Medical Spa Makeovers Gone Wrong

The latest trend in personal beauty – botox – is injecting even more money into the $11 billion spa industry.

"It's a war out there actually," says Ronda Howara, owner of a medical spa in Los Angeles where you can have your nails done, hair lasered off and face fixed - all in one visit.

Howara's spa is supervised by a plastic surgeon, and the botox and lasers are only dispensed by nurses. But, as she tells CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes, that is not always the case.

"A lot of facilities are popping up where a doctor will rent them a laser and they aren't even registered with the medical board," says Howara.

New York investment banker Kim McMillan's face was badly burned during laser hair removal by a cosmetologist at a Manhattan medical spa.

"She was in tremendous pain," says lawyer Karen McMillan. "If you look at pictures, it's amazing that anybody would let her leave that spa without immediately taking her to an emergency room."

Some say the problem with the medical spa industry is that their popularity has outpaced oversight. Some state laws say only doctors can do laser treatments and botox injections, while California and New York only require doctor supervision. Still, others have no laws in place.

And even where regulations exist, no one monitors medical spas until someone complains. California's medical board doesn't even know how many medical spas are out there.

CBS News went undercover in California and easily found a place willing to give laser and botox by a technician only, which is against the law.

"Oh, you don't need a doctor, or nurse," says someone at the spa. "We've done this before."

"There's no reimbursement from insurance companies," says David Thornton of the California medical board. "So it's a fee for service, and there are going to be unscrupulous people getting into this type of business."

Plastic surgeons like George Orloff end up fixing what's gone wrong.

"Just last week I had a patient came to me who went to a very nice salon, and they were doing procedures in that salon," says Orloff. "And she was injected with something into her lips. She didn't really know exactly what it was."

Physicians warn until some federal regulations are in place, consumers must protect themselves or risk getting burned.
  • Jaime Holguin

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