Cosmetic changes as marketers enlist MDs

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Dermatologists are the latest faces of skin-care marketing as aging baby boomers seek more scientific methods to prevent time from making its mark.

As professional skin-care procedures command more consumer dollars, both prestige and mass-market beauty marketers are trotting out medical professionals to compete with a raft of dermatologist-aligned brands. Estee Lauder Cos.' has signed Dr. Karen Grossman to endorse Prescriptives Dermapolish, an at-home version of the popular micro-dermabrasion procedure; Boots Healthcare USA is offering up Dr. Laurie Polis as spokeswoman for the relaunch of its newly acquired Clearasil brand; and Procter & Gamble Co. has positioned its high-end Olay Regenerist as an alternative to dermatologist techniques.

"Cosmeceutical" brands, loosely defined as cosmetics with biologically active ingredients that fall just short of prescription strength, are driving the $5 billion facial-treatment category, and will continue to grow over the next few years, according to Carrie Bonner, project manager-consumer products at Kline & Co. Research from NPD Beauty Trends shows those brands up 83% over the last year.

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But the trend has yet to influence traditional ad spending. Instead, medical professionals are being used to sway influential beauty-magazine editors and drive interest and awareness among other dermatologists. "Editors find dermatologists' involvement in the products interesting, and their credentials are bringing a PR buzz that doesn't necessitate advertising," said Dan Brestle, group president, Estee Lauder Cos.

Linda Wells, editor in chief of Conde Nast's Allure, said readers have an enormous appetite for skin-care stories, especially more medically complicated ones. She said, however, that her staffers are skeptical of dermatologists-just as they are of spokesmodels-if the medical professionals are not behind the development of the products. "Instead of push-up bras and heels, they're now wearing white coats."

That said, Chris Molinari, founder of PR shop Chris Molinari Communications, said the use of Dr. Polis as an expert on acne for Boots' Clearasil "helped jumpstart the brand's attention with beauty editors," especially as Dr. Polis offered at-home facial remedies.

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N.V. Perricone M.D., a skin-care line developed by Dr. Nicholas Perricone, has at least tripled sales every year since its launch in the late `90s. Sales will reach as much as $80 million this year, according to its founder, on the basis of his two best-selling books and a series of public TV shows touting health and beauty regimens that focus more on nutritional tips such as eating salmon than topical products. Although advertising could be an option down the road, Dr. Perricone's marketing includes only minor sampling such as the inclusion of doctor's bags with a variety of his products in celebrity gift totes for the Golden Globes.

Estee Lauder's Mr. Brestle predicts the hot category is going to get crowded, and said he is "looking at some of the more talented [dermatologists] in the field" for future initiatives. (Industry observers suggest there will be a buyout of dermatologist-driven brands by the larger marketers.)

Prescriptives hired Dr. Grossman in late 2002 as a result of statistics showing more than 1.6 million Botox treatments were done last year to the tune of $634 million, and 1 million micro-dermabrasions, totaling $245 million. "People are starting to go the dermatologist's like our mothers went to the hairdresser," said Pamela Baxter, president-Estee Lauder's Specialty Group. Dr. Grossman will make store appearances and be featured in a mailer to 250,000 customers of Prescriptives' retail partners. She will also help Prescriptives with the development of four new products next year.

Estee Lauder's Clinique was one of the first to tout its development by a dermatologist, Dr. Norman Orentreich. Clinique recently held a symposium for doctors on advancements in sun protection featuring Dr. Orentreich and others, and the brand plans niche products for skin problems that people often visit doctors to solve.

For its recent launch of Olay Regenerist, priced at $18.99, P&G has touted its proprietary "amino-peptide complex" in a sample mailer as a "less-drastic approach" to dermatological procedures such as Botox or chemical peels.

contributing: jack neff

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