The Hidden Dangers of Med Spas: Unregulated Procedures and Unsafe Practices Put Consumers at Risk

2 January 2024

A booming wellness industry riddled with unlicensed workers and unsanitary conditions is causing harm to unsuspecting consumers

In recent years, the popularity of med spas and hydration clinics has skyrocketed, turning the wellness industry into a $15 billion business. These establishments offer a wide range of services, from IV therapy to cosmetic procedures, promising rejuvenation and health benefits. However, behind the allure lies a dark underbelly of unregulated procedures and unsafe practices that are putting consumers at risk. From unlicensed workers administering unapproved products to unsanitary conditions, the lack of oversight in the med spa industry has led to a surge in infections and adverse reactions. This article delves into the stories of individuals who have suffered the consequences of these dangerous practices and explores the need for stricter regulations to protect consumers.

The Case of Bea Amma: A Nightmare Experience

When Bea Amma visited a med spa in 2021, she had high hopes of receiving treatments that would boost her energy and help burn off unwanted body fat. Little did she know that her visit would result in a drug-resistant infection that would leave her scarred and still recovering more than two years later. Amma received multiple injections of vitamins and a fat-melting compound, only to experience severe pain, fever, and pus-filled injection sites within 24 hours. Testing later revealed that she had been infected with an aggressive bacterium called Mycobacterium abscessus, commonly associated with cosmetic procedures that involve improper sterilization. Amma’s case highlights the dangers of unapproved products and unsterile conditions in med spas.

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The Growing Number of Adverse Reactions

The number of people experiencing adverse reactions at med spas is on the rise, although the exact figures are difficult to determine due to underreporting. Infectious disease and emergency room doctors have reported seeing an increase in infections and complications associated with these facilities. Dr. Claire Brown, an infectious disease expert at UCLA, explains that the bacterium found in Amma’s case is often linked to cosmetic procedures if equipment is not properly sterilized. This highlights the need for stricter regulations and oversight to ensure the safety of consumers.

FDA Warnings and Unauthorized Procedures

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning about severe infections and skin deformities resulting from unauthorized shots used to dissolve fat at med spas across the country. These unapproved shots, sold online under various names, have been administered by personnel who may not be properly licensed. The only FDA-approved product for fat reduction is Kybella, which is typically injected under the chin. Dr. Richina Bicette-McCain, an emergency medicine physician, has treated numerous patients with complications from med spa visits, including infections, burns, and botched Botox injections. The FDA has also cautioned against improper mixing and sterilization of products at med spas, as it can lead to serious patient illnesses.

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Lack of Oversight and the Role of State Regulations

Med spas fall under the authority of each state, with varying regulations and requirements. However, there are no federal health regulations or standard operating procedures for these establishments. Alex Thiersch, CEO of the American Med Spa Association, acknowledges that some states lack the resources and time to enforce regulations effectively. The association aims to fill this gap by providing legal and business resources to med spas across the country, ensuring compliance with state laws. While the majority of med spas operate safely, the presence of unauthorized procedures and unlicensed workers remains a concern.

Tragic Consequences: The Case of Jenifer Cleveland

The tragic case of Jenifer Cleveland highlights the potential dangers of med spa treatments. Cleveland received an IV infusion at a med spa in Texas and experienced difficulty breathing and tightness in her chest during the procedure. She passed out and was taken to a hospital, where she died shortly after. An investigation revealed that the solution she received intravenously included total parenteral nutrition (TPN), a concentrated mix of electrolytes typically used in hospital settings. The absence of a physician at the med spa and the administration of TPN raise serious questions about the safety and appropriateness of the treatment. Cleveland’s family is calling for increased oversight and safety measures in the med spa industry.

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The Need for Nationwide Standards and Increased Consumer Awareness

Experts emphasize the importance of asking questions and seeking out reputable med spas to ensure safety. Questions about ownership, credentials of the treatment provider, and the presence of licensed medical practitioners on-site can help consumers make informed decisions. Bea Amma, reflecting on her experience, regrets not asking these questions before undergoing her injections. The American Med Spa Association advocates for nationwide standards of practice to ensure consistency and safety across all states.

Conclusion: The booming med spa industry has brought about a surge in wellness treatments and cosmetic procedures. However, the lack of regulations and oversight has resulted in a rise in infections, adverse reactions, and even fatalities. The stories of Bea Amma and Jenifer Cleveland serve as stark reminders of the dangers lurking behind the promises of rejuvenation and beauty. Stricter regulations, nationwide standards, and increased consumer awareness are necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of those seeking treatments at med spas. Only through these measures can the industry truly live up to its potential as a provider of safe and effective wellness services.

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