There has been a worldwide explosion in skincare dispensing by physicians interested in supplementing their income in a tight economy. The growing market for cosmeceuticals, or cosmetic actives, is also driven by increasing consumer demand and confusion. Cosmetic patients are seeking the expertise of professionals to help them make decisions on which skincare products and regimens are right for them. These consumers want more than just a cleanser and a moisturiser. They want products that work quickly and reliably, make visible changes to their skin, and look and feel good. Along with function and performance, the products’ sensory and emotional benefits must complete the package to entice customers to buy them.

The cosmeceuticals industry is succeeding in delivering quality technology and ingredients that have enhanced efficacy, especially in the realm of sun care and anti-ageing. As a result, consumers’ attitudes have evolved so that many now believe that using the right skincare products can make a visible improvement to their skin.

As one might expect, America is the largest and most mature market for cosmeceutical dispensing among physicians. Although the European market is growing, it lags behind largely because only some EU countries permit clinics to sell products to patients directly; for example, in the UK, Spain, Scandinavia and Greece. However, in Germany, France, and Italy, among many others, considerable restrictions are imposed on physicians. Products recommended by physicians may be dispensed at pharmacies, skincare salons and medical spas. In some regions, the practice of combining a home-care regimen with a service under a global fee has emerged as a way to bypass some of these restrictions.

Many critics of this concept cite a potential conflict of interest that can develop when a physician is enhancing his/her income by retailing products to patients. However, the professional channel for skincare and cosmetic sales remains vibrant and fast-growing, offering substantial opportunities for clinics.

Educating consumers

Choosing the right active skincare products can be a confusing task for most consumers. An aesthetic clinic is the perfect venue to break through the confusion and make the purchasing process a positive and educational experience. Cosmetic patients enjoy the convenience of one-stop shopping and having a professional skincare expert or physician sort through their dilemmas. They also need to be educated about choosing the correct product to address their particular skincare issues in addition to instructions on using the product or regimen effectively.

Once the exclusive domain of physicians, cosmeceuticals are now available through a variety of distribution channels including drugstores, specialty stores, spas, salons, and a plethora of online outlets. Competing with this encroaching competition can be an ongoing challenge for an aesthetic clinic. Clinics need to bring their retail marketing to the next level by offering patients something they cannot get on the High Street or online, and provide knowledgeable, well-trained guidance from expert staff who can customise a skincare programme to achieve the desired result under the umbrella of a physician-directed facility.