The Dark Side of Med Spas: Unregulated Practices Put Consumers at Risk

8 January 2024

The booming med spa industry faces scrutiny as unlicensed workers administer unapproved products in unsanitary conditions, leading to severe infections and even death.

When Bea Amma visited a med spa in 2021, she had no idea that her quest for wellness and beauty would turn into a nightmare. In the growing $15 billion wellness industry, med spas and hydration clinics offer a range of treatments, from IV therapy to cosmetic procedures. However, with the industry’s rapid expansion, concerns have arisen about the use of unlicensed workers and unapproved products in unsanitary conditions. This article explores the dangers lurking behind the glossy facade of med spas and the need for stricter regulations to protect consumers.

The Rise of Med Spas and Hydration Clinics

The med spa and hydration clinic industry has experienced exponential growth in recent years, fueled by the desire for wellness and aesthetic treatments. These facilities offer a wide range of services, including IV therapy, skin care, and cosmetic procedures. The industry’s worth has reached a staggering $15 billion, attracting both consumers seeking rejuvenation and entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on the trend.

Bea Amma’s Nightmarish Experience

Bea Amma’s story serves as a cautionary tale about the risks associated with med spas. Seeking energy-boosting treatments and fat reduction, she received multiple injections of vitamins and fat-melting compounds. Within hours, Amma experienced severe symptoms, including dizziness, fever, and painful injection sites that oozed with pus. Testing later revealed that she had been infected with a drug-resistant bacterium called Mycobacterium abscessus. Amma’s case highlights the potential dangers of unsterilized equipment and unapproved products used in med spa procedures.

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Lack of Oversight and Reporting

The true extent of injuries and infections resulting from med spa treatments remains unknown due to underreporting. Many infections go unreported to local or state health departments, making it difficult to gauge the full scope of the problem. However, infectious disease and emergency room doctors report an increase in adverse reactions associated with med spa visits. The lack of reporting and oversight further exacerbates the risks faced by consumers.

Unapproved Products and Unauthorized Procedures

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings about the use of unapproved products in med spas. Some consumers have suffered severe infections and skin deformities after receiving unauthorized shots advertised as fat-dissolving treatments. These shots, sold under various names online, have not been approved by the FDA. Additionally, some med spas and IV clinics have been found to mix products improperly without proper sterilization, posing serious health risks to patients.

The Need for Stricter Regulations

Med spas fall under the authority of each state, with varying regulations and enforcement. The lack of federal health regulations and standard operating procedures leaves room for unlicensed workers and unauthorized procedures to thrive. The American Med Spa Association, which provides resources to med spas, acknowledges the need for increased oversight and compliance with state laws. However, the association also highlights the challenges faced by states with limited resources or time to monitor med spas effectively.

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Tragic Consequences and Calls for Change

The tragic death of Jenifer Cleveland at a med spa in Texas underscores the urgent need for stricter regulations. Cleveland received an IV infusion that included a potent mix of electrolytes called total parenteral nutrition (TPN), a treatment typically administered in hospital settings. The absence of a licensed medical practitioner and the use of TPN in a med spa resulted in Cleveland’s death. Her family is now advocating for increased oversight to prevent similar tragedies.


The med spa industry’s rapid growth has brought both benefits and risks. While many facilities adhere to regulations and prioritize consumer safety, the lack of oversight and the presence of unlicensed workers performing unauthorized procedures pose significant dangers. Stricter regulations, nationwide standards of practice, and increased reporting requirements are necessary to protect consumers from infections, injuries, and even death. As the med spa industry continues to flourish, it is imperative that the well-being of consumers remains a top priority.

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