Anti-Aging and Aesthetic Medicine: The Silent Rise Of This Multibillion Dollar Industry
Sai Balasubramanian, J.D.
Jan. 28, 2021 (Forbes) — Aging is an inevitable phenomenon. Over the last 40 years, there has been an incredible focus on the aesthetics of aging, particularly with an emphasis on cosmetic anti-aging therapies. These efforts have faced their share of controversy, as scientists continue to debunk false advertising and anti-aging therapies that are not backed by evidence-based medicine. Nonetheless, regardless of the controversy, an entire industry and therapeutic cosmos has silently grown around the promise of aesthetic rejuvenation.
The anti-aging market is positioned to reach $271 billion by 2024. Studies report that anti-wrinkle products alone will reach $12.8 billion dollars in market share by 2027. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons also noted the growth in rates of cosmetic surgery procedures from the year 2000 to 2018: breast augmentation procedures increased by 48%, abdominoplasty (“tummy tuck”) procedures were up by 107%, and most notably, the use of Botox injections increased by an astounding 845%. According to this report, there has been an overall increase by 163% in the number of total cosmetic procedures from the year 2000 to 2018. Indeed, these startling figures not only indicate the immense value of this market, but also point to an industry that shows no signs of slowing down.
Congruently, healthcare providers and practices have also benefited from this immense growth. An Allegran/BSM Medical Aesthetics Database study found that revenues have steadily increased for medical aesthetic and dermatology practices/clinics across the USA, due in large part to providers offering more varied aesthetic services and hiring staff dedicated solely to this business. Industry growth is likely also due to the fact that the practice of cosmetic medicine, which was once a domain reserved solely for dermatologists and plastic surgeons, is now being practiced by other specialists; in a 2014 survey, it was reported that upto 22% of family physicians are now providing some form of cosmetic and aesthetic medicine in their practices. Thus, this phenomenon is permeating all aspects of the modern healthcare practice.
However, as with any multibillion dollar industry that undergoes dramatic and exponential growth, the rapid rise of the anti-aging market has caused controversy. In 2008, a group of 51 scientists published a groundbreaking scientific report, raising concerns around the lack of scientific and evidence-based medicine behind some anti-aging treatments. More recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is similarly attempting to address concerns in this area, warning consumers about sham products and cosmetic myths. Fortunately, there is a growing scientific community that is focused on educating the public about evidence-based anti-aging strategies and techniques, so that consumers are well informed and aware of genuine, scientifically proven therapies.
Ultimately, however, in order to responsibly grow this industry, certain parameters need to be maintained. As with any other medical procedure or pharmaceutical product, regulators and practitioners alike need to be increasingly wary of new or untested products that claim to have anti-aging effects without significant evidence-based backing. The same should be said about the practice of actually administering these products to patients. Anti-aging therapy should be considered a form of medical practice, and as with any form of medicine, it is imperative that governing bodies place strict standards of competency, training, and technical pre-requisites prior to allowing practitioners to administer these therapies on their own accord. These steps will certainly be necessary in the coming decades, as there is no doubt that public demand will continue to fuel this phenomenon. However, maintaining close oversight and a strict emphasis on evidenced-based medicine, is the only way to ensure the safe, sustainable, and patient-centered growth of this robust industry.