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Would You Like Some Herbal Tea With That Botox?

Medical Spas Are Pairing Classic Pampering with Injections, Peels, and Surgery


Carol Swenson used to receive Botox and Restylane injections in her ho-hum dermatologist’s office. But several months ago, she traded in her doc’s fluorescent lights and posters of epidermal conditions for scented candles and the soothing sounds of the sea, not to mention a fluffy robe and a cup of tea. Oh, and a facial. ¶“The ambience at the spa makes me feel more comfortable than I ever felt in my traditional doctor’s office,” says the fortyish Swenson. “After getting my injections, I make it a day and get a facial or a massage.”

Swenson’s new Botox connection, MD Spa in Pleasanton, is just one of several medical spas attempting to turn such treatments as mustache-removing laser hair removal and lip-plumping collagen injections—even nose-tweaking plastic surgery—into the ultimate pampering experience. While Orinda’s Entourage Spa has had a doctor dropping in to do Botox injections for about two years, there’s a current boom in all-in-one spas. Pleasanton, Walnut Creek, and Oakland all have new medical spas. And before this year is out, more are expected in Walnut Creek and Berkeley. Going to a medical spa is not exactly like heading to the Claremont. In addition to the usual aestheticians and massage therapists, there are also doctors on staff. They oversee the medical procedures, the vast majority of which are minimally invasive quick-fixes such as collagen injections.

“A lot of women request Botox,” says Phil Rowe, whose company, P&L Enterprises, manages ultramodern
Encore MedSpa in Walnut Creek. “But chemical peels, facials, and professional skin care products can also turn back the hands of time.”
Also on the menu at most medical spas are laser treatments. Laser skin rejuvenation requires a series of five to six treatments and reduces the effects of sun damage and fine lines and wrinkles. Laser hair removal is big, too, and is said to be more comfortable than electrolysis. Laser vein removal reduces the appearance of varicose veins. Prices depend on the type of laser procedure, area of the body treated, and the number of treatments.

Alan Nan, M.D., is Encore MedSpa’s medical director. He works with a team of health-care professionals, including a physician’s assistant and a nurse, to perform these and other treatments. A series of three laser treatments in Nan’s office will run you about $700.
While most medical spa clients are women, the industry is attracting men who want to reduce the effects of sun damage on their face, or simply to look their best in a competitive workforce. The International Medical Spa Association says men account for about 25 percent of medical spa clients, and that this number is growing rapidly.

Such growth has people like Nick Walpert, an East Bay entrepreneur, very excited. A former hospital administrator, Walpert recently launched the MedSpa Boutique franchise, which plans on opening its first Bay Area MedSpa Boutique in Oakland this month, with an eye on Walnut Creek, Danville, Pleasanton, and Berkeley for future locations.

In addition to the usual injections and peels (which can range from $85 a visit for laser hair removal to $300 for a Botox injection), Walpert’s medical spas also offer holistic treatments, including acupuncture and, for about $100 a pop—depending on where they aim it—ultrasound cellulite reduction.

But where MedSpa Boutique really takes a turn toward the futuristic is with its “antiaging capsule,” a device that resembles a tanning bed enclosed in a large egg. Combining full-spectrum light with color, heat, and vibratory massage, the antiaging capsule is said to provide a variety of benefits.

“Clients sit inside the capsule for options including energy renewal and massage,” Walpert says. “The capsule also accelerates healing in clients who have recently undergone cosmetic surgery.”

Another local medical spa, Concord’s TrioSkincare, is trying a different kind of high-technology treatment. It augments the usual Botox and facials with a DNA skin-care line that uses live stem cells. That these cells come from cattle doesn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of stars like Pamela Anderson who endorse the technique.

If sitting in an egg or having cow cells rolled over your face isn’t your idea of how to achieve a new you, there are a few medical spas out there that offer more traditional cosmetic surgical choices.

Robert F. Gray, M.D., a board-certified facial plastic and head and neck surgeon who oversees MD Spa in Pleasanton, does more than inject people like Carol Swenson with their regularly scheduled Botox. In his on-site surgical suite, Gray can do jaw and cheek implants, forehead and brow lifts, and nose jobs. (Procedures such as comprehensive face-lifts that require an overnight recovery stay must be done at medical centers.) While Swenson pays $300 to $600 for her Botox treatment (depending on where it’s going that visit), patients who go under Gray’s knife can expect to pay $4,000 to $10,000.

That can be a lot to pay for beauty and a cup of herbal tea. But if you’re going to go for the quick fix, the soothing atmosphere of a medical spa can replace the ugly doctor’s office pallor and make the process more chic than an HMO.

Interested? Here’s how to get in touch with these spas of the future: Encore MedSpa in Walnut Creek, (925) 932-1843; Entourage Spa in Orinda, (925) 254-9721; Pleasanton’s MD Spa, (925) 846-2772; TrioSkincare in Concord, (925) 609-8746. The Oakland MedSpa Boutique did not have a phone at press time.

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