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Trends in Aesthetic Medicine

By: Sharon McQuillan, MD
Posted: August 21, 2008, from the September 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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The medical aesthetic and medical spa industries are growing exponentially, with no clear end in sight. The increasing acceptance, availability and affordability of many minimally invasive cosmetic treatments has fostered what Sander Gilman, PhD, an American culture and literary historian, has named the “Era of Glamour.” This era ushers in the premise that medical aesthetic treatments are part of a normal routine that works to maintain a natural and healthy appearance.1 Following are some of the current trends in the field of aesthetic medicine, as well as a look to what its future may hold.

New vision of beauty

An internationally conducted study by Allergan, Inc.1 suggests that there is a change in women’s perception of their beauty. Of women surveyed, 83% revealed that they wanted to look as natural as possible in order to better reflect their personalities and expressions, and to protect their emotional well-being. This is good news for office-based practitioners. These findings coincide with the current esthetic market-drivers, including people’s desire and ability to minimize the effects of aging, as well as the new societal value of successful or healthy aging.

The expansion of aesthetic medicine

This proliferation of consumer acceptance has resulted in an upsurge of technological and treatment advances, establishing aesthetic medicine as a subspecialty, with a defined body of knowledge and a standard of procedural competence. This subspecialty is no longer limited to the fields of plastic surgery and dermatology, as many specialties are offering medical aesthetic treatments in order to better accommodate their patients’ esthetic needs. The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine has recognized the need to establish best practice standards in aesthetic medicine and in 2008 launched the Aesthetic Anti-Aging Fellowship, a seven-part didactic and hands-on clinical training series and certification program.

Core physicians, such as plastic surgeons and dermatologists, account for 60.1% of the medical aesthetic procedures performed in 2006 while non-core physicians, such as family practitioners, internists, and obstetricians and gynecologists, accounted for 33.3%. Through 2011, non-core physicians will gain 35.2% compound annual growth in medical aesthetic procedure volume.2 This expansion has caused many state and regulatory boards to move toward uniformity in licensure and training requirements. Additionally, best practice standards are emerging to ensure the safety and efficacy of aesthetic procedures.

Surveys show that patients prefer to have cosmetic medical treatments in a medical environment. According to the International Association for Physicians in Aesthetic Medicine, many women felt that nonphysician-owned medical spas were unsafe. Additionally, 78% of those surveyed rated medical credentials as very important when choosing an aesthetic treatment provider.3 In an Allergan-sponsored study taken in 2006,4 the reputation of the physician was just as important as environment in persuading clients to be treated in one office versus another. A physician-centered model that focuses on the physician-patient relationship will prevail in the medical aesthetic industry moving forward.

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