TRENTON – Continuing the State’s efforts to halt the unlicensed practice of medicine in spa-like settings, Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division of Consumer Affairs (“Division”) today announced that a licensed cosmetologist and skincare specialist in Union County must pay $22,500 in civil penalties for allegedly performing invasive aesthetic treatments that only licensed medical professionals are authorized to perform in New Jersey.
Carolina Nunez, who owned and operated the now-shuttered Carolina Nunez Skincare salon, allegedly offered and performed numerous services exceeding the scope of her cosmetology/skincare license and constituting the practice of medicine without a license. Those services included dermal filler injections, Botox injections, cosmetic tattooing, platelet rich plasma (“PRP”) treatments (also known as “vampire facials”), and the use of a hyaluronic pen. Further, Nunez allegedly offered cosmetology services in a shop that was not licensed by the New Jersey State Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling (“Cosmetology Board”), in violation of the professional rules for Cosmetology and Hairstyling.
Nunez resolved the allegations against her in a Final Consent Order filed with both the State Board of Medical Examiners (“Medical Board”) and Cosmetology Board last week that requires her to cease performing medical treatments and any services that exceed the scope of her skincare license, such as laser hair removal, and to pay a $20,000 civil penalty assessed by the Medical Board and a $2,500 civil penalty assessed by the Cosmetology Board.
“We are committed to enforcing New Jersey’s licensing laws to protect the public,” said Attorney General Platkin. “These laws require individuals who offer certain types of services to meet fundamental training and education requirements, so that we don’t have unqualified people practicing in fields where they could do serious harm, especially when it comes to invasive medical procedures.”
Nunez is the latest licensed professional this year to face enforcement actions relating to alleged unlicensed medical practice in connection with so-called “medical spa” treatments involving needles, syringes, and lancets or prescription medications like Botox and lidocaine.
- In June 2023, Marisol Cabrera, a licensed cosmetologist who owned and operated the now-shuttered Marysol’s Beauty Works in Union Township, was reprimanded by the Cosmetology Board and required to pay an aggregate civil penalty of $17,650 assessed by the Cosmetology Board, the Medical Board, and the Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy (“Massage Board”) to resolve allegations that she exceeded the scope of her professional license and practiced medicine and massage therapy without a license. Cabrera allegedly performed numerous medical and non-medical procedures at her salon, which included incisional drainage, lymphatic drainage massages, and utilizing ultrasound, radiofrequency and cavitation machines. Further, Cabrera allowed an unlicensed individual to perform cosmetology services in the salon in violation of the professional rules for Cosmetology and Hairstyling.
- In February 2023, Isabella Dos Santos, a licensed cosmetologist and licensed massage and bodywork therapist who owned and operated the now-shuttered Katica Body Contour salon in Elizabeth, consented to a five-year suspension of her massage and bodywork therapy license and agreed to pay an aggregate civil penalty of $20,000 assessed by the Cosmetology Board, the Medical Board, and the Massage Board to resolve allegations that she exceeded the scope of her professional licenses and practiced medicine without a license. Dos Santos allegedly performed numerous medical and non-medical procedures at her spa, which included facial fillers, vampire facials, micropigmentation, chemical peels, lymphatic drainage massages, ear candling, teeth whitening, and laser hair removal. Further, Dos Santos offered cosmetology services in a shop that was not licensed by the Cosmetology Board, in violation of the professional rules.
“Those who perform medical procedures without the requisite licensure and qualifications pose a serious threat to public safety that will not be tolerated,” said Cari Fais, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “We will continue to investigate and put a stop to unlawful conduct like this, and we urge consumers to do their homework before undergoing invasive aesthetic procedures. Selecting an unqualified individual to perform those procedures could result in serious injury or death.”
The investigation into Nunez’s alleged misconduct began in April 2022, when the Division’s Enforcement Bureau conducted a routine inspection of Nunez’s salon. In the shop, which had been enlarged without notifying the Board of Cosmetology, investigators observed and photographed injectable drugs, including epinephrine, xylocaine 2%, Kenacort 10 ml and hyaluronic acid, as well as cases containing hypodermic needles and syringes. In addition, investigators found blood collection kits with vials and a sharps container filled with used needles. A microblading machine and other equipment, such as a tattoo needling pen, pigments and calipers, were located on the premises.
A review of customer service records revealed that “lipo laser” services and laser hair removal services, which exceed the scope of a valid cosmetology practice, were being performed. Records also showed that the business was performing platelet rich plasma injection treatment and Botox injections, which exceed the scope of a cosmetology license and constitute the practice of medicine.
During the inspection of Nunez’s shop, investigators contacted the Union Township Health and Zoning Department. The responding investigator removed the shop’s certificate of occupancy for exceeding the scope of practice and closed the location pending further action by the township.
The matter before the Boards was investigated by the Enforcement Bureau within the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Deputy Attorney General Michelle Mikelberg, under the supervision of Professional Boards Prosecution Section Chief Doreen Hafner, within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group, and Raquel Bristol, under the supervision of Consumer Affairs Counseling Section Chief Steven Flanzman, within the Administrative Practice Group, represented the State in the Nunez, Cabrera, and Dos Santos matters. Deputy Attorney General Roman Guzik, of the Consumer Affairs Counseling Section, represented the State in the Cabrera and Dos Santos matters.
Patients who believe they have received medical treatment by an unlicensed or inadequately licensed provider or have been treated by a licensed professional in an inappropriate or unsafe manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.