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Spas Give Shopping Malls a Face-lift

Amy Andrade had been thinking about Botox for a while. So when she spotted a spa-like "cosmedical" clinic in an upscale mall in Dallas, she was immediately interested.

When she learned the clinic was connected with one of Texas' leading medical institutions, she was sold.

She had Botox injected into her 32-year-old forehead and near her eyes to smooth out infinitesimal wrinkles.

"It was great. I felt like I was getting a facial," said the furniture showroom manager.

Medical spas like the one at Dallas' NorthPark Center are booming. The number in the United States has jumped to about 2,500 this year from 50 in 2002, when Botox injections won federal approval.

Such spas offer minimally invasive cosmetic procedures such as injections of Botox, which relaxes facial muscles to make lines fade, and fillers like Restylane, which add volume.

Not all medical spas have ties with a major medical institution like the Klinger Advanced Aesthetics Cosmedical Center, Spa and Salon, which has teamed up with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Some "cosmedical" clinics don't even require their practitioners to be plastic surgeons or dermatologists.

Dr. Richard A. D'Amico of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons said the procedures may look like simple injections, but serious complications could result if someone isn't properly trained.

And Kate Parsons, director of the Center for Ethics at Webster University in St. Louis, said she is worried that as such services become more widely available, people will be less inclined to examine why they want to look younger.

"I guess my concern is that we're not examining that as much as we could be," Parsons said. "It is becoming increasingly accepted as one more option among the array of cosmetics and fashion."

By Jamie Stengel, Associated Press, December 18, 2006