There was a time when Botox was a hush-hush treatment exclusive to the rich and famous. This is not that time. Not only are more celebs and influencers talking openly about getting it these days, but the injectable is a lot more accessible to us unknowns, too. Instead of taking the traditional route of seeing a dermatologist or plastic surgeon—and shelling out at least $300 per appointment—you can now snag enticing deals at the Target of Botox providers, if you will: med spas.
As Sonia Badreshia, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Elite MD outside of San Francisco and member of the Skin of Color Society, tells SELF, a medical spa is a specialized facility that offers minimally invasive aesthetic treatments (or “tweakments,” as you may have heard them called). Think of it as a one-stop shop for some of the most popular cosmetic procedures out there, like microneedling, laser hair removal, and yep, Botox (or botulinum toxin, if you want to get scientific).
But with so many facial-injection horror stories circulating on social media, you might be wondering if you get what you pay for—and if going to a med spa for Botox is a totally legit way to save a little money, or the kind of rookie mistake that you’ll come to regret.
Getting Botox at a med spa isn’t the same as going to a doctor’s office.
While med spas offer some of the same injectables you can get at a derm’s or plastic surgeon’s office, there are some key differences between these practices. First, med spas are typically run by mid-level practitioners such as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and physician assistants (PAs) who hire trained technicians (such as estheticians or registered nurses) to perform cosmetic services, David Shafer, MD, a double-certified plastic surgeon at the Shafer Clinic in New York City, tells SELF.
Many states require a supervising physician to oversee the business, but they’re not always required to be on-site, Dr. Shafer says. These doctors also may or may not perform the treatments themselves, Marisa Garshick, MD, board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City, tells SELF.
But the biggest difference—and the most appealing—is the cost. Botox for aesthetic purposes isn’t covered by insurance, Dr. Shafer says, and the injections typically range between $300–$600 per treatment area, depending on where you go and where you live. Med spas on the other hand, tend to charge less—around $200–$500 per area, in many cases. On top of that, many of them also offer package deals or discounts for multiple treatments. As Dr. Badreshia explains it, the main reason these places can afford to offer Botox at a cheaper rate comes down to lower overhead—specifically, it’s a lot less expensive to pay estheticians than doctors to administer Botox, she says.
Going to a med spa may increase your chances of complications.
Botox injections always come with potential risks, regardless of where you get them. According to Dr. Garshick, these generally include bruising and eyelid or brow drooping, as well as hating the results overall and wishing you would’ve left your poor little face alone. But getting Botox at a med spa may increase the likelihood of these complications—and set you up for even more problems—if the person performing your treatment isn’t properly trained.