If you already sell skin-care products, this is the next logical step

The market for cosmeceuticals has become progressively more consumer driven. The industry is increasingly relying on patients’ perceptions to create brand awareness and loyalty. However, most consumers actually do not know much about which skin-care products and cosmetics really work for them.

The overwhelming majority (88%) of American women think they know which skin-care products to use for their skin type—but actually do not—according to a national survey sponsored by the Society of Dermatology SkinCare Specialists (SDSS). This finding suggests that women should consult a skin-care expert, such as a dermatologist or aesthetician.

In the survey, American women who use skin-care products were asked to answer a few questions about skin care, including those that identify the types of ingredients they should be using to treat common skin concerns like dark spots, fine lines or wrinkles around the eyes, or inflammation and bruising.

“This demonstrates that women who do not go to a skin-care expert, like a dermatologist or licensed aesthetician, may be using the wrong products, which may actually be making their skin condition worse,” says Susanne Warfield, executive director of SDSS.

A marked difference exists between selling products just to make a sale and suggesting products that will complement the treatments and procedures you already offer your patients. Consumers today are quite happy to get their cosmetics advice where they buy their skin-care products. Once they have established a relationship of trust and confidence in your staff, they will readily accept their recommendations for additional products.

If they are already buying their skin-care products from you, it is not a tremendous jump for them to purchase their makeup and other cosmetics from you as well. Offering your patients the convenience of a full-service cosmetics boutique can be an effective way to build loyalty to your practice. Today we live in a “one-stop-shopping” world.

Selling Cosmetics

Table 1. Basic Cosmetics Categories

Green toner
Cream foundation
Liquid foundation
Cream blush
Powder blush
Eye shadow
Eye pencils
Eyebrow pencils
Lip pencils
Lip gloss

If you do not employ an aesthetician to perform spa therapies—face and body treatments—in your practice, it will be much more of a challenge to develop a revenue stream from product sales. Some staff members may feel completely comfortable selling products, but others will never feel comfortable doing so and will resist it. The most effective sales strategy is often to hire or assign specific staff members who are interested in sales to explain the products to your patients.

Many physicians have found it advantageous to add an aesthetician who has had experience in the retail environment and can easily transition to product sales. Some aestheticians will be comfortable selling skin-care products, but may not be knowledgeable about color cosmetics. In those cases, the addition of a part- or full-time cosmetologist or makeup artist may be helpful to your practice.

Most aesthetic practices, especially those of plastic surgeons and dermatologists who perform laser resurfacing and invasive facial surgery, enter the cosmetics arena by adding a concealer or camouflage kit to their skin-care offerings. The process may begin by offering patients a complementary concealer in a green toner to reduce redness before they undergo their procedures. Depending on patient acceptance, the practice might then expand the range of shades it carries and offer them for sale.

Once that takes off, the next logical step would be to consider bringing in foundations and powders. From that point, once you have established a cosmetics segment within your skin-care practice, color cosmetics for lips, cheeks, and eyes may be added.

Kerry Elmasry, the medical aesthetician at The Center for Excellence in Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery in Great Neck, NY, has included cosmetics and permanent makeup in the menu of services she offers.

“I see every facelift patient before and after surgery to assist her with her camouflage makeup. It really makes the patient feel special and pampered, and enhances her surgical results. A complementary makeup application allows for a seamless transition back to her daily schedule almost immediately after surgery.”

How to Get Started

Table 2. Considerations for Cosmetics Dispensing

Product inventory
Return policy
Inventory rotation
Seasonal merchandise
Makeup application
Sales tax
Merchandising displays
Collateral materials, sales tools Testers
Brushes, applicators
Shopping bags, ribbon,cosmetics bags
Shade selection
Private-label versus brand-name products
Price points

Before you add foundation, concealers, powders, and color cosmetics to your skin-care practice, consider these unique issues: Marketing cosmetics is far more cyclical than marketing skin-care products. Color cosmetics are often seen as a fashion statement, and colors and looks change with the season and with what appears on the runways during Fashion Week.

Just as not all formulas are right for all your patients, not all shades are suited to all skin colors, and this can be highly subjective. All cosmetics vendors will be able to identify for you their best-selling, most popular shades, which are usually the safest ones with which to start building your inventory.

It is important to know your patient population as well. If your practice is located on Park Avenue or Rodeo Drive, your patients may not show an interest in buying non-name-brand cosmetics—even if these products are dispensed by their plastic surgeons. They may be loyal to the lure and cachet of nationally advertised prestige brands.

However, if your practice is located in a rural area where the nearest cosmetics counter is two counties away, your patients may be delighted with the ease of being able to pick up a new shade of lipstick and a refill of their mascara while having laser hair removal or a peel.

Table 1 lists the types of products you may want to consider selling. Table 2 lists the ancillary issues you will need to consider when you are setting up your cosmetics business.

There is also the matter of dispensing enough stock-keeping units (SKUs) to offer a product range wide enough to appeal to most, if not all, of your patients. The SKU is the method used by merchants to track the number of products and services offered to customers.

For example, a single eye cream may constitute one SKU and one shade of concealer would be one SKU. An acne kit would be only one SKU even though it comprises several products. A basic gentle nondrying cleanser may be suitable for most of your patients, but one shade of eye shadow will not be.

You will need to consider that adding color cosmetics generally involves bringing multiple SKUs into your inventory for each product category. If your patient population is multiethnic—which is true for most practices today—you will need a selection of foundations, concealers, and powders to suit a wide variety of skin tones, as well as eye, cheek, and lip colors.

Think of what you see when you walk into the cosmetics department of any department store. What draws your attention most is usually the elaborate array of colors and shades to choose from, and the extensive displays that are carefully and artfully merchandised.

To sell cosmetics, testers of each of your products should be considered a necessity. Women must be able to try a color on their own skin to see if they like it before they buy it.

To effectively dispense cosmetics in a medical practice, close attention should be paid to merchandising your line. The worst thing for your sales is to have dirty or dusty testers displayed in the open air. Maintaining testers in an unsanitary way can also breed harmful bacteria.

Brand Name Versus Private Label

Table 3. Common Micropigmentation Treatments

Eyelash enhancement
Lips (including lipliner)
Scar camouflage
Areola repigmentation
Hair simulation
Cheek color

Another consideration is whether to go with a private-label cosmetics manufacturer or to cherry-pick the items you want from several branded ranges. For example, your makeup artist or aesthetician may have her own preferences for certain product categories, such as foundations and concealers, that work well for her patients. However, the profit margins in private-label color cosmetics can be substantial, up to a 500% markup in some cases.

Every private-label manufacturer has different minimum-quantity orders. For example, you may be required to buy one dozen or 100 of each SKU to satisfy an opening order.

The price point you will be able to charge per SKU is another important issue. It is generally unwise to align the pricing of your cosmetics products with that of a prestige brand. Price your products in accordance with your patient population and to reflect the quality of what you are selling.

For example, if you are carrying a branded range that is sold at retail establishments in your locale, it is reasonable to keep your pricing at the same retail value. If you are carrying a private-label brand, the pricing should be more affordable.

The safest price point should fall somewhere between the local drugstore’s pricing for mass-marketed brands (such as L’Oréal and Neutrogena) and popular mid-priced retail brands (such as Bobbi Brown and Clinique). As a physician, you want to offer your patients good value for quality cosmetics, rather than appearing as though you are selling products purely to reap the monetary rewards.

Mineral makeup is a very popular option among aesthetic physicians and surgeons. Some of the mineral makeup brands available for physicians’ offices use high-quality minerals that contain titanium dioxide for sun protection. Women who are not accustomed to wearing makeup or foundation often appreciate the airy, light texture and natural look of mineralized formulations.

Donna Chang, RN, president of the Society of Plastic Surgical Skin Care Specialists, says, “Mineral makeup is multifunctional and great for the skin. It provides complete coverage after surgery and coverage of rosacea and acne; is anti-inflammatory and noncomedogenic; provides UVA–UVB sun protection; and rarely needs a touch-up during the day, unlike most liquid foundations. It is a great product for women who are trying to simplify their beauty routine.”

The Art of Micropigmentation

The demand for micropigmentation procedures has increased greatly because consumers have become more aware of the benefits of permanent cosmetics. Many nurses and skin-care professionals are seeking formal training in these techniques. Well-done micropigmentation is definitely an art, and the best technicians tend to have a good eye for aesthetics and a sense of facial balance and proportion.

The key advantage of micropigmentation is that a woman can wake up every morning with some color and definition to her face, without having to bother with a time-consuming makeup application. Micropigmentation can be worn alone or with additional cosmetics; for example, lipstick or lip gloss can be applied over permanent lip color, if desired.

Says Denise DeGiulio, aesthetic director of Enhanced Image Inc in New York City and a course instructor for PMT/Permark, “Micropigmentation can be performed using various methods, including the traditional coil machines, the pen or rotary machine, and the hand method.

“The process includes a consultation, the application of pigment, and at least one follow-up visit to adjust the shape and color or density of the pigment as needed. Colors will appear darker immediately following the procedure but will soften during the first 10days.”

Micropigmentation is considered “permanent” or “semipermanent” because the color is implanted into the upper reticular dermis and cannot be simply washed off. However, some fading does occur over time, and color retouching is required after 2 to 4years.

Most people experience some discomfort, and the methods used for pain management are similar to the ones used for botulinum toxin Type A injections, filler injections, and nonablative laser treatments. They include topical anesthetic ointments, local anesthetics, and nerve blocks.

Generally, there is some edema of the treated area, especially with eyeliner and lipstick, which may last up to 72hours. During the procedure, there may be some bleeding or bruising, and many patients will have tenderness and soreness for a few days. A patch test is usually not required.

Table 3 lists typical skin areas where micropigmentation is used. The most popular areas are the eyebrows, eyelids, and lips. In addition to the obvious cosmetic uses, micropigmentation has many uses as a reconstructive procedure.

For conditions such as alopecia areata, permanent cosmetics can be used to replace lost eyebrows and eyelashes. Permanent cosmetics administered in fine individual strokes are also used to fill in areas of the scalp to camouflage hair loss.

Nipple areola repigmentation is another common technique used by plastic surgeons after breast reconstruction. Hypo­pig­mented scars from aesthetic surgery or traumatic injury may also benefit from repigmentation with permanent cosmetics.

The inks used in tattoos and micropigmentation, and the pigments in these inks, are subject to US Food and Drug Admin­istration regulation as cosmetics and color additives. The increasing variety of pigments and diluents in use has made it more difficult for consumers to find reputable micropigmentation artists. For example, some of the pigments used in tattooing may not be approved for skin contact at all.

For this reason, medical offices have become desirable places to go for this type of treatment. Many consumers will specifically seek out a technician who practices in an appropriate medical setting to ensure their safety.

It is mandatory to follow proper sterilization procedures and work in a clean environment. As DeGiulio explains, “We treat micropigmentation like a medical procedure. All needles used should be new and sterile for each client, some machine parts are disposable and should be disposed of in a sanitary manner, and all other parts should be autoclaved.”

Whether the makeup you sell is permanent, conventional, or both, it can be a welcome addition to your skin-care product line. If you use the same sound business principles as for all your ancillary products, you will benefit your patients and your practice. PSP

Wendy Lewis is a contributing writer for Plastic Surgery Products and the author of nine books, including America’s Cosmetic Doctors (Castle Connolly). She is also editorial director for www.MDPublish.com, a medical publishing group. She can be reached at [email protected].


Society of Dermatology SkinCare Specialists. http://www.sdss.tv

Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals. http://www.spcp.org

Society of Plastic Surgical Skin Care Specialists. http://www.spsscs.org