From the safety razor to home waxing and electrolysis kits, the advent of light‑based HUDs marks the latest development in the consumer hair-removal market. But this is just one example of many technology-led developments occurring in the overall HUD market, which is set to boom in the coming years.

Other than hair removal, which is currently the largest HUD category, consumers can already choose from anti‑ageing, body shaping, cleansing and anti-acne devices. In the future, multi‑functional devices may well become the norm, and moves are afoot to develop HUDs to treat medical skin conditions such as eczema and actinic keratosis. Even the potential for diagnostic and ‘quantified self’ capabilities is on the radar.

What does all this mean for professional service providers, such as specialist physicians and aestheticians? Too much competition or an opportunity to lead the way in a burgeoning market? Perhaps neither, but now is the time to position yourself strongly in the market and shape your destiny.

Current market overview

The announcement late last year of Unilever Ventures’ $25 million investment into a joint venture with Syneron Beauty (‘Iluminage Beauty’) marks a turning point in the HUD industry. However, it is worth reflecting where we were a couple of years ago:

  • Palomar was a powerful force, exploiting its laser hair removal patent portfolio, while forging a development agreement with Gillette to build a home-use hair removal device and developing a home-use skin rejuvenation device
  • Syneron was expanding its professional range while developing a home use hair removal device —  launched under the ‘MeMyElos’ brand. In 2007, Syneron signed an ‘exclusive’ agreement with P&G, aimed at developing home-use skin rejuvenation devices
  • In 2009, Unilever signed a long-term deal with Cynosure to develop a home-use wrinkle reduction device
  • Philips embarked on a long-term research project to explore the potential for light-based, home-use skincare devices, resulting in the 2008 launch of their Lumea hair removal device and the RéAura skin rejuvenation device in 2010/11
  • Tria Beauty was formed in 2003. It launched its home-use hair removal device in Japan in 2005 and gained US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance in 2008
  • Home Skinovations was founded in 2006, launching its Silk’n hair removal system in 2008 following the first FDA marketing clearance, predicating the HUD on several professional devices
  • Remington launched its home hair removal system in 2009
  • Groupe SEB (France) entered the market in 2012 with an intense pulsed light (IPL) device
  • CyDen launched the co-branded Boots SmoothSkin in early 2009, capturing the attention of P&G and leading to a worldwide exclusive distribution agreement
  • Dezac Group launched its first home-use laser hair removal device in Europe in 2006
  • Radiancy launched the no!no! ‘hot wire’ device in 2008. It rapidly became the direct response TV shopping sensation, with sales to date of over 5 million units worldwide.

What’s happened since?

  • Palomar has been acquired by Cynosure
  • Unilever Ventures have announced the formation of their joint venture with Syneron. All of Syneron’s home use products will be sold through this venture
  • Philips have formed a new, dedicated unit (Philips Light & Health) to develop new light-based technology
  • Radiancy has become a global player. A few years ago, they effected a reverse takeover of Photomedex, a NASDAQ-listed US company.

A recent Kline & Company report showed ‘steady growth’ (+20%) in the global HUD market in 2012, taking the total annual value up to $1.3 billion (USD)1. To put this figure into context, the global skincare market (excluding hygiene) is estimated at $130 billion, so at a mere 1% the potential for HUD growth looks substantial.

The US currently tops global HUD sales with a 40% share, followed by Asia (35%) and Europe (15%). A mix of global, regional and local brands are currently battling for dominance across existing categories, but you can’t help feeling that, with the odd exception, the global companies will prevail in the majority of geographies and categories over time. In Asia, for example, Japan currently commands more than two thirds of market value with the top two brands provided by local companies MTG and Ya-man. China, however, is experiencing exceptional market growth (+100% in 2012), being led by the established global player Nu Skin.