New rules aimed at more transparency for medical spas in Tennessee

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Skin rejuvenation, uplifts, laser hair removal. There are lots of ways to find the fountain of youth without going under the knife.

In fact, non-surgical cosmetic procedures are a growing part of the industry, but new changes are on the way for technicians in Tennessee who provide them.

Mona Sappenfield showed WREG one of her latest tools for eliminating spotting.

"What you're doing is just building up collagen in the skin," Sappenfield said.

An esthetician by training, she's been in the industry for more than 30 years and has been running Mona Spa and Laser for more than a decade.

Starting July 1st, changes will kick in for medi-spas like Mona's.

"The concern was for training and that the consumer did not know when they walked into a facility who was going to provide a safe treatment on them," Sappenfield says.

A new law, approved by state lawmakers earlier this year goes into effect this summer and addresses that very issue.

The Tennessee Patient Safety Cosmetic Medical Procedures Act outlines specific procedures, and who can perform them.

For example, there are now strict definitions for terms like medical spa and cosmetic medical service.

Also, from now on, any place, other than a doctor's office that provides services like laser procedures and chemical peels (considered to be skin altering) must be supervised by a Tennessee licensed, physician and that information must be clearly displayed at the business.

Sappenfield says she's always had a medical director on staff. The new law will mean she has to promote that message a bit better.

Overall, she says, "It's just really accountability and being ethical in the way that you do business."

The law doesn't change business for cosmetic surgeon Dr. Gregory Laurence of Germantown Aesthetics, but he explained how it will work for medical spas.

"At this point, we're going to know what physician is involved in a medi-spa and it's not going to be something for a patient to figure out or guess."

Laurence added, "If there's a physician who is the medical director of a business, you will now be able to walk in, know who the physician is that's involved and know what their credentials are."

Prior to the law, there were a range of professionals providing these services and customers weren't necessarily aware if a physician was involved.  Consumers could get laser procedures, chemical peels and fillers for example, at locations ranging from high-end salons and spas, to a surgeon or dermatologist's office.

Medical spas weren't required to have a medical director supervising the facility, and some that did, used physicians that weren't truly connected to the facility.

Dermatologist Dr. Alan Levy explained what could result from incorrect laser use.

"Permanent scarring, disfiguring and loss of pigmentation, and just bad outcomes that take years to correct."

He says lasers are powerful tools and part of the problem can come from technicians wanting to achieve extraordinary results, but not really understanding the machine.

Everyone WREG spoke with says they believe this new law will mean more transparency, and ultimately safety for customers.

However, it's still critical for consumers to do their homework.

Levy said, "Look at who's providing the procedure, ask how long have you done these, how many have you done of these?"

Other states that have changed rules for medical spas have laws that go a bit further than Tennessee's.  For example, some levy a fine against practitioners who break the law. Tennessee law does not.

The state comptroller's office must also provide a status report on the industry by January of 2015.