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Excitement is in the air! It’s a new year, time to take stock of your cosmetic dermatology practice and learn from your experience in 2021. For a lot of us, 2020 was a rough year. We saw pandemic related losses, upset employees, and empty waiting rooms. If you were lucky enough to participate in one of the government-sponsored pandemic relief programs, you were able to keep the lights on. Local regulations in some states prevented some practices from participating, especially cosmetic ones. But, as vaccines rolled out, with many workers still not able to go back into the office, you may have seen a rise in cosmetic business, affectionately termed the “Zoom Boom.” Cosmetic patients flooded back in, eager to get neurotoxins, fillers, lasers, peels, and other procedures with their newly found shield (their mask!) and their newly acquired stimulus money. It seemed everyone (except folks like cosmetic dermatologists, front-line, and service workers) had joined the #WFH movement and were settled in.

The Bottom Line

Although there is some uncertainty, evidence points to continued opportunities for growth in cosmetic dermatology practices. Patient habits have shifted, leading to fresh demand for services and presenting novel opportunities to connect and communicate. Interestingly, some live events have shifted virtual, and some virtual communication tools have yielded to more traditional media.

Interestingly enough, we found that using different ways to reach the home-bound created opportunity. Where we once used social media outlets and online marketing, we changed to direct mail (old-school, right?), and where we had used an email newsletter, we began to use radio. And it worked! People who were at home actually checked their mailbox during the day and found our post card. Due to the trend of getting everything online, such as bills and such, mail volume was down, so our mailing stood out. Listening to the radio became an all-day affair, so folks heard our spots multiple times, and the business started rolling back in.

Uncertainty Remains

Now, with 2021 behind us but not the pandemic, it is time to reassess and take stock of some trends for the cosmetic dermatology space in 2022. First, there is the uncertainty. Unemployment is low and workers are in control, changing jobs easily or starting their own businesses. That leaves more flexibility in their schedules to come in for cosmetic services. Many people who were able to made changes during the pandemic, taking a close look at their life situation and finding ways to improve their lot. This has turned into a second (or third) wave of demand for cosmetic services.

At the same time, many practices became leaner to preserve capital during the slow period and therefore emerged more profitable afterward. For example, when travel was grounded, I focused on the homefront, improving information technology infrastructure, implementing a new phone system with many features we found helpful, and updating our clinical flow. We also found a way to expand to a new location in a thriving area of town. Sometimes, with adversity comes opportunity. Actions like these helped us become more efficient and more profitable. I have heard similar stories from others.

Events Move Online

Another trend that I saw happen in 2021 is the move toward online cosmetic events. Whereas in the past, many practices hosted in-person showcase events for their cosmetic dermatology practices to demonstrate new products, highlight clinicians, and introduce their office spaces, this was not possible during restricted times. People were already shopping online in 2019 and before, but they really shopped online in 2020-2021! Hosting virtual events becomes easier—once one learns how to do it—using various live-streaming media options and marketing creative specials. Profitability is much better in some cases, because in-person events are expensive to put on when one accounts for staff overtime, food and beverage, entertainment, and marketing expenses. I think we will see more online events because people have become used to them and many still prefer not to come to crowded places, but they still have money to spend and a desire for cosmetic treatments.

Industry Innovation

On the other side of the coin is industry, which brings us innovative new products, devices, and services (with physician experience, engineering, and know-how). Many firms turned travel funds into research and development money and continued to work on their pipeline, so we saw new options become available. From my perspective this has been productive, and we will see additional approvals in 2022. They also found new ways to market and partner with physicians, even if that could not take place in person. Trends include an increased focus on body sculpting—but the weak or less effective devices may not survive. The reason I say this is that practices might have bought a new device on a whim in the past, maybe because they saw it at a meeting, heard a talk about it, or a friend recommended it. However, lean times make one look very carefully at larger capital expenditures, leading physicians to really look at the data to see what works before making an investment that they do not want to regret.

Tremendous Growth is Possible

In conclusion, patients seem more likely to undergo laser and other services that are associated with downtime, such as resurfacing, because they are home. As travel restrictions release (and there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty here), we may see an increased demand for body services beyond what we have already seen. The Zoom Boom has not abated because we are still wearing masks in many situations, but in others, we are not. That provides patients with an opportunity to show off their results, especially among trusted friends and family, who they are still likely to be gathering with, rather than the larger population. Skin quality is a key factor that I see patients looking to improve, whether with services or products. It seems 2022 will be a year of tremendous growth, if it is anything like the end of 2021.

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