Why have aesthetic treatments become more popular than ever? Despite the economic crisis? Despite the bad examples featured in the press every day? For an answer, we must look to our patients, as without them the whole story would not exist.

Despite the economic climate in Europe, aesthetic treatments are more popular than ever. Leonard Lauder, Chairman of the Board of Estée Lauder, saw the emergence of this phenomena and looking at his industry during the early 2000s, coined the phrase ‘lipstick index’, claiming that ‘lipstick sales could be an economic indicator, in that purchases of cosmetics — lipsticks in particular — tend to inversely correlate to economic health’.

Being a dermatologist practicing both medical dermatology and aesthetic dermatology for many years now, I have been aware of this trend myself: the wish and desire to look and feel good is crisis resistant. Looking at the medical aesthetic market, the ‘little’ difference here simply and notably is, that an aesthetic treatment can’t and certainly shouldn’t be ‘shopped’.

Patients — and I call them patients rather than clients or consumers — don’t necessarily want to look much younger, but rather refreshed, relaxed, and natural. They want to simply look better, not to change much, but are looking for discreet results instead. This is certainly a different challenge for doctors in Europe having a largely Caucasian patient base compared with patients of Asian descent.

The aesthetic toolbox of the medical doctor is huge. From my perspective, non- and microinvasive interventions are still the most popular choices. The challenge here is a balancing act between effectiveness and a low downtime profile. The most important duty of any doctor is, and must be, to reliably and knowledgeably consult with the patient to find ‘the point of change’ in every patient. The point which would make the optimal improvement once fixed.

The mainstays in the physician’s armamentarium are still well approved and researched therapies such as botulinum toxin and fillers. However, I am also very keen to look at new products and new technologies at a basic and clinical research level, as I understand that they may make it to the market in the future, as the ‘work horses’ of today — toxins and fillers — did in the past. Unfortunately, quite a few technologies are thrown to the market too quickly, and in an immature state. A technology may sound intelligent, but the outcomes, complexity of procedures, and downtime profile may not match the needs or expectations of patients and physicians. I am a great believer in simple, easy, and cost-effective treatments, such as individually designed chemical peels.

Ultimately — and this is what makes me tick — all of these considerations and concerns relate back to patient safety. The most important factors in the aesthetic field are training and medical education. Furthermore, physicians must have or develop the ability to determine the right treatment choices for patients. In other words, we must distinguish the good therapies from the bad. It’s all about customising our treatments and finding the appropriate one for the patient.

As long as we try to handle the aesthetic concerns of our patients around the world accordingly, one does not have to feel shy about accepting a little help to turn back the clock!