Conference Coverage

Tips for adding cosmeceuticals to your aesthetic practice



– In the opinion of Kimberly J. Butterwick, MD, there are at least three reasons why dermatologists should consider incorporating cosmeceuticals into their aesthetic practice

Cosmetic Laser Dermatology, San Diego.

Dr. Kimberly J. Butterwick

First, if you don’t, patients will buy products elsewhere. “There’s good data showing that 80% of patients will purchase a product within 24 hours of an office visit,” Dr. Butterwick said at the annual Masters of Aesthetics Symposium.

“You should be the one giving them unbiased advice, because patients waste a lot of money on products which aren’t that effective. Female patients spend an average of $2,000 per year on cosmetics. The average woman uses 15 different cosmetics per day,” according to Dr. Butterwick.

A second reason to consider selling cosmeceuticals is that patients visit dermatologists in order to have healthy, beautiful skin. “Patients want and need your expertise,” said Dr. Butterwick, one of five board-certified dermatologists who practices at the San Diego-based Cosmetic Laser Dermatology. “Patients who are educated and are given advice have better compliance and outcomes. You also want to care for patients for life, to show that you have an interest in treating them beyond what they come to see you for. That will make them come back to you. They’ll get refills and visits and more advice.”

A third reason to consider selling moisturizers, bleaching agents, and other cosmeceuticals is that it’s good for business. “It can be profitable, not just to you, but it’s an opportunity for employees to be creative and earn more with a product sales incentive,” Dr. Butterwick said. “Some of them are great sellers.” She and her colleagues at Cosmetic Laser Dermatology hit more than $1 million in gross revenue from cosmeceutical sales in 2016, 2017, and 2018. In 2018 alone, they sold 167 different products across 27 skin care lines. Six product lines brought in 84% of total sales: SkinMedica, Calecim, SkinCeuticals, Neocutis, Colorescience, and Topix. “Antiaging products are always going to be the number one seller,” she said, including antioxidants, peptides, growth factors, retinoids, hydroxyacids, botanicals, nutriceuticals, teeth-whitening agents, and supplements. New serums with solid science behind them, she continued, include Multi-Action Cream, a product from Calecim that contains a cytokine and growth factor blend from umbilical cord stem cells of red deer to stimulate collagen production and healing after procedures. In 2020, Dr. Butterwick said that SkinMedica’s TNS Essential Serum will contain human fibroblasts grown at low oxygen levels. These are designed to behave as embryonic fibroblasts with more effective growth factors, resulting in better collagen production.

“You want to take the high road when selling cosmeceuticals,” said Dr. Butterwick, who also was a co-founder of SkinMedica. “Provide guidance and education to steer your patients toward products that have proven efficacy, safety, are well tolerated, and are tested and approved by office staff and patients.”

Her tips for effective dispensing include selecting products that target your patient base and the climate in your area, and starting with a specific product line such as SkinMedica, Obagi, SkinCeuticals, Colorescience, Alastin, or Skin Better. “When you choose a company, make sure they have good return policies,” she said. “Get that in writing. Make sure they’ll educate your staff, and make sure they have some system in place to monitor unauthorized sales online. A lot of companies have this now. At trade shows, I’ve learned that some companies will dump expired products, which people buy at a discount and sell online. You don’t want to be competing with that kind of situation.”

She recommends setting aside a dedicated area in your office to display products, “whether it’s the checkout counter in your waiting room or a separate room that resembles a store,” she said. “For effective dispensing, physician-directed products are best. Explain the science: why you are recommending a product and why it is effective. Staff can review the regimen and try products with the patient. A written regimen assures compliance. You also want to offer patients discounts for multiple products or a featured brand of the month. Offer free shipping for refills, and consider linking products with procedures for a discount.”

Citing independent research conducted for a major cosmetics company, Dr. Butterwick said that patients are initially excited to purchase a cosmeceutical product, but once they get home compliance wanes. Only 30% buy the product a second time, and only 12% buy it a third time. “Reasons why so many drop off include that they find it inconvenient to buy, they forgot how to use the product, they become demotivated or distracted, or they shop around for a lower price,” she explained. “Remind your patients not to buy products online. Many of these products are expired or counterfeit. There’s so much information available online, but why not be a source of truth and tell them what’s really going to help? That’s going to assure your patient of the best outcome. It will also keep your patient loyal to you and your practice.”

In addition to co-founding SkinMedica, Dr. Butterwick disclosed that she has received grants/research support from Allergan, Galderma, and Histogen, and consulting fees from Allergan, Colorescience, Evolus, Galderma, Merz, and Sinclair. She is also a member of the speakers’ bureau for Allergan and Merz.

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