The skin care industry is huge, estimated to be worth $43 billion per year and expected to grow 6.8% in 2010 alone. Europe and the United States are the industry’s biggest markets, accounting for more than 50% of global skin care sales.

As the markup on retail in an aesthetic practice is typically 100%, profit margins are high on retail products. If marketed correctly, retail sales of skin care products could total 10% to 25% of your total revenues.

Adding skin care to your patient’s total for the day easily increases your revenues per patient without you having to invest additional marketing costs. For the patient it may seem like a small, incremental purchase. For you, adding a $35 sun block to the patient’s laser or facial treatment can, for example, increase your revenues from 8% to 28% with virtual no additional marketing effort.

Providing skin care products to your patients should also cut down on your current advertising costs. You can concentrate on making the most of revenues from each patient who already knows you versus spending ad dollars trying to attract new patients.

If you don’t provide these retail solutions to your patients, they will spend hundreds of dollars elsewhere and get much less product for their money and with lesser-grade ingredients.


They want a trusted source to turn to for their skin care concerns, and they want results and convenience. In addition, offering them retail products acts as a gateway to introducing and cross promoting your other aesthetic procedures and treatments.

For example, your patient purchases a product, comes back for a facial or peel, and then returns again for injectables, laser procedures, and surgical procedures if you offer them. In addition, he or she can be encouraged to return to buy replacement skin care products.

Depending on your product lines, you can have products that fit genders, most age groups, and different skin types.

On the other hand, you should also be aware of the challenges of carrying retail products. There is a financial investment up front to carry inventory, as products need to be on hand for patients to buy and take with them. That inventory takes up valuable space in your office. Therefore, you need to keep tight inventory control so products don’t “walk away” and your patients aren’t disappointed by having to back-order something.


  • You see 35 patients per day
  • 25% of those patients buy products
  • Eight patients buy (on average) $185 of products = $1,480 per day
  • 100% to 130% markup
  • You clear 20% profits after expenses, overhead, salaries, and commissions
  • $1,480 x 22 days/month = $ 32,560/month or $390,720/year
  • 80% Expenses, Overhead, Salaries, Bonus = $312,576/year
  • Profit = $78,144 per year
  • Intangible Benefits
  • Repeat sales lead to more bonding with the patient
  • More bonding leads to more procedures
  • Increased revenues per patient
  • Increased name recognition
  • Cross-promotes other aesthetic services that you offer
  • Increased patient loyalty

In addition, discussing these products with patients can be time consuming. Your staff will have to be educated on skin care and products, as well as how to enthusiastically promote retail without appearing to “hard sell” your patients (which can make them feel uncomfortable). When dealing in retail, you also have to deal with patients who get allergic reactions. And on a more prosaic level, you have to deal with returns and damaged products. It’s just a part of doing business.


When you private label, your own customized label appears on every product. You can choose ready-made formulas, or you can start from scratch and work with a chemist to concoct your own skin care products.

There are many benefits to having your own skin care line. It is a signature of distinction, indicating that you have carefully selected products that fit the needs of your patients. Although it can be ego gratifying to see your name on every bottle, it also increases your name recognition, word-of-mouth referrals, and patient loyalty. Not only can you grow your unique brand with your customized “look and feel,” which really sets you apart from your competitors, but also you can charge premium prices for this uniqueness.

Time for a reality check: The initial cash outlay to carry a credibly wide selection of products can be quite steep. In addition, it takes time to build brand awareness for your new products, so you must take the time to promote them. Patients won’t know about the product line and will rely on your good name to use them at first. The latter might be the most difficult challenge in the short term, as patients will already be aware of the many skin care products available to them.


1) Staff Commitment

Your staff will be your front line walking/talking testimonial, so you want to be sure they are using the product lines and talking them up to patients.

Your staff must be trained in skin care, and have product knowledge and some sales skills. Hold lunch-and-learn programs with the vendors who will gladly train them. Arrange to provide or send them to industry educational workshops.

You may even consider hiring an aesthetician who already knows the products, ingredients, and skin care, and can sell for you.

Staff incentives help. Staff will go the extra mile when they have a reason to, so perhaps they get the products at cost and they get a percentage of sales.

2) In-house Signage

In-house promotion is vital when selling retail, because you want every single person walking through your office to know you provide products for their various skin concerns. Set up eye-catching retail displays in the reception area, in the exam rooms, and at the checkout counter.

In-house marketing tools—such as vendor brochures, countertop displays, lapel pins, and posters—ensure your patients will know that you carry retail products. This will avoid them saying, “I didn’t know you carried sunscreen,” when they bought it at Macy’s instead of from you.

Mention your skin care line in all of your customer-facing materials, such as your practice brochure, business card, newsletter, and Web site. You can even use retail as a lead-generation tool by adding stickers on your promotional materials that read, “Free Skin Care Product Sample with Every Treatment.”

3) Creative Retail Promotion

One creative way to introduce retail to your patients is to write a skin care prescription as you would for medicine. Remember, they know, like, and trust you, so if you offer them products that help in their recuperation or in their skin care regimen in general, you will be seen as caring and committed to their comfort and satisfaction.

Use skin analysis systems and computer imaging to show a patient their skin concerns as well as the results they can expect. There is nothing more compelling than a patient seeing their own sun damage and aging issues, and then learning about the solutions to repair those concerns.


  • Do offer medical-grade products. They are high-end, unique, and exclusive, and can’t be obtained through normal retail outlets. This helps ensure your patients will return to you for refills.
  • Do carry two to three product lines to satisfy the patient’s need for variety.
  • Do work with your retail product vendors. They can help you with staff training, sales training, patient-event assistance, marketing materials, marketing ideas, samples, retail bags, and maybe even co-opt advertising dollars.
  • Don’t assume that retail products sell themselves. You need to commit to turning retail into a healthy revenue stream, and train your staff on assisting you in that effort.
  • Don’t carry too many lines and complimentary products, such as sun hats and seasonal items, because that gets expensive for you and it also gets confusing for the patient. A confused patient will decide to buy nothing.

You can hold special events for your patients, such as skin care educational talks and in-house seminars. In addition, you can even cross-promote specials at the event, such as, “Sign up now and receive a free product of your choice with every photorejuvenation package.”

Institute a refer-a-friend program using your retail products. We all know a referred patient is the best patient because they are already presold on you. Therefore, when your patient refers someone, send her a thank-you note and include a product sample.

Go through your records to determine good candidates for products and services, and then send them a product sample with a note card that says, “We miss you,” or, “Next time you talk to a friend.” That will encourage them to visit you. The fact that the envelope containing your note will be lumpy and different-looking will encourage people to open it.

Send birthday cards to patients. Offer them a free retail product for their special day. Your patients will remember this gesture and your generosity when speaking with their friends.

Institute a VIP program for your most loyal patients. Special features might include offers for 10% off all retail products, free shipping, free samples with purchase, and/or a free makeover after each facial treatment.

Other promotions might include offering patients a gift basket of products as a silent auction item for a fund-raiser held in your community. Include a gift certificate for a facial or peel, so that the winner must visit your office to get to know you.

Use retail to bump-up your advertising. By the way, the word “free” is and will always be a magic word in advertising and marketing. To help generate a good response to your ads, e-blasts, and newsletters, offer a free product with purchase. This is usually cheaper than discounting a procedure, has a higher perceived value by the patient, and is a good way to introduce patients to your retail products.

The Checkout Process Is an Opportunity

Promote your retail line when the patient is checking out. This makes a lot of sense because the patient has their wallet out and they just got a free gift from you. Asking them a couple of extra questions can make a huge difference to your bottom line.

To help set the stage and put them in a receptive mood to book another appointment as well as be open to other suggestions, let them pick a retail product sample from an eye-catching bowl you keep on the counter.


Take the time to train your staff to ask “up-sell” questions, such as, “Need any refills today, Sara?” “Need a quick gift?” or “Would you be interested in sampling our new skin care line?”

You and your staff can also use the Internet to promote your retail products, which can result in increased exposure for your practice. For example, set up an online store on your Web site, from which you can send e-mail messages to your patients with exclusive retail product offers, encouraging them to click through to your Web store.

You can also increase your Internet traffic by getting listed in the “physician locator” section of retail vendors’ Web sites. The firms have spent the time, money, and effort getting consumers to their Web site, so its advantage is that you can be found more easily online.

Catherine Maley, MBA, is the president of Cosmetic Image Marketing, a public relations, advertising, and marketing firm that specializes in helping aesthetic practices grow. She can be reached at (415) 377-8700 or .