New law cracks down on cosmetic procedures at spas

New law cracks down on cosmetic procedures at spas »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — A new state law aims to get tough on spas offering certain cosmetic procedures. The bill just signed by the governor sharply increases fines and other penalties if there's no doctor's supervision. Supporters of the change say previous rules didn't do enough to protect patients.

The facilities are often referred to as "medi spas," and they offer treatments like Botox injections, laser skin resurfacing, and laser hair removal.

"In the last several years, a lot of medical spas have been opening up around town -- and around the country -- that are not being overseen by a physician," Dr. Milan Shah said. "Either the physician doesn't have the appropriate ownership, or they're just nowhere to be found."

Under AB 1548, that violation gets much more expensive. If the services cost more than $950, offenders can be fined up to $50,000 and get a prison sentence of two to five years. Under the previous law, the penalty was a fine up to $1,200 and 60 to 180 days in jail.

Supporters of the new rule say the old penalties weren't stiff enough to prevent abuses of the laws which say a medical doctor must own at least 51 percent of the facility, and that personnel who treat patients must be supervised by a physician.

The new law is designed to crack down on unlicensed practice of medicine, says California Department of Consumer Affairs spokesman Russ Heimerich. He told Eyewitness News these cosmetic procedures must be done after an exam by a doctor, and under a doctor's supervision.

Shah agrees. He stresses the laser equipment, for example, can be intense. And, substances like Botox are pharmaceutical products. Dr. Shah had some products on hand, including some medicated cream.

That comes from Mercy Plaza Pharmacy, and a spokeswoman says it requires a prescription. She said Mercy Plaza only provides that to Dr. Shah's facility, they wouldn't provide it to any spa that lacked physician supervision.

Dr. Shah says that's critical. He says these are medical procedures, it's not like going to a salon.

Shah is an aesthetic and laser medical specialist at Beautologie Cosmetic Surgery and Laser Center in Bakersfield. He said the new law covers nonsurgical cosmetic procedures.

Doctors have the training to administer these treatments, and to spot problems, Shah said. Adding, he's seen patients who've had bad results at spas without adequate medical supervision.

"The laser was maybe turned up a little too high, or the wrong laser was used, or too much Botox," Shah described. He said patients can end up with burns or scars.

Shah said the procedures should be done by a physician. They can also safety be performed by a licensed registered nurse or physician's assistant under the direct supervision of a doctor.

He recommends that patients check a spa before getting a procedure. "Is there a doctor on site? Is there appropriate medical doctor supervision on site?"

Shah believes there's been a lot of gray area when it comes to medical spas. He hopes the new law will clear things up.

"This makes it a little more black and white," Shah said. "It's good that this law came out, because I think it's definitely a step in the right direction."