Cosmeceutical Critique

Five common pitfalls of retailing skin care


Selling skin care products is still the topic of much debate among physicians. On one hand, some doctors question the ethics of retailing skin care to their patients. Others believe that providing patients with the correct skin care product recommendations for their skin’s needs is a crucial step to improving outcomes and educating patients.

unlabeled bottles and jars of cosmetics and cosmeceuticals FabrikaCr/iStock/Getty Images
I feel that as dermatologists we are obligated to give our patients medical advice on skin care to protect them from the plethora of false promises. A recent survey from found that women spend an average of $8 a day on their facial skin care products – and not one of those products was sunscreen! It is time for dermatologists to take a more active role in patients’ skin care needs. This is not a “cosmetic dermatology” issue, but rather an issue of skin health.

There is a wide range of challenges related to skin care retail that many physicians face. I will be running a course on Skin Care Retail at the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery meeting in October in Scottsdale, Ariz., if you want to learn more or share your opinions. I have surveyed plastic surgeons and dermatologists via LinkedIn about what they believe are some of the biggest pitfalls to retailing skin care. Here, I will share some of their insights and suggestions for overcoming these obstacles.

1. Patients are more knowledgeable about skin care than ever before

Facing an increasing number of over-the-counter skin care products available, as well as buzzwords like “organic ingredients” and “vegan,” patients are now bombarded with information from a variety of different sources. Because of this, patients come to the doctor with preconceived ideas that can affect compliance if their specific needs and beliefs are not properly addressed.

For New York plastic surgeon Sonita M. Sadio, MD, this is one of the reasons why she chooses not to sell skin care in her office.

“My practice is highly consultative, and ongoing skin care recommendations are a significant part of what I do to optimize patient outcomes,” Dr. Sadio said. “Patients are well-educated about skin care today. They know their ingredients and insist on clean formulations, free of certain ingredients, such as ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘vegan.’ Others feel deprived if they are not using an expensive product in elegant packaging. Still, others insist on drugstore favorites or ‘eco’ offerings and have their own sense of what that means. My job is to optimize the clinical outcome while also meeting these patients needs to ensure compliance.”

Not all doctors have the time, knowledge or desire to personally design each patient’s skin care regimen. Many delegate this to the staff. However, it is impossible to ensure that your staff matches patients to the proper products unless they have had extensive training on both skin care products and how to match them to the patient’s skin issues.

2. Patients are wary when the doctors sells only one product brand

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