I was interviewed by Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor at happi Magazine, about how tech is influencing consumer behavior and changing routines in 2020—from the drugstore counter to the doctors office.  Here is an excerpt:

According to Revieve—a digital health and beauty company that enables retailers, brands and ecommerce providers to personalize consumer search, diagnostics and purchasing experiences—among users on their platform, dark circles yielded the biggest increase in skin care concerns, up 458% in March compared to the month before. Visible pores, up 441%, and dull/tired skin, up 349%, followed. Other top cited concerns included crow’s feet, wrinkle and fine lines and eyebags.

Interest in skin care overall is significantly up according to traffic on the platform, which has some 100,000 regular users in 20 countries. User engagement on Revieve increased 248% in March over the previous month, with the number of users asking for and receiving a product recommendation and adding at least one product to their carts up 263% and 267%, respectively, according to the Chicago-based company.

According to Revieve Chairman Dean DeBiase, the increase may be attributable to the fact that homebound consumers seek self-care and pampering as a counterbalance to the anxieties caused by the coronavirus crisis. Also, undoubtedly, consumers see a lot more of their own faces with increased use of video conferencing technologies. As a result, he says the current environment presents a significant opportunity for skin care brands to not only enhance their engagement and equity with consumers, but also appeal to new consumers who may be open to considering new brands outside of their existing regimen at this time.

Digital platforms are providing an opportunity to not only reach out to such consumers, said DeBiase, but also enable them to experiment and try new products—locking in preferences for purchases that can be acted on through wish lists and curations once the crisis ends. And, this, he insists, will drive consumers to dermatologists who are more present online.

You can read the entire article below or click on the link to happi here:

https://www.happi.com/issues/2020-06-01/view_features/calling-in-the-prescription/

Calling in the Prescription

How will COVID-19 impact dermatologists in supplying skin care to patients? Like with most businesses, technology is key in keeping this field alive and well.

Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor, happi Magazine  06.01.20

Dermatologists are at the forefront of professional skin care. Besides providing in-office treatments and recommending over-the-counter products for patients, some have beauty lines of their own, so they double as personal care providers. But with the global coronavirus pandemic, the landscape has changed for the professional skin care sector in 2020 as a bulk of the products are dispensed by doctors directly from office. And, even though most folks are sheltering at home, they still want fresh faces and some even need relief from issues such as acne or eczema.

“It has been my observation that COVID-19 has sparked interest in remedies for stressed-related skin conditions like rosacea, eczema and in some rare instances managing shingles,” Karen Doskow, director, Kline, Parsippany, NJ, told Happi in an interview. “It has also given way to questions on hand care products that are needed today due to excessive hand washing.”

Most professional skin care outlets in the United States have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with no clear indication of whenreopenings will occur. In fact, COVID-19 may mark a permanent closure for many of these outlets, particularly in the spa channel, noted Doskow in Kline’s latest report, Impact of COVID-19 on the Professional Skin Care Market. For aesthetic physicians, tele-dermatology and taking out small business loans to stay afloat will, hopefully, preserve businesses.

Previously forecast to grow at a CAGR of 6.1% through 2024, the US professional skin care market forecast was revised due to the unfolding developments. New forecasts, published by Kline in a special report on the topic, indicate a decline of 9% in 2020 as the most–likely outcome, with the best-case scenario reflecting flat sales and the worst-case scenario forecasting a 15% decline.

“Given the current state of the pandemic, with lockdowns now inching closer toward summer months, our current worst-case scenario may, in fact, become the most-likely scenario,” said Doskow. “The golden goose for the market during this crisis will undoubtedly be digital platforms, including Instagram, Instagram Live and e-commerce, which should help cushion setbacks for medical care providers and retail channels. Marketers that have prioritized their online distribution through their own websites or e-retailers such as Dermstore and Amazon will undoubtedly see a payoff.”

Medical care provider revenue is projected to decline, but perhaps their digital efforts, many of which were already in place pre-crisis, will break the fall, somewhat. Additionally, many doctors have moved to a telemedicine model. Aesthetic derms, many of whom also treat more serious skin ailments, are shining brightly with free advice and live streaming chats discussing treatments for stress-induced conditions, added Doskow.

“By engaging consumers via YouTube, Instagram and Zoom, an entire new layer of tele-aesthetics has emerged to educate current and would-be consumers. Brands that have partnered with dermatologist influencers, such as Alastin, will benefit from having such initiatives in place,” she added.

Devon Bergman, CEO of Social Standards, San Francisco, agrees that the impact of the global pandemic is directly impacting dermatologists.

“People staying home means that no one has access to beauty services/procedures, and thus, we’re seeing a significant decline in conversation volume on premise services,” she told Happi. “This involves everything from dermal fillers to skin treatments.”

During the next few months, consumers may search for alternatives to in-person treatments, added Bergman.

“Once social distancing measures have been relaxed, it will be interesting to see if demand goes back up for these services to pre-pandemic levels. Much will depend on if these businesses reopen and if people feel comfortable going into public spaces. There’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel, but that end may be a long way off.”


New Ways to Connect

Amid the pandemic, businesses are pivoting to meet the shifting demands of the consumer. From virtual presentations to live streaming experiences, brands are quickly changing gears to stay connected with their consumers. And, stressed consumers are taking a good look at themselves during stay-at-home quarantines—no doubt studying their own faces on videoconferencing—and are alarmed by what they see.

According to Revieve—a digital health and beauty company that enables retailers, brands and ecommerce providers to personalize consumer search, diagnostics and purchasing experiences—among users on their platform, dark circles yielded the biggest increase in skin care concerns, up 458% in March compared to the month before. Visible pores, up 441%, and dull/tired skin, up 349%, followed. Other top cited concerns included crow’s feet, wrinkle and fine lines and eyebags.

Interest in skin care overall is significantly up according to traffic on the platform, which has some 100,000 regular users in 20 countries. User engagement on Revieve increased 248% in March over the previous month, with the number of users asking for and receiving a product recommendation and adding at least one product to their carts up 263% and 267%, respectively, according to the Chicago-based company.

According to Revieve Chairman Dean DeBiase, the increase may be attributable to the fact that homebound consumers seek self-care and pampering as a counterbalance to the anxieties caused by the coronavirus crisis. Also, undoubtedly, consumers see a lot more of their own faces with increased use of video conferencing technologies. As a result, he says the current environment presents a significant opportunity for skin care brands to not only enhance their engagement and equity with consumers, but also appeal to new consumers who may be open to considering new brands outside of their existing regimen at this time.

Digital platforms are providing an opportunity to not only reach out to such consumers, said DeBiase, but also enable them to experiment and try new products—locking in preferences for purchases that can be acted on through wish lists and curations once the crisis ends. And, this, he insists, will drive consumers to dermatologists who are more present online.


Digital Direction

In the past, dermatologist-dispensed beauty brand Skinbetter Science had limited distribution of its products within brick-and-mortar practices to protect the practice-patient relationship. But like many other marketers during this time, the company is adapting to meet the needs of consumers who are stuck at home, with no access to the physician-dispensed skin care they love.

Last month, Skinbetter Science opened an online store, Practice Connect Purchase Portal, to give patients more flexible access to products. To make a purchase, the shopper must enroll with a registered Skinbetter Science authorized physician partner.

“COVID-19 has greatly impacted the skin care industry and more specifically, in-office treatments and physician-dispensed brands,” explained Jonah Shacknai, executive chairman, Skinbetter Science, Phoenix, AZ. “With most dermatology and plastic surgery practices across the country closed, patients are not able to access the skin care treatments that they typically receive, and some do not have access to the products they use in their daily routine that can only be purchased at a physician’s office.”

Shacknai said he speaks with his company’s physician partners regularly, and many of them have found success in talking about skin care and wellness on social media, and in email communications with patients.

“We are working with many of our providers to promote virtual education forums on their social media pages where they educate followers about different aspects of skin care, products they recommend and how to use the products on their own or in combination with others,” he added.

Also noteworthy, at press time, online retailer SkinStore has opened up its influencer marketing program to the professional beauty industry. The affiliate program,SkinStore Experts, will help members receive a commission on any sales that come directly from tracked links on their social media platforms. The outreach was assembled to support self-employed beauty professionals during the pandemic. The company described the opportunity as a way for the industry to develop engaging content relevant to SkinStore customers, by providing expert opinions and professional knowledge via digital platforms.

SkinStore has been offering the latest in innovative clinical skin care and luxury spa SKUs for 20 years and also offers access to over 8,000 products across more than 300 brands—so this is a way to expand its business even further, it said.

During this time of shelter-in-place, with almost all of the practices and salons offering HydraFacials closed for business, The HydraFacial Company pivoted its focus to offer its infrastructure, workforce and distribution prowess to small businesses. The aesthetic device manufacturer’s customer support staff partnered with a telemedicine company to answer an influx of calls they are receiving with everyone staying at home and trying not to make office visits.

Through virtual visits and in the comfort of their own homes, it is actually an ideal time for patients to really think about their skin care and consider trying new products, observed Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, Board Certified Dermatologist, MDCS: Medical Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Centers, Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York.

“For many patients, it is now easy for them to reference the different skin care products by actually bringing them to their virtual visit in real time, so we can discuss what makes sense to continue using, what should be replaced and what new products to incorporate,” she told Happi. “I’ve seen a lot of patients who may have previously been hesitant to use a new product for fear of irritation or sensitivity, feel more comfortable using new products knowing they won’t be going out for a little while and have the time to build up a tolerance to a certain product. At the same time, there are various products such as at-home chemical peels that can sometimes come with a bit of intended downtime, so people who have had products on their shelves for a little while are now more inclined to try things out.”


Doctor’s Orders

Despite virtual developments, COVID-19 has been particularly hard for some doctors who have aesthetics-only medical practices, SkinCeuticals partner Dr. Frank Rueckl, Lakes Dermatology & The Spa at Lakes Dermatology, Las Vegas, NV, told Happi in an interview.

“As a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs skin cancer surgeon, I was still able to continue to see patients, albeit on a lower level and many fewer patients over the past months. However, those practices who were only aesthetics, lasers, skin care, and injectables, they were all pretty much closed across the country at varying points in time due to COVID-19 restrictions. At this point, many still remain closed until further notice,” he explained.

Luckily for Rueckl’s practice, he already had an online retail store with SkinCeuticals products and a “solid foundation” of patients who come in monthly for skin care.

“This meant we still had a way to get our patients their proper regimens and needed items—just online instead of in-person,” he explained. “Many practices don’t have online stores because they are cumbersome and difficult to set up, or they don’t have the overhead to manage them. But COVID-19 made online retailing that much more important. It became very clear that getting products to patients and consumers was going to be key.”

The fact that the majority of the population was simply stuck at home meant that some people were willing to get new products, look for home care regimens, try new makeup ideas, and expand their existing products. However, it also meant that people had a lot of time to look at skin care sources and influencers—some of whom, perhaps, weren’t giving the best recommendations.

“I’ve gotten a lot of photos from patients and prospective patients with rashes and burns from peels they’ve concocted themselves or purchases they made online from eBay and Amazon that seem to have been tainted or even counterfeit. This has been a scary feature of the current situation,” Rueckl told Happi.

Overall, practices across the country are handling things differently, mostly dependent upon their locations. Some still offer drive-up skin care product sales. Some are sales only through online retail venues. Some are taking phone or email orders and then filling them by hand. A few offices may have office hours but just shortened availability.

“We’ve each had to find our own niche,” said Rueckl.


Product Launches

The timing of the pandemic aligned with some new product launches. But proprietors are confident of their developments and know the market will respond favorably once social limitations are modified or lifted.

Consider cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank’s latest creation. The Manhattan-based doctor with a loyal following found success in early March with the latest addition to his PFrankMD skin care line, Bespoke customized skin care. But due to the global pandemic, his patients must wait until quarantine orders are revoked as an in-office visit is needed.

The Bespoke process combines data collected from skin testing during a consultation with an in-office expert as well as an assessment with individual skin technology (IST); the result yields which of the more than 50 million combinations may be best suited one’s skin and skin care needs.

According to Frank, the IST device is the first and only in-office compounding technology that is able to create customized skin care right away. More than 18 ingredients are available on site to mix into the ideal custom skin care that treats a variety of skin care concerns.

“There is a chain of command that is interrupted first at the point of production due to layoffs, production ability, delivery and retail,” Frank told Happi. “The most obvious is that stores are closed and people cannot shop and there are delays for online orders, but the main issue starts at the point of production and being able to get a product out to the market.”

Frank contends that Bespoke Skincare will continue to be at the forefront of the professional marketplace once products can be obtained again from his office.

“People in general are simplifying—they want fewer material items,” he explained. “Multiple products and routines are not desirable right now. Consumers want one product that can do many things. Bespoke Skincare is made specifically for you and packs more power than multiple products.”

Rob Trow, CEO/owner of DermaConcepts USA, a marketer of Environ dermatologist-dispensed skin care, Mashpee, MA, told Happi that COVID-19 has had the most significant impact on the industry in the 27 years he’s been in business.

“Almost our entire client base of 2,500 practices are closed,” he explained. “Our practices are anxious for their clients’ return with the ever-present concern of COVID-19. We often wonder – will clients rush back for treatments and procedures? Our practices will have to establish a new paradigm on sanitation to demonstrate patient safety.”

DermaConcepts is the exclusive US distributor of Environ, which is exclusively sold through physicians, medical spas and wellness centers affiliated with a medical professional. Environ pioneered the use of effective doses of vitamin A (predominantly as retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate and retinol) and antioxidants which allows their use without a retinoid reaction and/or aggravating skin, said Trow.

Nikolay Turovets, PhD and CEO of DefenAge, Carlsbad, CA, told Happi that in an attempt to adapt to the new reality, offices and companies have implemented several strategies to continue providing patients with high-quality professional skin care products.

“Most companies ‘jumped’ into creating mini-websites for offices—that should allow patients come to physician websites and order products from there,” he said. “Although this idea looks pretty attractive for practices, the distribution efficacy of these mini-websites is really low. One of physicians showed me in a private chart that his pretty successful mini-website generates in skin care sales about $2,000 per quarter—but considering that the unit of high-end skin care costs on average about $150, it means that only around 4-5 units are only sold per month.”

Low volumes are the norm, as dermatologist websites compete with large online skin care distributors such as LovelySkin.com, Skinfo.com and Dermwarehouse.comwhich invested a lot of time and money in the development of their SEO and built extremely efficient pay-per-click campaigns.

“Another challenge that offices face with mini-websites is potential loss of transaction: even though patients commit to continuing their skin care regimen at home and agree to purchase the product during telemedicine consultation, they may forget to order the product online after the consultation is over, or they may decide to buy the product from Amazon or any other large internet outlet due to the convenience, bonus points or free shipping,” he said.

Instead of the mini-website strategy, DefenAge developed a free-drop ship program.

According to Turovets, “We believe this is more efficient for doctors as well as beneficial and convenient for patients. We offer aesthetic practices to charge/bill patients for skin care products directly during either telemedicine or phone consultation, then DefenAge ships the actual product to the patient’s house, free of a shipping charge. In this way, DefenAge negates the cost of shipping. There is no need for the patient to go to the website and make a purchase, the patient gets the product sent right to their door. This program was well accepted by practices almost immediately.”


A New Outlook on Life?

In 2020, consumers will continue to look to brands with medical expertise and science-backed ingredients where they can trust in the products and the results, contends Allison Marks, education manager-professional division, Murad, El Segundo, CA.

“With so much information and brands available, consumers are overwhelmed and weary of hollow marketing…consumers are seeking knowledge on overall wellness and beginning to understand that skin health can be impacted by many variables. Skin care is more than topical treatments. Skin care is health care which is why Dr. Murad created four pillars to healthy skin. Managing stress, exercising and eating water-rich foods are equally as important as nourishing the skin topically.”

The growing demand for effective “off-the-face” products should continue in 2020, observed Rueckl of Lakes Dermatology. “I only see the upside in this. We don’t want to just de-age your face, when the skin is an entire system. No trainer is only going to work out your calves at the gym. We need the same holistic approach. Overall, we see more aesthetic devices that treat off-the-face, and we need products and systems that help treat these same areas, pre- and post-, just like we do now for the face.”

Rueckl also noted that post COVID-19, he suspects there will be more development by skin care companies for specific home care peels and masks that can be done safely by the average consumer.

“People want to be able to do some of these treatments at home. While we can’t safely give people a TCA peel to do themselves, we can work with skin care companies to develop specific protocols for home care that are more than just step-regimens,” he told Happi. “This will create an even stronger bond between solid aesthetic and non-aesthetic providers and their patients. Everyone just wants to be a part of the same beautiful team.”

According to Shacknai of Skinbetter Science, digital interactions between physicians and patients is critical to maintain continuity of care and product availability during the next two years, which is standard for developing a vaccine for COVID-19.

“Telemedicine and online educational events will become firmly established during this time,” he told Happi. “We expect to be an industry leader in facilitating these interactions, always with the physician and patient at the center of our actions.”

Protecting the physician-patient relationship will become increasingly challenging with so many companies attempting to bypass medical professionals and appeal directly to consumers, observed Shacknai.

“We will not be among those companies—we believe firmly that physicians are best qualified to assist patients with skin care choices and regimes,” he said. “The venue may change, but the physician is an essential element.”

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