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Health: MedSpas Explode In Popularity, But Are They Safe?

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Medical spas, known for quick beauty treatments, have exploded in popularity. But as 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has learned, some people come out burned and scarred.

"I literally had black eyes," said Tamara Pierce, a MedSpa patient.

"It was burning. I was terrified," said Carmella Takacs, a MedSpa patient.

If done incorrectly, you could end up scarred for life by lasers, which can cause burns. And injections, like Botox, can leave patients with nerve damage and infections.

Tamra Pierce went to a MedSpa for Botox, but instead, she says she was injected with a different type of filler, leaving her with two black eyes and a swollen face that lasted for weeks.

"The doctor I went to see said I could've lost my eyesight," said Tamra.

One MedSpa being investigated is Monarch, following the death of a liposuction patient in Maryland and a series of infections including patients treated in King of Prussia.

Critics say part of the problem is a lack of oversight. Doctors aren't always practicing at MedSpas.

Our producer posed as someone who wanted laser hair removal and Botox. She was told no doctor was there, and that instead, nurses do the procedures.

The producer said, "So now when it comes to the Botox and laser hair, who does it? Does a doctor have to do that?"

The nurse said, "Nope. Nope. You don't want the doctor doing it."

The produced asked, "Why?"

The nurse replied, "Because he doesn't do 'em like we do."

Legally, in most states, nurses and aestheticians can perform minor cosmetic procedures. But surgical operations, like liposuction, need to be done by a doctor. Those performing procedures need to be licensed, but not the facilities.

"You're basically putting your trust in the hands of self regulation," said Dr. Kevin Cross, a Philadelphia plastic surgeon at Deme. He says patients should ask questions and check for an individual's credentials.

"It all comes down to minimizing risk by making sure you're in the hands of somebody who is well skilled, well qualified and understands how to minimize exposure and complications to patients," said Dr. Cross.

For invasive, surgical procedures, patients should make sure the doctor is Board Certified in Plastic Surgery or Dermatology.

Delaware recently passed laws that will require MedSpas that perform invasive procedures to be accredited.

For more on how to choose a surgeon, visit:

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