Experiences With Medical Spas and Associated Complications: A Survey of Aesthetic Practitioners

Dermatol Surg. 2020 Dec;46(12):1543-1548. doi: 10.1097/DSS.0000000000002344.


Background: Medical spas have experienced a recent rise in popularity. However, rules and regulations vary nationwide. Given the number of complications attributable to medical spas, questions remain about currently regulatory practices and whether they are sufficient to protect patients from harm.

Objective: Our study investigated the current state of medical spas and their associated patient complications in the aesthetic field as well as the experiences and attitudes of practitioners.

Materials and methods: A survey was distributed to current members of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

Results: Of all cosmetic complications encountered in the past 2 years, the majority reported that the percentage of complications seen in their practice attributable to medical spas ranged from 61% to 100%. The most commonly cited complications from medical spas were burn, discoloration, and misplacement of product, whereas the most commonly cited treatments resulting in complications were fillers, intense pulsed light, and laser hair removal. For safety and outcomes, medical spas were rated as inferior to physician-based practices.

Conclusion: Patient complications associated with medical spas are not uncommon. Overall, practitioners believe medical spas are endangering to patient safety, think that stricter rules and regulations are necessary, and request more support from the specialty medical societies.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / standards*
  • Cosmetic Techniques / adverse effects*
  • Cosmetic Techniques / standards
  • Dermatology / standards
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety / standards*
  • Societies, Medical / standards
  • Surgeons / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / statistics & numerical data
  • United States