I began my career over twenty-five years ago and I can safely say that the cosmetic industry has evolved to the point of being almost unrecognisable. Every aspect of the profession has changed in some way, from the equipment and products we use to the patients and conditions we treat.
Thirty years ago the only effective cosmetic treatment options were surgical. As further testing and research took place more products and techniques became available, to the point now where invasive procedures play a very minor role in the majority of patient treatment plans. The treatment of patients has also changed dramatically as the profession is becoming more aware of body and health issues. Courthouse Clinics, being doctor-led, have always been especially conscious of the tell-tale signs of Body Dysmorphic Disorder and other serious illnesses.
Since its introduction the main focus of the cosmetic industry has been Botox®. Many of my early patients were excited to try it yet were cautious, and rightly so - there had never been anything of its kind before and information was not widely available. However, Botox® is now known as one of the safest and most reliable treatments and this has been proven via a multitude of comprehensive studies over the years. In 2013 over five million patients opted for the treatment, signifying the extent of its success.
Although Botox® remains the leading non-surgical cosmetic treatment worldwide, Dermal Fillers are increasingly popular due to the beneficial effects on the facial appearance. When Dermal Fillers are injected, the area is plumped and tightened to provide a more youthful and rejuvenated appearance that can last up to twelve months. It has been dubbed the Liquid Facelift, and with the use of hyaluronic acid and techniques such as the Eight Point Lift patients can achieve striking results. It is proving to be a very sophisticated anti-ageing treatment and can also give a natural plump look to the lips and reshape the nose without the need of painful, surgical alternatives.
Of course there is more to the cosmetic industry than injectable procedures. One of the greatest innovations of recent years has to be laser technology as treatments such as laser hair removal had previously been quite painful, took a long time to complete and had the potential to scar. Nowadays with advanced equipment such as the Soprano® laser, patients can be treated quickly, efficiently, accurately and with no pain experienced whatsoever.
Aside from hair removal, laser technology can also remove tattoos, tighten skin, rejuvenate the complexion and treat stress urinary incontinence. We seem to have merely scratched the surface when it comes to the benefits of laser treatments, and as the demand increases for non-invasive procedures so does the potential for exciting new alternatives.
As treatments have changed with time, so have our patients. Since establishing over fifteen years ago, Courthouse Clinics has undergone a significant shift in patient demographic. Although we still predominately treat women (90% for Botox®, 85% for Laser Hair Removal) we are noticing a growing number of men booking appointments. It is now becoming more socially acceptable for men to opt for hair removal as celebrities are doing the same, specifically those with tattoos (i.e. David Beckham, Tom Hardy). Also, with discussions of 'Brotox' prevalent the media, anti-ageing treatments for men are fast becoming the norm.
A large number of our patients are aged between 30 to 55, but the under 30s sector is beginning to seek the benefits of pre-emptive treatments. The under 30s account for 40% of Laser Hair Removal patients and 3.5% of Botox® patients. Prevention is better than cure, and as the public grow more aware of what is available to them they are aiming to slow down the physical signs of ageing earlier before it becomes too severe.
The change in our patient demographic is greatly attributed to media attention. There have been reports on everything from proclamations of miracle cures to horror stories of disastrous and disfiguring treatments. Of course not everything featured has been entirely factual or relevant to the industry as a whole, but it has definitely opened up a forum for discussion. Dr. Tracy Mountford, the founder and Medical Director of The Cosmetic Skin Clinic, feels that the media is integral to the industry but should be approached very carefully: "[Journalists] are useful as they can help educate the public in some way. I always view them with a healthy degree of caution and only tend to give interviews to journalists who I respect, to ensure that I give the public the right message."
The one element of the industry that has not developed as notably as I and my peers would have anticipated is the introduction of stricter regulations. We have incredibly sophisticated and extensive training and resources available, but as of yet we do not have a strong enough backing to support the doctors, aestheticians and their patients. "The Keogh Report and its findings should be very useful to help clarify what is appropriate best practice," says Dr Mountford. "I would, however, have expected more legislation to be in place by now."
Despite this, I believe the cosmetic industry has aged well. It has progressed and matured very quickly despite its young age and has produced some life-changing treatments and procedures. It is also beginning to become more aware of body and health issues as clinics such as Courthouse grow familiar with the tell-tale signs of Body Dysmorphic Disorder and other serious illnesses.
Overall I would have to agree with Dr. Mountford, who said "It's a tough, highly competitive industry, but the rewards are there if you are truly passionate about your craft and truly love enriching people's lives." I certainly have enjoyed helping to build the self-confidence of my patients, and am very excited to see what the future of the industry holds.