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    Enviro elixirs: Herbal products are turning over a new leaf

    Motivated by the potential for both financial boon and increased customer satisfaction, cosmetic surgeons are stocking practice shelves with "natural" skin care products that promise a range of benefits — from enhancing surgery outcomes to easing age-related skin imperfections.

    But many who take the plunge find a dizzying array of options and need to better understand the marketplace, according to Kathy Jones, R.N., B.S.N., C.P.S.N., of Kathy Jones Skin Care. Ms. Jones, who is the new president of the Society of Plastic Surgical Skin Care Specialists (SPSSCS), works in the offices of Jean Loftus, M.D., plastic surgeon, Cincinnati, Ohio.

    ADJUNCTIVE THERAPIES Some cosmetic surgeons are finding that selling skin care products can be lucrative. And carrying skin care products is an extension of their business because these are adjunctive therapies that complement surgical interventions.


    Ms. Jones
    "It's the icing on the cake," Ms. Jones tells Cosmetic Surgery Times. "If you do a facelift on a patient who has brown spots from sun damage, the facelift might look okay, but imagine if you got rid of all those brown spots."

    Still another reason to consider offering skin care products and services, according to Ms. Jones, is to capitalize on the trend toward less-invasive procedures.

    If you don't offer skin care to your patients, they will go elsewhere. And if they go elsewhere for their Retin A and micro-peels, they might end up staying there for their breast augmentation and liposuction. So, it's not a matter of losing $1,000 in skin care revenue; you're losing $15,000 in surgical revenue."

    DOC INSPIRED Cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists are not merely purchasing skin care products. Increasingly, many are becoming more actively involved in their development.

    To capture the "go natural" trend in skin care cosmeceuticals, dermatologist Helen M. Torok, M.D., medical director, Trillium Creek Dermatology and Surgery, Medina, Ohio, is developing a proprietary line. "Consumers are looking for safe and 'natural' ingredients that accomplish their anti-aging, rejuvenating goals, so herbal, botanical and energetic compounds are being utilized more frequently," says Dr. Torok, who is also vice president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery (ASCDAS). "By integrating alternative medicine and therapies with modern medicine, we've found novel ways to treat our patients and achieve better results. By developing a proprietary product line, we'll be able to provide patients a more curative and complete approach to their common skin care conditions."


    Dr. Torok
    However, notes Ms. Jones, there can be a promotional downside to creating a private-label product. In doing so, she says, that practice cannot benefit from the marketing and advertising dollars that big skin care companies spend to promote their products.

    For his part, Patrick Bibas, M.D., who specializes in cosmetic procedures and anti-aging medicine at Clinique Matignon in Paris, France, says that when he was not satisfied with skin care products on the market, he collaborated on developing products with two companies: Lola Kelly and MTX. "The claims [of available products] were always very attractive but the results were not what I expected. So I determined what I expected from a product, then talked with people who work with formulations," Dr. Bibas explains.

    Today, Dr. Bibas recommends using those products, which are not private label, to enhance cosmetic procedures, including fillers and laser skin resurfacing. They help, he says, to diminish redness and swelling after patients have procedures.


    Dr. Bibas
    THINKING GREEN Many doctors are finding benefit with variations on the green theme. Ms. Jones concurs that the more "natural" products are in. For example, some of the products that she carries include the coffeeberry. But in the final analysis, say some practitioners, outcomes still trump ecology. Though consumers may be drawn to the "green" trend, the demand for results is greater, Dr. Bibas says. "People want real results — even if [the product] is not green."

    Although researchers are not quite there yet, they're focused on creating the perfect products: those that offer more dramatic results and are the greenest of green, or preservative-free, Dr. Bibas says. "I know that some laboratories are getting very close to the perfect results," he relates. But in the meantime, he's focusing on products that offer the best results.

    SKIN SCIENCE Paradoxically, in tandem with the natural trend, consumers are demanding more scientifically sound products, according to Marc Cornell, director of new technology L'Oreal USA, Clark, NJ. Industry leaders are responding with technology that drives skin care results, he says.

    "Over the last couple of years, we've become more adept in our industry — on the product development end — at targeting 'actives' with various delivery systems," Mr. Cornell says. "For example, bio-analytical methodologies allow us to better understand early in the development cycle what our 'actives' are doing and where they're acting in the skin." One class of "actives" that Mr. Cornell describes as next generation is growth factors.

    "These are proteins that need to be delivered into the skin in an efficacious way because, in some cases, they're actually larger...and will not penetrate as well into the skin unless you have a delivery vehicle. There are many techniques now to push these molecules into the skin," he says. "We've really turned [the skin care industry] up a notch in terms of science."

    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is a writer in Boca Raton, Fla., who heads up her company, Words Come Alive.

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