Doctor Spa - The Marriage of Science and Beauty

Wendy Lewis

by Wendy Lewis | August 16, 2010 @ 04:00PM

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Doctor SpaSpa was originally the name of an internationally known health resort town in the Belgian Ardennes with therapeutic hot springs where Europe's nobility cavorted. Although still a resort town, it is now better known for one of the world's best racing tracks, "Spa-Francorchamps." The medieval faith in the magical healing powers of the waters was ultimately replaced with medical wisdom, and spas became the playgrounds of the rich and privileged. The modern day definition of spas has been broadened to include anti-ageing, cosmetic surgery and dentistry, and rejuvenation treatments, and they are a natural extension of the doctor's clinic. American doctors were once reticent to extol the benefits of spa and skin therapies because when they referred patients to department stores, they were often sold a lot of creams they really didn't need at whopping prices. The explosion of anti-aging medicine in the past five years has given birth to a new generation of doctors-turned-retailers. "There was a time when any doctor doing cosmetic treatments wasn't considered a 'real Doctor' any more. Today, everybody is doing it, even hospitals have wellness centers," says NY skincare specialist Kerry Elmasry.

There is a movement afoot to treat the person's mind, body, and spirit, as well as the skin, hair, and nails. Many spas, like New York's HR Beauty Gallery in Soho and the Equinox Spa, have Dermatologists and Cosmetic Surgeons who regularly come for a day to consult with clients and give Botox shots. To that end, many doctors are capitalizing on the current wave of renewal by adding their own staff of skin specialists who provide a full range of treatments including rejuvenating micropeels, oxygen facials, seaweed body wraps, aromatherapy, and nutritional counseling. According to plastic surgeon Dr. Laurence Kirwan, who has The Dermis Center for Skin and Body in Connecticut and practices in London, "A skin rejuvenation program is an integrated part of a cosmetic surgery practice. Patients expect aftercare and cosmetics are part of it. We prep them before and after surgery with a skin program to speed up the metabolism of the skin and exfoliate dead cells."

In this age of one-stop-shopping, doctors now readily embrace the advantages in skincare and para surgical treatments for the benefit of their patients, as well as their bank accounts, and add their own medical twist and their names onto labels. Dermatologist Bruce Katz, M.D. built a luxurious midtown clinic, JUVA Skin and Laser Center/Medi Spa right off New York's Park Avenue. "The treatments we offer are similar to those available in high end spas, but we incorporate medications for anti-ageing that can get into the DNA of dysplastic cells and destroy them," says Dr. Katz. His center incorporates a full operating room where a plastic surgeon can do your necklift, the most modern high tech vibrating liposuction equipment, every conceivable thing you can do with a laser, anti-cellulite therapies, power peelings from your forehead to your calves, and a selection of products to rival Bloomingdale's, all under one roof.

Not to be outdone, the other American coast has its share of medical spas extraordinaires. One of the names synonymous with doctor-endorsed skin care is Howard Murad, M.D., an LA Dermatologist and the man who brought alpha hydroxy acids into the to salon in the late 1980's. "Patients were coming to me not just for psoriasis or skin cancer, they were coming with cosmetic concerns," says Dr. Murad. Murad, whose skincare infomercials keep insomniacs occupied in the wee hours, operates a spa in El Segundo where complexions are examined with scanners and moisture checkers to figure out whether the rapidly exfoliating Signature AHA Facial or Vitamin C Infusion treatment will suit them best. On-site nutritionists can tell you which form of Murad Internal Skincare, his line of potent nutriceuticals, will fill any gaping holes in your current wellness programme. In Beverly Hills, glowing pre-pubescent skin and buffed bods are the norm and wrinkles are definitely over. Liposuction guru Dr. Peter Bela Fodor, a Hungarian-born plastic surgeon who is credited with doing some of the flattest etched tummies in Hollywood and Aspen, designed a state-of-the-art clinic adjacent to his sprawling suite of rooms especially to pamper his celebrity clientele pre- and post-liftings. The Century Cosmetics' team of paramedical aestheticians and massage therapists offer European facials, microdermabrasion, lymphatic drainage massage, semi-permanent makeup, and an exclusive selection of La Prairie and Jan Marini skincare. According to Dr. Fodor, "The big trend is the integration of traditional spa therapies with scientifically advanced treatments that have long-lasting, significant benefits to the skin and enhance the benefits of surgery."

Boomers demand preventative techniques and alternative cures in an atmosphere of luxury and relaxation. Medical spas are filling a niche somewhere between a doctor's office and a destination spa and capitalizing on the symbiotic relationship between 'looking good' and 'feeling good.' "We don't make therapeutic claims for things that don't really work," says Dr. Kirwan. "a patient who comes into our office may have a skin problem or a cosmetic problem, and may need a doctor, a cosmetologist or both."

Wendy Lewis is an independent cosmetic surgery consultant,

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