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Derm Devices: Taking Anti-aging In Hand

By Leslie Benson
Posted: April 16, 2008
The greatest categories of projected growth for handheld skin care devices are those targeting antiaging, acne and hair growth, according to Marc Maisel, vice president of marketing and sales for Light Dimensions. His company, which produces medical lasers, saw specific potential value in the esthetic antiaging category and launched its first device, the RejuvaWand, a year ago. Also in 2007, after 34 years spent manufacturing skin care devices for medical use, Bio-Therapeutic, Inc. chose to release devices for end-consumers.

While some device manufacturers like Light Dimensions have decided to retail equipment directly to consumers for home use—usually working in conjunction with skin creams and serums—others, like Bio-Therapeutic, market “crossover” devices to skin care and medical professionals. Bio-Therapeutic’s president, David Suzuki, says this enables professionals to provide instructional guidance to their clientele regarding the “smart technology” that is utilized by many home devices. Smart technology refers to electrical pulses such as microcurrents that assist in noninvasive facelifts, infrared light waves and more.

The Antiaging Market
So who is buying into the derm device craze?

According to Hawkins, who recently helped produce the Carol Cole Company’s NuFace device, “25% of annual growth in sales of antiaging products and treatments are from baby boomers. Most are upper-middle-class women and men who believe 60 is the new 40 and are willing to use antiaging products to look and feel better.”

Men and women ages 20 and up desire fitter faces, says Hawkins, but the largest consumer category for NuFace, and other products like it, is the baby boomer generation. Of the entire U.S. population, Hawkins says about 30% are recognized as baby boomers.

Marketing specifically to baby boomer females, Light Dimensions’ RejuvaWand uses individual bursts of infrared and red light to encourage the production of collagen and elastin for allegedly younger-looking skin. Maisel says medical professionals use larger devices with thousands of LEDs (usually not directly in contact with the skin), whereas handheld devices like the RejuvaWand place light in direct contact with the skin’s surface. So RejuvaWand’s treatment may mimic medical light treatments on a smaller level—without the heat damage—but how does its at-home use affect professionals relying on clients’ office visits for their livelihoods?

According to Maisel, skin care devices are not a threat to medical professionals. Rather, their treatments can be seen as symbiotic to those found at spas and medical offices. “The more aware people are of light-based treatments, the more everyone benefits and the market grows,” he says. Kathy Fields, a clinical professor in the department of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, and co-developer of Rodan + Fields’ Proactiv Solution, disagrees. “Most people go to a pharmacy [to] self-treat for the common ailments of life [such as eczema, acne, rosacea and brown spots],” she says. “A lot of people don’t get to a dermatologist.”

Spa Stories
So for sales growth, Maisel suggests dermatologists recommend home-use devices like his for maintenance between and after medical skin or spa treatments. The duality of some esthetic devices offers these professionals another avenue through which to market specialty goods. In addition, devices can be sold in conjunction with skin care cosmeceuticals.

“What we know from our office—we have about seven [dermatological] lasers—[is that] none of them work by themselves,” says Fields. “Devices alone are not the answer. They require at-home skin care regimens in conjunction with treatments. It’s the same for [dermatologists’] lasers and at-home devices.”

Elaine Sauer, corporate spa director of Red Door Spa Holdings, saw the potential retail value of home-use devices. She toyed with the idea of selling clients such equipment at the Mario Tricoci Hair Salons and Day Spas she oversees, but finally, she opted against it.

“More people are managing some of their routines at home with personal equipment—from the Zeno to Wellbox—but like everything, the human hand does so much more for rejuvenation and draining stagnation from the face,” Sauer says. “I can’t imagine that facials will ever be replaced with these new avenues. The human touch is irreplaceable.”

With the medical avenue of injectables changing the face of the skin care business, estheticians like Sauer are taking notice. “Since Botox was approved for antiaging officially a few years back, I am noticing products being available via e-commerce and through various avenues today,” Sauer says. “There’s such an awareness of people wanting to remain youthful. Even people in their twenties and thirties are having Botox! We tend to think women use more products—and they do—but they want multifunctional products. Men feel the same way.”

It’s no wonder, says Fields, that hair removal and hair growth laser treatments are rising in popularity in the device category. “They can be costly,” says Field s, “but there are no sterile parts, so you can give them to others to use. Some of these devices can be used by the whole family.”

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