Day Spa vs. Med Spa: Do you Know the Difference?

March 10th, 2016 by Dr. Michael Glass

What’s the Difference Between a Day Spa and a Med Spa?


Throughout the last decade, men and women have enthusiastically embraced health and wellness as part of their everyday routines.

While the consistent use of gyms, personal trainers and nutrition consultants have become a staple in the lives of many adults, others have approached personal wellness through different outlets. The spa industry, represented by a broad collection of relaxation and beautification treatment facilities, has experienced explosive growth since 2007, thanks in part to an aging population and a renewed focus on health and beauty.

According to IBIS World, a leader in industry research and reporting, the health and wellness spa industry, generated revenue of $16 billion in the United States during 2013. A substantial portion of these visits were attributed to day spa and resort spa facilities, but an increasing rate of medical spa visits is adding to the industry’s growth. Trends clearly predict a sustainable growth pattern in the spa industry for 2016 and beyond, with a specific focus on medical spa facilities.

To understand the medical spa movement, it is helpful to know the differences between day spas and med spas in terms of treatments, atmosphere and expectations. But first, let’s define what a medical spa is.

What is a Medical Spa?

The International Spa Association defines a medical spa (medspa) as a facility overseen by a licensed health care professional that has the primary purpose of providing comprehensive medical and wellness care through the integration of traditional spa services and complimentary therapies and treatments.

A medspa differs from a day spa in that a licensed medical professional is on-site, able to provide services not readily available through conventional spa facilities. The majority of medspas take a more comprehensive approach to treatments while simultaneously offering the relaxation and wellness attributes found in a day spa setting.

The MedSpa MenuYoung woman receiving laser skin treatment

The addition of a licensed medical professional, such as a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon, offers medspa visitors an enhanced menu of services compared to traditional day spa offerings. Individuals visiting a day spa can select from a vast array of services, such as waxing and threading, hair and nail care, non-medical facials and therapeutic massages. While some of these services may also appear on the menu of a medspa facility, visitors of a medspa can expect an enhanced list of wellness and beautification services not offered at a day spa including:

  • Specialized skincare treatments, such as microdermabrasion and chemical peel
  • Laser treatments for hair removal and skincare
  • Non-invasive fat removal treatments such as CoolSculpting and Kybella
  • Skin toning through Venus Freeze and other treatments
  • Injectable fillers, such as Botox and Juvederm
  • Acne treatment programs to help you achieve blemish-free skin

Each medspa facility will differ based on the overseeing medical professional and the general services offered.

The Experience Difference

woman on receiving massage on tableA visit to a day spa is often viewed as a mini vacation – a break from the ever-mounting pressures of life and the stress that comes with it. Day spas provide comfort and relaxation under one roof through inviting aesthetics, such as soothing music, soft lighting and a caring staff.

Medical spas promote a relaxing atmosphere as well, but combine that degree of luxury with clinical medicine. Because the focus of medspa services is to offer more comprehensive health and beauty solutions, the medspa experience includes a consultation with a medical professional before any services are performed – an attribute not found in most day spa environments. Visitors to a medspa can expect to hear recommendations for medical-grade procedures and treatments, and can feel comfortable knowing treatments will be performed by an appropriately licensed professional all in a relaxing environment.

To Suit Your Needs

The spa environment is meant to offer renewal and rejuvenation, but it is important to know which type of spa best suits your needs. If you are simply looking for a day of pampering and relaxation to boost your mood or reduce stress, a professional day spa can offer the types of services to achieve that end.

Visiting a medspa takes your experience to the next level by providing clinical treatments in addition to relaxation and general wellness services. Take the time to weigh your spa options, understand the benefits and differences, and make the choice that fits your desired experience.