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The ever-changing face of the cosmetic industry: What does the future hold?

Laura Varley

Laura Varley, Guest Editor

Not too long ago, cosmetic treatments were seen as something only the rich and famous could afford. Consumers were worried that procedures were too invasive, and that they would have no choice but to put up with stitches and bruises for weeks after the surgery, but times have changed.

Innovations in technology have altered the industry forever. Here we take a look at what’s different, and predict what the cosmetic industry will look like in a few years’ time.

Despite the recession, the cosmetic industry is booming

The financial crisis around the globe has affected many industries, but not cosmetics. A report by GBI Research notes that the facial aesthetics market in particular has enjoyed impressive growth over the past few years. In fact, it’s been expanding globally at a rate of more than ten per cent a year. By 2020, GBI believes it will have doubled in size to $5.3 billion (£3.46 billion).

So what’s the reason for such a dramatic climb? The ongoing economic recovery has certainly helped. Consumers are now more aware of the existence of injectable treatments, which are far less invasive than plastic surgery. There’s also been a rise in the number of young people wanting to either prevent or fight the signs of aging.

However, it’s not just facial treatments which have boomed in popularity; the British Association of Plastic Surgeons noted that in 2013 it saw a double-digit rise across all cosmetic procedures. The industry hadn’t seen such an increase since 2008 – before the recession.

The public’s opinion of cosmetic treatments is changing

Cosmetic treatments were once only used by celebrities and the rich. The procedures were big, loud and noticeable, but consumers don’t want to dramatically change their appearance – they just want to get rid of a few lines or the bags around their eyes. Progression in technology now means that non-surgical procedures, like dermal fillers, are now possible. These look natural, only cause a small amount of swelling, and consumers can see the differences immediately. When people think of cosmetic treatments now, ‘Botox’ is more likely to be the first thing to come into their head, rather than dramatic breast enlargement.  

For many years, women have felt more pressure than men to look young and beautiful, so cosmetic treatments have always been more popular with ladies. But this is changing; more and more men are seeking surgical and non-surgical treatments. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that since 1997, the number of procedures performed on male patients has increased by 273 per cent.

Just like women, men are looking to improve the way they look and boost their self-esteem, but some older patients are purchasing treatments to lengthen their careers too. These men believe that employers prefer a fresh, young face, and so are instinctively trying to fight the signs of aging (facelifts are one of the top three most popular procedures with men). Dr James Grotting, president-elect of The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, thinks that this trend will not end any time soon, as the job market is becoming increasingly competitive and, sadly, ageist.

What does the future hold for the cosmetic industry?

As a society, we’ve always been obsessed with our looks, but the internet has arguably fuelled that obsession even further. A 2013 report from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery revealed that 33 per cent of surgeons experienced a surge in the number of requests for plastic surgery as a result of social media.

The report states that social media was making consumers more self-aware of their appearance. This isn’t all that surprising considering sites like Instagram are full of young people posting ‘selfies’ of themselves that they’ve spent hours scrutinising over. Social media dominates our lives, and it will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

No matter what inspires us, whether it’s Kim Kardashian’s bum, or your friend’s perfect cheekbones, the desire to look and feel young and attractive will never go away. Therefore, cosmetic treatments will probably never wain in popularity, especially if companies continue to innovate with technology and create new ways to deliver non-invasive enhancements.

Plus, the more commonplace cosmetic treatments become, the less stigma will surround them, boosting their popularity even further. It’s safe to say the cosmetic industry is here to stay.

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