Alex Thiersch

Minimally invasive cosmetics procedures are fueling growth of the med spa industry. Botox, fillers, lasers, cool body sculpting, so-called vampire facials and micro needling are just a few examples of the procedures gaining traction because they deliver relatively quick results with little down time.

Exposure from Millennials (along with the Kardashian/Jenners), who love social sharing, contribute to the booming demand. “They have no stigma about sharing and they love to show the immediate results,” said Alex R. Thiersch, JD, founder and director of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa).

Seeking to put a yardstick to growth and sales in the industry, AmSpa recently published its “2017 Medical Spa State of the Industry” report. But the in-depth research also revealed some red flags. Most notably, some medical spas are not operating under state regulations, putting clients in harm’s way.

Medical spa volume grew at a blistering pace, doubling in the past few years to hit $4 billion in sales in the 4,200 locations in the U.S. The industry is projected to double again in the next three to five years. The minimally invasive procedures are the fastest growing.

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Medical spas, the study revealed, can pump out $1 million of revenue even the first year. Average tickets are impressive, with 77 percent of clients spending $100 to $500 at the average medical spa.

That’s propelled many doctors, looking to escape the constraints of insurance, to open the mostly cash spas. But there’s also been an explosion of non-doctors and non-core physicians taking over the industry. Forty-six percent of medical spas are owned by non-doctors and 64 percent are non-core physicians (those not in plastics or dermatology).

Many operators, according to Thiersch, are not compliant with laws governing spas, which vary from state to state. “People are making money quickly. But we are also seeing noncompliance and unsafe environments. That’s where we come in. Our edict is to get these places compliant and make sure that they know the rules,” he said of his almost five-year-old association that sports almost 1,000 members.

AmSpa is also on a mission to alert the public to what to look for when seeking medical spa procedures. In many cases, a lack of knowledge is the culprit rather than medical spa owners looking to cut corners, although reducing overhead staffing charges has directed some to eliminate physicians in the office.

“We found there’s 30 to 40 percent [of medical spas] operating in a noncompliant fashion,” Thiersch said.  Most of those cases are people being treated without proper supervision. In fact, almost 23 percent of medical spas had no physician on board.

“These are medical procedures and you need to see a doctor or a physician before getting treated,” Thiersch said.

People need to be aware of danger signals. Moreover, the brands selling medical spas are keen to ensure their partners are in compliance, since they can be liable. “We’re getting inquiries from the big vendors. The industry is coalescing and trying to find the best ways to be compliant and self-regulated. People are catching on,” Thiersch said.