Reece Tomlinson reviews the current and emerging innovation taking place in aesthetic medicine, including stem cells, treatment personalisation, and service on demand 

THE AESTHETIC AND ANTI-AGEING MEDICAL MARKET CONTINUES to grow at an astounding pace. When you combine the 10.6% annual growth rate1 the global aesthetic medicine market is experiencing with the continued advancement of technology, biotechnology, and business model innovation; the aesthetic medical market becomes a fast-moving environment that can be hard to keep up with. This article intends to shed some light on the medical and business level innovation that is both occurring and likely to occur within aesthetic medicine. 

Stem cell-based therapies

Stem cells have been branded as the miracle cell that can help repair or regenerate tissue and delay or stop the ageing process. Equally, however, stem cells have historically been surrounded by a large array of controversy. The aesthetic industry is often at the forefront of this criticism as the handful of FDA approved or CE approved products for aesthetic applications regularly contain stem cells from animal sources or in some cases from human umbilical cords or placentas with obvious optical, ethical, and efficacy related issues. Moreover, the few autologous treatments that do exist are often completed at specialised treatment centres wherein patients pay as much as £30,000 for a single stem cell-based procedure.

There is still a large amount of work to be done in order for stem cells to be used on the mass market2; however, the technology is advancing rapidly. At the time of writing this, there are no less than 150 clinical trials in the US alone for the use of mesenchymal stem cells for various medical applications. The promising news is that we are on the verge of having stem cell-based medical technologies that may be available to many more than the select few. As a co-founder of a company in this space, I can say with a large degree of confidence that stem cell-based treatments will become more common over the next two to five years. While certain markets remain more open to stem cell-based treatments than others, the infrastructure and technological advancements required to deliver reliable autologous stem cell-based products to clinics and patients is becoming more available with less cost thereby making the procedures more affordable than ever before.

As the use of stem cells, and particularly autologous stem cells, becomes more common in medical treatments, the advances in stem cell-based therapeutics will only continue3. The profound therapeutic benefits of stem cells may single-handedly change certain treatment types and may simultaneously cause the aesthetic medical industry to experience sizeable new growth as stem cell-based treatments become more affordable and effective.

Tissue engineering

Tissue engineering, which is best defined as the use of a combination of cells, engineering materials, and suitable biochemical factors to improve or replace biological functions, will continue to become more common in aesthetic medicine4. The creation of tissue using a patients’ own cells (autologous cells) may present a profound opportunity for the medical community as a whole. Current studies for tissue engineering are primarily focused on surgical, scaffolding, bone regeneration, and wound healing and are showing a tremendous capacity to generate results, which is promising for aesthetic medicine as the medical advances will undoubtedly migrate to the world of aesthetic medicine.

Specifically, the on-going studies of biological skin substitutes5 for wound healing, wound closure, and scar repair may have a direct application to aesthetic medicine and present a great opportunity for the scar treatment industry. For disclosure purposes, as a partner in a biotechnology venture capital fund, we are heavily investing in tissue engineering technologies and I have full confidence that the migration of tissue engineering will, in the not too distant future, enter the aesthetic medical market in a much more meaningful way.

There is still much for the medical community to do for tissue management to be a mainstream option for various medical treatments6; however, one can expect that tissue engineering will present a sizeable opportunity for how we approach skin, wound healing and even implant technologies for a myriad of aesthetic purposes. 

Personalising the aesthetic experience

The medical experience is changing across all facets of medicine. This is also true for aesthetic medicine. In particular, the medical experience is becoming more personalised and tailored to the needs of a given patient. In many ways, the consumer preference for personalisation and customisation is now becoming more achievable in the aesthetic medical industry.

This personalisation is happening in two specific facets, which are laid out below. 

Personalisation from a business perspective

To date, the relationship a clinic or practitioner had with a patient was the most important consideration for both growing (new patients) and maintaining existing revenue. Word of mouth from patient to patient was particularly important and often the primary driver for new patients coming into the clinic.

Over the past fifteen years, the market for aesthetic medicine has evolved. The mass adoption of social media combined with the emergence of technologies and electronic platforms, such as RealSelf, where patients can review treatments, share experiences from a particular practitioner; have created a new paradigm wherein patients are more demanding as it relates to personalised and predictable results. This, in turn, will continue the trends of patients expecting the medical experience to meet their requirements and fit their schedules. Currently, in the US, we are seeing the emergence of boutique aesthetic clinics that offer mobile, exclusive and membership-based clinics (more to follow in the business model innovation segment of this article).

In addition to the above, the on-going need for reliable patient medical data in the aesthetic medical industry is creating new technologies that help to synchronise patient medical records across various clinics and practitioners. By doing so, practitioners can make better decisions about what products and treatments are best for patients given preexisting medical conditions, medical prescriptions, vitamin usage and prior experiences with various aesthetic treatments.

Personalisation of the medical treatment

With advances in stem cell related treatments, tissue engineering and the capability of manufacturers to provide customised products, including autologous cell products; the personalisation of the medical procedure itself will continue to become more commonplace. This is even more apparent when you consider the ability of large-scale patient data to be captured by the manufacturer, which in turn can be used to track a patient’s capability, for example, to bio-absorb a dermal filler based solely on the usage of big data and a patient’s treatment habits. It will be possible for practitioners and manufacturers to better utilise the data obtained from patients to create personalised treatments, which are optimised for the patient’s needs, desires and safety.

In many ways, the personalisation of the medical treatment itself can create higher degrees of efficacy, which only improves patient satisfaction and thereby assists in propelling the advancement of aesthetic medicine as a whole. 

Advances in device technology and usage

If you’ve been paying attention to the aesthetic medical industry over the past twenty years, you will likely have noticed a surge in the number of medical devices, such as lasers, skin treatments, cryotherapy, scar treatment and others being offered by a myriad of manufacturers.

Although the market may appear saturated, there is plenty of reasons why we can expect continued advancement and growth in the device side of the medical aesthetic market. Advancements in lasers, robotics, artificial intelligence, software and programming will continue to make the devices themselves more effective and easier to use. 

In particular, there is one substantial glaring reason as to why devices are only going to gain market share in the aesthetic medical market and the answer is simple. As devices become easier to operate and more effective, the market for devices will only become larger. This is due to a combination of increased demand from patients and the increased number of practitioners who are capable of operating said devices. In turn, this creates a scenario where the device itself becomes the selling point and not necessarily the skill set of the practitioner. As a result, the device itself can create demand at a clinic level, which exacerbates the need for continued reinvestment into newer devices as a means of staying relevant in the market place. In conjunction, as devices become easier to operate and more manufacturers create devices that are designed to be operated by less skilled practitioners; a larger number of practitioners can, in theory, operate devices, which lowers the barrier to entry and makes the ownership of a machine both more desirable and often more necessary.

In summary, the advancement of new devices and subsequent technology will only continue to increase and may, in some ways, have the ability to provide greater levels of value for practitioners who can offer patients the experience they are seeking.

Continued growth in non-invasive procedures

According to an American Society of Plastic Surgeons statistics report for 2017, the rate of U.S. growth for non-invasive procedures more than doubled that of the growth amongst invasive (surgical) procedures over the prior year7. When observing trends in the market, it is safe to suggest that the increase in non-invasive procedures will continue to outpace those of invasive and surgical procedures. In my opinion, the continued growth in non-invasive procedures is due to three specific reasons: 

  • In many ways, the advances in the efficacy of non-invasive procedures have been a substantial driver in the growth of non-invasive procedures. As the capabilities of non-invasive procedures continue to improve, they increasingly compete against existing invasive procedures 
  • Recent advances in non-invasive procedures have allowed more treatments to compete directly with existing surgical methods, thereby opening the door for increased patient desire to forgo procedures that involve higher levels of perceived invasiveness, pain and/or associated risk 
  • Perhaps the most important reason why non-invasive procedures will continue to grow is simply due to the fundamental fact that non-invasive procedures are generally less expensive than their invasive (surgical) counterparts and as such, a larger portion of the market can afford them. 

With the advance of new non-invasive procedures and while injectable and topical procedures continue to gain social acceptance, the growth in the non-invasive procedure market makes complete sense. Furthermore, it is likely that a number of television shows, such as ‘Botched’ continue to push patients towards less invasive procedures and what may be deemed by patients as less risky or permanent procedures.

In conjunction with the above, the continued advancement of medical technology and products that are specifically designed to be non-invasive continues to grow. The reason for this is quite simple; as a manufacturer of an aesthetic medical product, the number of practitioners who can perform non-invasive procedures far outweighs the number of practitioners who are certified to perform more invasive or surgical procedures. Therefore, if you want to reach more of the market, focusing on a larger number of people who can perform the procedure only makes sense.

As a result, it is likely that the growth in non-invasive procedures will continue to outpace their invasive counterparts and the industry should expect that many of the treatments coming to market will be considered non-invasive.

Business model innovation

In almost all aspects of the business world, the concept of business model innovation continues to gain strength and relevance8. Business model innovation is loosely defined as a shift in modality regarding how a company delivers existing products, to existing customers in existing markets. Organisations such as Uber9, Airbnb, Hootsuite, Amazon, Alibaba and NetJets are prime examples of companies that have excelled due to business model innovation. All of these organisations successfully redefined the business model that had been used by their competitors for generations. For example, Airbnb is now one of the world’s largest accommodation providers, yet it owns not a single room while Uber is now the world’s largest taxi company, yet it owns not a single taxi.

As I write this, we are witnessing business model innovation continue to impact aesthetic medicine. One of the more common business model innovations surrounds the concept of delivering services to customers on demand. GoToxNow, for example, an LA-based chain of aesthetic medical clinics, is providing discreet services on-demand at the location of the patients choosing. Another example is Sub Rosa Private Aesthetics, which offers patients a comprehensive aesthetic programme for a fixed monthly fee. By doing so, Sub Rosa is redefining the aesthetic clinic business model as they do not charge for a single treatment or product, rather they provide a tailored programme designed to promote individual beauty, treatment continuity and objective patient-specific treatment programmes, which is achieving large scale patient and commercial success. NowMe, a UK-based platform is providing patients with the ability to not only book aesthetic procedures online but to find financing for the procedure before they even step foot in a clinic.

Continued business model innovation in aesthetic medicine has the ability to offer more value to patients while increasing revenues and profits for clinics. As the aesthetic medical market continues to grow, the opportunity for business model innovation will only increase, which presents a large opportunity for clinics, manufacturers, service providers, and patients. 


The aesthetic and anti-ageing medical market is entering an exciting period where innovation has the ability to benefit patients and practitioners alike while growing the industry to new levels. The future of aesthetic medicine will be positive for those who embrace the innovations that will invariably shape our industry both now and in the years to come. 


Declaration None 


  1. Markets and Markets. 2018 Medical Aesthetic Market. Northbrook, IL: MarketsandMarkets Research Private Ltd, September 2018
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  9. Fast Company. Uber – Most Innovative Companies. Online Article, 2017