By Deborah L. Shelton, Tribune reporter
5:54 PM EST, December 20, 2010
State licensing officials are warning the public to do their research before undergoing spa treatments or giving them as holiday gifts.
Officials at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation said the growing popularity of spa treatments has resulted in increasing reports of infections and injuries caused by untrained or unsupervised attendants attempting to perform treatments that are actually medical procedures.
Recent spot inspections at 11 day and med spas throughout the state conducted by investigators in the agency's Division of Professional Regulation found that many spas did not meet state compliance standards.
In some cases, investigators found that physicians were not available for consultation or supervision, staff was not appropriately trained or licensed, and recommended treatments were inappropriate, unnecessary or even dangerous.
A licensed cosmetologist or esthetician can perform many treatments without supervision, but some spas offer more invasive treatments that affect layers of skin below the surface or other soft tissues of the body. A licensed physician or nurse can delegate the work but must be on the premises to assist if something goes wrong.
For example, botox injections that fight wrinkles and liposuction, which removes body fat, are medical procedures that require medical supervision.
"For any procedure that is a medical procedure, there must be an established patient-physician relationship before any treatment is provided, meaning the physician needs to meet with the patient and determine the course of treatment," said Daniel Kelber, associate general counsel for the Division of Professional Regulation.
Medical supervision also is required for chemical peels and some microdermabrasion peels, laser hair or tattoo removal, wrinkle or line removal, treatment of skin discoloration, varicose vein or broken capillary treatments, laser skin tightening and a variety of other treatments that affect tissues below the surface of the skin.
Consumers have filed complaints in the past about injuries caused by spa treatments. Kelber said he has seen photos of people who suffered scarring on their faces or bodies.
"Most of the complaints have been about laser procedures," said Kelber, referring to complaints that resulted in investigations and prosecutions. "The more serious complaints, however, are about more invasive procedures, including liposuction and lipodissolve, which is not approved by the (Food and Drug Administration)."
Officials advise consumers to research the facility and ask questions before purchasing a gift certificate or booking a day at a spa. Among the questions to ask: Does the treatment involve a medical procedure? Who will examine the client before the treatment and what are that person's qualifications? And what are the qualifications of the person who will provide the treatment?
Kelber said the agency is following up its initial compliance examinations of the 11 spas with full-scale investigations to enforce compliance with state standards.
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