With some 9 million online visitors a month who are seeking or offering information about cosmetic surgery, RealSelf has become more than the world’s largest online cosmetic surgery community — it’s also become a rich source of data. So, when RealSelf Chief Executive Officer Tom Seery says 2017 is shaping up to be the year of noninvasive treatment, it’s probably worth a listen.
“When we look through that data for trends and patterns, consistently we’ve been seeing greater and greater consumer interest in less invasive, noninvasive and minimally invasive treatments,” Seery tells Cosmetic Surgery Times. “And that has been a trend that has accelerated with more and more practices introducing CoolSculpting [Zeltiq] and Botox [Allergan]. The reason those are interesting is that the companies behind those two products are spending a lot of money on branding. And for the first time in the category of aesthetics we’re starting to see emergent brands that consumers recognize and search by name….”
Data Trends: What's Hot (What's Not)
Searches on RealSelf for minimally invasive topics have increased about 16% annually and steadily in the last few years, according to Seery.
Leading the way in those searches is CoolSculpting. Zeltiq’s body sculpting device, which has a strong RealSelf consumer satisfaction, or “worth it” rating, at around 86%, and searches for it have increased 28%, year over year, Seery says.
The top most researched and viewed non-surgical procedures by RealSelf members in 2016 were:
- Vaginal rejuvenation
- Non-surgical fat reduction
The top minimally invasive products for which consumer interest soared on RealSelf in 2016 were:
- Kybella (Allergan), which increased 176% from 2015
- MonaLisa Touch (Cynosure), which increased 91%
- CoolSculpting, 28%
- Juvéderm (Allergan), 26%
- Botox (Allergan), 20 %
- Restylane (Galderma), 20%.
That’s according to RealSelf’s internal data, from the third quarter in 2015 to the third quarter 2016.
While Galderma’s Restylane saw double-digit growth in interest from 2015 to 2016, Allergan’s Juvéderm maintained its lead in overall interest among hyaluronic acid fillers, according to RealSelf.
On the downslope of consumer interest: Valeant brands, including Liposonix, Vaser Liposuction and Fraxel Laser, which saw steady declines. Thermage was the exception, with a 25% increase in consumer interest from 2015 to the next year.
“As we look at 2017, our prediction is that competition is going to continue to heat up,” Seery says.
The CEO points to the FDA’s recent approvals for more specific and targeted injectables; the anticipation of new toxins on the market; and a continued rivalry between such technologies as CoolSculpting and SculpSure (Cynosure).
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What It All Means
“What this really means for consumers is more practitioners are going to be offering these types of services. What we’re typically seeing is practitioners who typically have this non-recurring patient base (it can be a plastic surgeon, for instance), adding more of these services and driving a recurring revenue model into their practices,” Seery says.
Santa Rosa, Calif., plastic surgeon Heather J. Furnas, MD, says her practice is experiencing trends similar to those reported by RealSelf.
“Patients are finding out about female genital plastic surgery in the media, so that’s one of the fastest growing parts of our practice now. The patient satisfaction rates from labiaplasty, labia majoraplasty and vaginal tightening are all extremely high. As more patients talk about it, I think the demand will continue to grow,” Dr. Furnas says. “As far as the noninvasive treatments, the interest in fillers continues to grow.”
Dr. Furnas says lip plumping is hot with fillers that offer subtle, natural results and last 18 months. Another popular filler treatment in older women is Voluma (Allergan).
“Voluma is a thicker filler that goes against the bone to elevate the cheek, improve the marionette lines and soften the jowl, and it lasts a couple of years,” Dr. Furnas says.
While the trend is for consumers to be aware of brand names and what those technologies do, there remains a tremendous gap in consumers’ understanding about what the right solutions are for their desired outcomes.
Consumers also tend to overinflate what they think cosmetic procedures will cost, according to Seery.
“A lot of the market is held back by this lack of information or transparency,” he says. “In 2017, we’re working with a lot of industry representatives, educating them on how important it is that consumers get the questions they have answered in the digital realm, so they can move forward into the physical realm of the actual practices and are actually book procedures.”
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More About RealSelf
The way that most aesthetic practices and providers engage in the RealSelf model is by having a free profile. In 2016, RealSelf also launched a business page format for clinics or medical spas to be listed and solicit patient feedback, such as reviews and stories, Seery says.
RealSelf moderates all reviews, so when a consumer reviews a doctor, the online platform’s team confirms the review to ensure it’s not fake, inflammatory, etc., according to RealSelf.
“We … have a differentiated offering from the Google and Healthgrades’ options that are out there for patient reviews, in that we allow consumers to stay anonymous, but also emphasize that they should and are encouraged to share their entire journey of their treatment,” Seery says. “That’s one major piece of the model. Secondly, of course, practices and providers can upload photos, which consumers find extremely helpful.”
One of the top viewed content pieces on RealSelf is when consumers ask to see if someone like them has had a positive result from a particular practice, according to Seery.
Dr. Furnas, who says she has been using RealSelf for years to market her practice, thinks the online community is a great resource for patients.
“I really like the opportunity to educate through videos, photos and by answering questions, but I think it’s the reviews my patients have kindly written about their experience with me that probably has the greatest impact on whether a patient decides to choose me as their surgeon,” Furnas says.