Combining Beauty and Medicine at Medspas

An alternative to cosmetic surgery



Illustration by Brittany Inglese

Confucius once said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone can see it.”

You can say that again.

In our defense, it can be tough to be satisfied with our looks when we can’t help but compare ourselves with the supermodels and Hollywood stars we see on screen and in the news. If you’re frustrated with what you see in the mirror but not ready to commit to cosmetic surgery, then you might want to check out medical spas.

Unlike conventional day spas, medical spas (known as “medspas” or “medispas” for short) blend beauty with medicine. Visit a medspa and you might find an esthetician giving facials or applying chemical peels, while across the hall a registered nurse operates a cosmetic laser, or a nurse practitioner or physician administers Botox.

The array of services offered at medspas can vary. At minimum, you can count on most medspas to provide injections of Botox and dermal fillers, but many will also have lasers and other equipment for cosmetic procedures, and some will even offer advanced treatments related to tissue regeneration and sexual wellness.

Some medspa services require repeat treatments to achieve or maintain desired results, but depending on the procedure, results can last longer than a year. The number of treatments you will need, the outcome you can expect and the cost of treatment depend on a number of factors — including where the medspa is located. In southern New Hampshire, getting Botox to treat frown lines, for example, might cost $250 to $325, says Ericka McCarron, RN, owner of About Face Medical Aesthetics in Stratham. But in Boston, McCarron says, the cost of the exact same treatment will likely approach $500.

If you’re worried about looking like you’ve “had something done,” don’t be. Indeed, a common misconception surrounding medspa treatments is that people who undergo them end up looking artificial or stiff, says Lisa Vuich, MD, owner of Renew MediSpa in Windham. “We have people come in every week who are worried that they’re going to look freakish,” Vuich says. “But the end result is very dependent on proper placement and not doing too much,” as well as not overly relying on only one method, such as using Botox or facial filler to accomplish everything. “Anything can be done poorly,” Vuich notes, but if a cosmetic procedure is done correctly and is not overdone, she says, you will not get an unnatural look.

Medspas constantly evolve as new treatments and technology become available and the industry tries to keep pace with consumers’ seemingly insatiable desire to look as fabulous as possible. We contacted a few Granite State medspas to talk about some of their current and most popular treatments, as well as to get a hint of what’s to come.

Botox: These days, Botox might be considered an old standby, or maybe the granddaddy of minimally invasive cosmetic treatments. Botox has been around for years, relaxing countless frown lines and crow’s feet via injections, but remains a top seller at medspas and, some say, is a technique that has gained acceptance among holdouts. Botox, “by far,” is one of the most popular treatments requested by customers, McCarron says. “Even five to seven years ago, there was a kind of stigma that went along with people who quote-unquote ‘got Botox,’” she says. “It’s much more mainstream now.”

Dermal fillers: Injections of facial fillers such as Juvederm and Radiesse also remain popular among beauty seekers. As we age, our store of youthful facial fat diminishes. Dermal filler injections plump up aging and hollowed out-skin, soften wrinkles, fill in acne scars, and make skimpy lips look voluptuous. Such injectables are a “huge” favorite among medspa clients, says Katie Hurd, RN, assistant manager and esthetician at Ariya Aesthetics in Bedford.

Body contouring: If hours at the gym and a sensible diet leave you with areas of stubborn fat or cellulite that never seem to go away no matter what, a body contouring procedure such as CoolSculpting or
VelaShape might be for you.

  • CoolSculpting freezes and kills fat cells in the jiggly area of your choosing. “It is permanent fat reduction,” McCarron says, and is noninvasive, so it typically requires no downtime. And, McCarron says, “it can be used just about anywhere there’s fat,” including the abdomen, arms, and inner thighs as well as the chin, love handle and bra-bulge areas.
  • VelaShape uses infrared light and radio-frequency to improve tone and contour, and results in reduced circumference and a smoother appearance. It is especially effective, Hurd says, in areas that have cellulite, but cellulite or no, Hurd says it can be used to shrink the arms, abdomen, legs and chin area.

Lasers, lasers and more lasers: Got too much hair? Laser treatments can zap it away. Thinning hair? A different kind of laser can stimulate your follicles. Regretting an ill-considered tattoo? Lasers can help fade even some multicolored designs. Not only that, lasers can take years off your face by smoothing wrinkles, erasing age spots, and tightening skin.


On the Horizon

Could the Vampire Facelift be the wave of the future? Regenerative procedures such as the Vampire Facelift (yes, that is its actual trademarked name) are gaining increasing attention and study within the medspa industry, says Lisa Vuich, MD, owner of Renew MediSpa in Windham.

Regenerative procedures are used for a range of cosmetic purposes, but are also available at some medspas to treat sexual wellness concerns, such as vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction. Some regenerative procedures harness the power of the client’s own blood platelets and stem cells — hence treatment names such as “Vampire Facelift” — to kick-start rejuvenation in the body, while other regenerative therapies rely on radiofrequency or lasers.

There is “huge interest” in regeneration methods, Vuich says. Study of the regenerative use of stem cells in particular is advancing, she says, and new devices are on the way that will simplify procedures for harvesting, preparing and using stem cells. Stem cells might be used in the future, Vuich says, “to improve the response or the longevity of the response to certain procedures.”

Overall, there is little doubt that advances in the field will continue to bring better results faster and with less downtime for medspa clients. Already with today’s technology, “something that used to take six treatments you can now do in three, and get a better result,” Vuich says. Many recent treatment developments are not necessarily due to medspa application of new concepts or new procedures, she says, but more often are a result of improved equipment that provides more efficient, better-penetrating energy that is less painful for the client and requires less downtime post-procedure. In the end, Vuich says, “It’s more convenient for people, and they get a better result.”

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