The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) recently published its 2010 sales figures. The numbers tell a fascinating story about the demand for procedures, which is now being driven by a younger age group than in the past.

Consider the following:

  • In the time frame the ASAPS tracked, Generation X’ers (31 to 45 years old) accounted for 43% of procedures; and,
  • Boomers (ages 51 to 64) accounted for only 28% of procedures.

This major shift is part inevitable passing of the baton from generation to generation, but it also defies the stereotype of cosmetic surgery as a prerogative of older women in the facelift stage of life.

Many Americans, particularly younger ones, have embraced the ideas of preventive cosmetic medicine, “tweak” surgery, and using science to maintain their youthfulness over time.

The numbers indicate the future of plastic surgery as an industry is in good shape. In addition, with the mainstream media also fascinated with covering all aspects of aesthetic medicine, a lot of previously “taboo” subjects are becoming part of the talk around drinks after work—”moob jobs” and labiaplasty, for example.

The industry itself can be either credited or faulted with pushing the envelope on promoting new procedures, some of which will attract new customers. Many of the procedures that are attracting Generation X’ers (and, further down the road, Gen Y’ers and Gen Z’ers) cover a full range of plastic and cosmetic procedures, not just “fringe” or so-called fads (like labiaplasty and moob jobs).

These procedures are here to stay, as long as the industry and physicians in the aesthetic space continue to promote them. One of the lasting images for me in a recent party at a plastic surgery scientific meeting: A notable surgeon found the growing popularity of labiaplasty—which as a procedure is an intersection of aesthetics and gynecology—quite disagreeable but at the same time saw he might have to “go there someday” and integrate such procedures into his slate of facelifts, lipo, and other treatments.

WHAT DO THE NUMBERS MEAN FOR YOU?

The ASAPS sales figures and new percentage divisions among differing age groups have huge implications for your practice.

First, it points to a change in the mix of procedures you’ll be offering in the future, which include the following:

  • Facial work will be targeted more toward preventive/restorative treatments (such as Fraxel-type skin resurfacing, fillers, blepharoplasty, lip augmentation, minimal-incision lifts, etc) as opposed to rehabilitative procedures like SMAS facelifts and radical peels.
  • Body contouring, which has traditionally focused on a younger demographic, will be in greater demand than ever. Mommy Makeovers, in particular, will continue to grow in popularity.
  • Antiaging regimens, such as hormone-replacement therapy, supplements, anaerobic exercise, topical creams, and other preventive strategies, will enter the mainstream.

Patients will expect you to advise or even treat them using a whole new line of treatment approaches (which, incidentally, are not typically taught in conventional medical school settings). This is a new area of treatment types that the next generation of aesthetic practitioners will know about, but maybe you won’t.

  • Skin remodeling will become a central obsession, with an increasing amount of patient money going toward maintenance treatments that extend over a woman’s lifetime.

Your training with a scalpel will be far from irrelevant in this new paradigm, but it will take a different place in your practice. It will be the centerpiece around which lasers, injections, and a variety of medspa options will revolve.

MARKETING SHIFTS

Your marketing messages will, of course, change to reflect the shift in your menu of services. Don’t worry, you’ll continue to get plenty of help from the companies bound to benefit most from this shift: laser manufacturers, suppliers of fillers, skin care product manufacturers, and so forth. They will offer you plenty of prepackaged advertising collateral, seasonal rebates, etc.

As far as your marketing strategy is concerned, you’ll need to take a more longitudinal approach. You’ll be reaching out to patients along a 30- to 40-year continuum, so relationship-marketing tools will gain new importance.

CULTIVATE RATHER THAN ATTRACTING

Tools like patient-appreciation events, birthday gift certificates, skin care clubs, newsletters, and so on—tools specifically designed to bond with patients—will command more of your marketing budget. Meanwhile, one-shot interruption marketing tools (ads, commercials, publicity, etc) will move to the margins.

You’ll want to focus on your patients’ “lifetime value,” the sum total of monies you can expect to earn from them over time. This means offering guidance and solutions for every stage of maturation. Tools for educating and informing patients will become central to your marketing efforts.

The ASAPS numbers mean more money will be spent on cosmetic medicine than ever before. Adapt to the new model and win your share.


Joyce Sunila is the president of Practice Helpers, providing e-newsletters, blogs, and social media services to aesthetic practices. You can contact her at . Jeffrey Frentzen is the editor of PSP and can be reached at plasticsurgery@allied360.com.