One of the unexpected honors I’ve had as a dermatologist is the friendships I’ve built with the aestheticians and med spa professionals who refer patients to us. We love med spas — and even recommend them for certain procedures.

But, when you’re considering going to a med spa vs. dermatologist it’s important to know the difference between them.

What is A Medical Spa?

A medical spa offers treatments, products, and services targeting cosmetic issues. They employ aestheticians, not dermatologists.

Aestheticians serve a helpful function in addressing skin care concerns. Texas has fairly stringent credentialing and criteria for licensing in this area. Even at a dermatologist office, we sometimes employ aestheticians for certain procedures. However, aestheticians are not doctors. They are not qualified to give diagnoses.

Med spas often have wonderful practitioners in their field, but ultimately, they pay the rent by selling products and services.

If you’re looking for a non-invasive cosmetic treatment, this may be your place! If you’re looking for a skin diagnosis or a more comprehensive approach to skin care, you need to visit a dermatologist instead.

And if a professional at a med spa raises a concern or even makes a diagnosis, have a dermatologist check it out.

What is a Dermatologist?

Maybe you’re wondering, “What is a dermatologist vs. an aesthetician? Don’t they both deal with skin?”

Yes, but they differ dramatically.

A dermatologist is a specialized doctor. Their goal is always to make sure patients have healthy skin, correct diagnoses, and appropriate treatments.

Dermatologists are licensed doctors. They’ve completed four years of medical school and four years of residency.

A cosmetic dermatologist is a dermatologist with the same medical training. Their primary goal is the same too — to make sure you have healthy skin. But they’re also willing to address cosmetic issues like lines and wrinkles that are more of a beauty concern than a medical problem.

An aesthetician is a certified skin specialist who administers cosmetic treatments, but they are not medical doctors or considered cosmetic dermatologists. They specialize in skincare from a cosmetic, not a medical, background.

dermatologist vs med spa

Treatments at a Medical Spa Vs. a Dermatologist

Sometimes the services and treatments seem similar between a medical spa vs. a dermatologist, particularly with acne treatments or aesthetic treatments, but the approach is different.

A cosmetic dermatologist takes a more clinical approach. They’ll consider sun damage, possible skin cancers, skin types, and sensitivities that influence the ability to use certain products and tolerate certain procedures.

Cosmetic dermatology uses a more comprehensive approach to the patient’s needs and problems. They’re looking for underlying reasons the client is experiencing the issue in addition to treating the issue.

So are there treatments when you can opt for a medical spa vs. a dermatologist? Absolutely!

A medical spa is a great place to get facials, eyelash treatments and extensions, eyebrow microblading, laser hair removal, or tattoo removal, as long as the operators are well trained and supervised.

Lasers for hair and tattoo removal used to be confined to cosmetic dermatology offices, but now these lasers have advanced to the degree where they can be operated safely in a medical spa (and they often cost less in a med spa vs. a dermatologist office).

But, if you want to have anything injected into your body, visit a dermatologist. As common as Botox and dermal fillers are, they come with a list of potential side effects.

Botox, for example, is a neurotoxin with significant potential side effects if incorrectly placed. Dermal fillers are implants placed in the body for a certain amount of time — they carry the risk of infection and reaction.

Even though these treatments are offered in both med spas and dermatologists offices, they should only be performed by or under direct supervision of a medical doctor like a dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

Related: Botox Do’s & Don’ts: How to Prepare for Your Appointment

Diagnoses at a Medical Spa Vs. a Dermatologist

There’s also a difference in the type of evaluation that occurs at a medical spa vs a dermatologist. Med spa professionals cannot medically diagnose patients whereas that is the primary function of a dermatologist.

If you have a concern, visit your dermatologist — not a med spa. If there’s a lump, bump, rash, skin lesion, or acne on your skin you should go to a dermatologist vs. a med spa.

Medical spas have great licensed professionals to meet many of your cosmetic needs. But, when it comes to injections, diagnosing your condition, or dealing with the cause of a cosmetic issue, opt for the dermatologist.

You’ll find they’ll happily address many of your cosmetic concerns while also dealing with the total health of your skin.