It’s said that in America everyone has a dermatologist on speed dial. And now a surge of interest in the UK, mainly in the private sector, is defying the economic slump.
With the NHS focusing its attentions and funds elsewhere, the buoyant private sector has been enjoying stable growth over the last two years, and new treatments and products have fared exceptionally well.
The skincare market in general has increased by 176 per cent over the last six years and, according to Mintel, new concepts in treatment have provided an invaluable boost to the sector, pushing the total UK mass market for dermatology skincare to £593 million.
While the private sector is replete with customers seeking cosmetic treatments, the NHS still gets its fair share of referrals.
Clients are not being offered treatment by their GP, especially if their ailments are not life-threatening or changing
“Skin conditions are the most common new reason for people to visit their GP,” according to a spokesman for the British Association of Dermatologists. “The latest figures show that 24 per cent of the population report to their GP for a skin complaint annually and 900,000 are referred to a dermatologist.”
But, with the internet helping patients to self-diagnose, experts are finding increasing numbers of patients are dissatisfied with NHS treatments.
“For many of our clients, the NHS was their initial port of call,” says Erica Collins, head of commercial at the DestinationSkin national chain of dermatology clinics. “Clients are not being offered treatment by their GP, especially if their ailments are not life-threatening or changing. Feedback is that GPs are less willing to treat skin imperfections and people are seeking affordable, accessible, accredited clinics for treatment.”
NHS dermatologists agree that public funding is lacking. Latest research on skin conditions by the University of Nottingham found that many significant dermatological disorders were designated as “low priority” within the NHS due to funding issues, despite causing untreated patients psychological distress.
Increasingly, patients are now looking for non-pharmaceutical solutions. According to market research company Kline, this shift has opened up a lucrative avenue in “nutri-cosmetics” and, with supplement giant Seven Seas launching Ilumina, a high-profile anti-ageing supplement, the trend looks set to grow.
While the United States enjoys a thriving specialist dermatology approach, the UK tends to consider skin treatments to be either “medical” or “beauty”. Though, with increasing levels of self-diagnosis, this could be about to shift, as patients trawl the web for specialist clinics.
“Unlike America, the UK is still, most definitely, not a ‘specialist’ market,” says Ms Collins. “But with online self-diagnosis and coverage in the mainstream media, clients are finding out what a condition means and then investigating the best clinics where they can be treated.”
Private clinics are seeing large increases in treatments for age-related pigmentation and other skin imperfections, including sun damage. This is partly due to improvements in treatments for these dermatological complaints, but growing consumer awareness is also key.
The sector has also seen growth in treatments for acne and acne scarring. The Harley Medical Group reports a record number of female clients seeking acne treatment this year.
“Because of new advanced technology, we are seeing a substantial increase in patients with acne scarring,” says Dr Rita Rakus of the Rita Rakus Clinic. “New fractional laser treatments use a powerful, yet precise, laser that encourages the skin to create new collagen to replace the scarred epidermis.”
Eczema, psoriasis and acne are among the most common dermatological complaints treated by the NHS. Latest findings by GBI Research suggest psoriasis will be a strong driver for future market growth, although acne will remain the largest dermatology therapeutic in the private sector.