer to medicine. Rigorous clinical esthetic education programs are an absolute necessity for every medical spa practitioner, because professionals need to know what’s in and what’s out when it comes to methods, solutions and research. See What’s In.