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Technology Buyer Beware

By: Carol and Rob Trow
Posted: September 25, 2009, from the October 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

You cannot open a professional publication, attend a trade show or go a week without a salesperson, client or even television talk show host touting the latest and greatest cosmetic technological innovation these days. And one of the greatest challenges to the skin care professional is that you can now find these devices on the market in a myriad of forms: for use by physicians only; for use by skin care professionals with or without a physician on-site; and the fastest growing category, for home use.

Heeding regulations

First and foremost, when considering equipment and techology for the spa, check to see what your state allows you to use based on your license, as this can be a moving target. Technology that was once the province of only professionals may soon be on the market for home-use, and staying up-to-date on the rules and regulations is essential. Log on to to learn more about each state’s specifications, as well as to find contact information for each state’s licensing board.

The landscape is littered with devices and technology that have been the “newest and best” thing to acquire, and many professional skin care practices have gone under due to a lack of capitalization coupled with spending too much on equipment. It can easily create an insurmountable debt burden and financial drain on a spa.

Serious questions

To ensure that you are getting the technology and equipment your spa truly needs, be sure to get answers to the following questions.

  • What guarantee and warranty is provided with the technology?
  • How long has the device manufacturer been in the cosmetics business?
  • Are there indications and contraindications on the technology’s use?
  • Does your professional insurance cover you for use of this technology?
  • Is there a trial period or money-back guarantee?
  • Have you carefully examined the clinical studies? Who did the studies? If the studies only appear to have been done by the manufacturer or its advisors, is there any independent confirmation you can look to?
  • Does the company give you dramatic before-and-after photos you can use?
  • In the event of a machine malfunction, are you provided with a free loaner within 24 hours so you do not lose revenue, as sometimes repairs can take quite a bit of time?
  • Will the manufacturer provide you with a certificate of insurance naming you specifically as coinsured?
  • Will the manufacturer trade out old equipment you already have to help reduce any initial investment costs?
  • What training is provided, where and at what cost? How often are continuing education and training available?
  • What happens if your spa experiences staff changes? Under what conditions and how often is refresher and new staff training available?
  • Are staff members provided with treatments by a trained representative to get them excited about the introduction and launch of the new technology?
  • What is the cost, if any, for collateral materials and samples? Are there limits?
  • What incentives are offered if you make a commitment to buy?
  • If there are upgrades and new releases in addition to the equipment, are these free?
  • When a new model comes out, can you trade up to it, and will the manufacturer fix a trade-in value for your current device for a set number of years?
  • What is the price point of the technology’s treatments and services, and how does this compare to what you currently offer? How many of your clients would sign up for these treatments? Would it be wise to ask your clients what they think of this new item before incorporating it into your business?
  • What is the lead time needed to launch this technology?
  • Will the manufacturer provide sample menus, product descriptions and treatment protocols?
  • What point-of-sale promotional support is offered?
  • Are there opportunities for add-on treatments or products?
  • Are you able to obtain, in detail, the manufacturer’s policy on marketing support, open houses, and tagging you on all its ads and client events? Does it tag only physicians? How will the company help you build your business?
  • What are the disposable and amortized equipment costs per treatment?
  • Does the manufacturer provide a list of references from the vendor and through other sources? Do you have objective and independent verification of the vendor’s track record in supplying products, customer service, training, marketing and professional development?
  • Where else is this product or service offered in your area? Who will be your competition? What do they charge? How widely available is the service?
  • What is needed for installation in terms of plumbing, electrical, and space and code requirements?
  • Do local and state regulations allow the use of this technology in your business, and by whom?
  • Is there any impact on professional liability insurance? Note that many states are in the process of changing regulations on who can use what type of technology, with the trend moving toward having a physician on-site in order to use certain devices.

Drawing the line

There is no question that some—though not all—skin care device technology has led to significant improvements in results-oriented treatments. But if you examine all the devices and technological innovations that have come on the market in the past five years, several things quickly become evident.