Naturopathic Aesthetic Medicine, an Evolving Specialty
J.D. McCoy, NMD
“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”- Confucius
Since 1997 there has been a 726% increase in nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, with the majority of patients being female and falling between ages 35 and 50 (ASAPS, 2005). Americans spent over $12 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2005. Meanwhile, $12 to $20 billion was spent annually on the services of professional complementary and alternative medicine health care providers, based on data from 1997 (Eisenberg et al., 1998; CMS, 1997). These are two areas of medicine that are typically out-of-pocket, in high demand, and are experiencing exponential growth. This is no surprise since people want to look good and feel good.
As naturopathic physicians we want to prevent disease and promote health and wellness. Our typical guidance for patients, regardless of modality, attempts to slow the degenerative process of aging and encourage a more youthful internal and external milieu. The use of less invasive cosmetic procedures and light-based therapies is a specialized way to reverse or prevent the external signs of aging. Many of these treatments have roots in naturopathic medicine’s fundamental modalities.
Whether using an intense pulsed light (IPL) device to reduce photodamage and stimulate collagen synthesis (the use of light), using naturally occurring alpha or beta hydroxy acids for exfoliation, or recommending an antioxidant-based topical to reduce fine lines (topical nutrition), these treatments are based on natural medicines. Therapeutic methods are evolving and may include new routes of administration and modern variations of an older technology or an everyday natural substance. This is seen in treatments such as mesotherapy (injections of small amounts of mineral, vitamin, botanical, homeopathic, or other medication into the intradermal space for a desired localized effect), advancing laser technology for everything from tattoo removal to wrinkle reduction, and various injectable products derived from naturally occurring substances to increase volume and soften lines.
When a naturopathic physician provides aesthetic medicine it is an opportunity to support the patient in a way that is different from most conventional practitioners. Naturopathic aesthetic medicine includes a tendency to spend more time with the patient, educating the patient instead of just performing a procedure, promoting less invasive treatments for patients who might consider a more surgical approach, and opening the dialogue for lifestyle modification that will best serve the patient inside and out. Whether using clinical nutrition or homeopathy to enhance wound healing, or suggesting mind-body medicine for stress management or smoking cessation, there is tremendous value added to the patient’s overall care.
Currently, to facilitate the highest standard for care and to protect the consumer, Arizona naturopathic physicians under the guidance of the Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Board of Medical Examiners have formed a Naturopathic Board of Aesthetic Medicine. This will be the first residency-based specialty board for aesthetic medicine in the country in any licensed health discipline. Through this specialty certification, naturopathic physicians will be able to practice aesthetic procedures within the scope of naturopathic practice. In fact, it will be a state-mandated certification requirement in Arizona for naturopathic physicians that perform aesthetic procedures.
This is an exciting step forward since specialization provides the opportunity to develop an expertise, a framework for the standards of care, and will establish a measure of competency. It will also be an opportunity for collaboration among physicians of all disciplines who are seeking certification in aesthetic medicine. The current administration of the Naturopathic Board of Aesthetic Medicine is being managed by the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association (AZNMA, phone: 480-921-3088). Questions can be forwarded to the AZNMA or to Dr. J.D. McCoy via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS): Cosmetic Surgery Quick Facts: 2005 ASAPS Statistics, available at http://www.surgery.org/press/statistics-2005.php (accessed May 2006).
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): 1997 National Health Expenditures Survey, available at www.cms.hhs.gov/statistics/nhe (accessed May 2006).
Eisenberg DM et al: Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990-1997: results of a follow-up national survey, JAMA 280(18):1569-75, 1998.
J.D. McCoy, NMD graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in 2001. After completing an internship in internal medicine in Hawaii he began specialized training, certification, and externship in cosmetic and light-based therapies. His current practice is highly specialized in aesthetic medicine, which includes laser treatments, IPL photo rejuvenation, chemical peels, cosmetic injectables, mesotherapy, sclerotherapy, tattoo removal, Threadlift, and facial resurfacing.