Dangerous spas need stricter management

December 03, 2017 - 09:00

As interest in beauty treatments has grown, shoddy spas have cropped up seeking quick profits, resulting in operating table deaths and post-surgery complications that leave scars and deformities.

Illustration by Trịnh Lập
Viet Nam News

by Kiều Vân

On November 20, a customer of a beauty spa in Hà Nội’s Hoàng Mai District came to city authorities with a harrowing tale. The 20 year-old woman said that the spa staff had ruined her eyelids during a beauty treatment and then claimed the damage was merely a temporary effect of the surgery that would soon subside.

When the district health authority and police investigated the spa, located at No 5 Lane 47 Nguyễn Đức Cảnh Street, they found the door closed and the sign hidden away in an apparent effort by the spa’s owner to avoid all official attention. When authorities reached the owner, she admitted that she had no licence to provide the surgery performed on the victim, though she did have a cosmetology licence. The salon had been registered only to provide haircuts and shampoos, but had been illegally offering services including eyelid cutting and lip and eyelid tattoos.

Across the country, from large cities to small towns, shoddy beauty spas with amateur staff abound. The writer also used to receive lip embroidery and eyebrow aesthetic services and understands the rising desire for treatments that can stave off the effects of aging.  But as women seek beauty services, they should be aware of the risks posed by amateur aestheticians wielding tools they don’t know how to use, and demand from their spas evidence of professional certification. In some cases, botched beauty treatments can cause life-long deformities and even death.

A small spa specializing in massages and skin masks may also provide under-the-table surgeries and aesthetic services such as injecting filler, applying lip embroidery, raising eyebrows and cutting off excess fat in the eye area. Hair salons with only a few couches and limited tools may hang up billboards offering invasive aesthetic procedures. There are even mobile spa workers with only a set of tools who stand on corners in residential areas and still manage to win a steady stream of customers thanks to Facebook advertisements.

Prof Trần Thiết Sơn, head of Plastic Surgery Department at Hà Nội-based Saint Paul Hospital, said that customers were attracted by cheap prices and advertising from spas. Both careless clients and unscrupulous spa owners deserved blame, Sơn said, as well as authorities who have failed to properly regulate spas.

Sơn recounted the story of a woman in Hải Phòng City who had met with him seeking help after a botched treatment. As she aged, she was dismayed that the skin around her eyelids became looser. She saw an advertisement for a treatment at a beauty spa in Hà Nội that could make her eyes “regain youth”.

After the eyelid surgery, however, her eyes looked deflated. One side was bigger than the other and the stitches were infected and oozing pus. She complained to spa staff and they explained that the phenomenon was normal. They told her to wait for her eyes to become big and beautiful. Three months later, however, her eyes had not returned to normal.

Sơn said many clients who were victims of unlicensed spas seek his help in fixing their false cosmetic surgeries.

Dr Bạch Minh Tiến, head of the Department of Plastic Surgery-Aesthetics at Việt Nam-Cuba Hospital in Hà Nội said it had received and treated many patients who suffered complications, mainly infection, from services at private spas.

"Many beauty spas don’t meet the standards on space, light, sterile conditions and medical equipment, so the risk of infection is quite high," Tiến said. Meanwhile, most women in need of plastic surgery want to keep the procedure a secret, so they are afraid to go to the hospital and prefer to choose more private locations.

According to Dr Trần Nhị Hà, deputy director of the Hà Nội Health Department, many cosmetic surgery clinics and spas disseminate in blatantly false advertisements of the real value of the beauty services.

Facilities that provide aesthetic services such as lip embroidery and eyebrow aesthetic must register with the city’s Department of Health. Eyelid surgery and eye and nose shaping surgery must be done by a licensed physician at the beauty spas. In addition, beauty spas must ensure hygienic conditions and treat medical waste in accordance with regulations, Hà said.

Every year, the city’s health authority coordinates with the grass-roots health departments to organise beauty facility inspections.

However, many spas avoid the inspection teams by moving around and meeting clients in different places.

As interest in beauty treatments has grown, shoddy spas have cropped up seeking quick profits, resulting in operating table deaths and post-surgery complications that leave scars and deformities. Then there’s the high risk of spreading infectious diseases with unhygienic instruments.  

According to the city’s Department of Health, there are about 3,000 private medical facilities licensed in all fields, of which about 50 are beauty spas with qualified surgeons.

HCM City’s health authority reported that from October 30 to November 17, health inspectors fined 48 clinics, of which 25 were private beauty spas. — VNS