Consumer Demand Driving the Aesthetic Market

by: Douglas Cress

Nearly five centuries after Ponce de Leo'n failed to locate the Fountain of Youth, medical technology has advanced to a stage where willing-and-able consumers can attain a forever youthful look. Wrinkles, once merely a sign of old age, now reflect differences in class and income — for those with deep pocketbooks, signs of aging can be kept under wraps.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that from 2000 to 2005, the total number of laser skin-resurfacing procedures increased from approximately 117,000 to 476,000, a 32% compounded annual growth rate. The total number of Botox procedures increased from 1.1 million to 3.3 million injections over the same period.

Skin tightening — valued at $1 billion worldwide, according to CIBC — represents the fastest growing segment of the aesthetic laser market. It is projected to grow at a 31% compounded annual rate over the next five years, according to the Millennium Research.

People are spending more than ever on their quests to stay youthful. Below are some of the newest tools in the medical technology industry's ever growing aesthetic arsenal:

ArteFill Dermal Filler by Artes Medical (ARTE)

ArteFill, made by San Diego, CA-based Artes Medical, removes facial wrinkles. The injectable gel is a combination of homogeneous precision-filtered microspheres suspended in a solution of purified bovine collagen and 0.3% lidocaine to alleviate discomfort during injection. Aesthetic results are visible immediately after injection.

Since scavenger cells (macrophages) cannot be degraded by enzymes, the microspheres remain intact beneath the creases, providing a permanent support structure to the wrinkle, preventing further wrinkling.

In October 2006, Artes Medical received FDA clearance for ArteFill, making it the first and only approved non-resorbable aesthetic injectable implant.

Skin Rejuvenation by Iridex (NASDAQ:IRIX)

Iridex's skin rejuvenation is a laser treatment that diminishes the damage done by sun exposure and aging.

The company's Venus laser resurfacing treats multiple cosmetic concerns, including fine wrinkling around the eyes, forehead, nose, and mouth as well as the lingering effects of chicken pox, acne scars, and superficial pigmented lesions. Treatments can range from a series of light "no-downtime" peels to a single deep peel where each line is carefully sculpted.

The Mountain View, CA, company says 80% of its customers are women, but notes that procedures on men continue to increase with general social acceptance. Women ages 30-65 make up the majority of patients, though an increasing number of twenty-somethings are seeking treatments to delay the onset of aging.

Eyes by Thermage (NASDAQ:THRM)

Eyes by Thermage, a skin-tightening procedure that Hayward, CA-based Thermage says is one-of-a-kind, smoothes and tightens skin, and decreases wrinkles and hooding in the eye area, without surgery, injections or downtime.

The procedure does not involve a laser; it uses radiofrequency technology to heat the skin's underlying collagen. The procedure, which takes about an hour, causes no bruising, swelling or sutures. Thermage says patients experience tighter, smoother skin after the first procedure. And as a result of the production of new and increased collagen, as well as some additional contouring effects due to continued tightening, Eyes promises continued improvement over time.

Thermage says women ages 35-60 have the best outcomes. If a patient's skin is too lax, the results will be less dramatic.

The procedure is FDA cleared for non-invasive treatment of wrinkles and rhytids.

ProCyte by PhotoMedex (NASDAQ:PHMD)

ProCyte, a PhotoMedex company, offers products based on Copper Peptide Technology for skin health, hair care and wound care. Copper is a building block for collagen and elastin, key components of firm, healthy skin.

Clinical studies have shown significant improvement in the appearance of fine lines, skin blotchiness and firmness with use of the company's products, which also can be used to prepare skin for cosmetic or laser surgery.

Patients are provided with a complete skin care regimen; the products are part of a medically supervised skin care program and are available by prescription.

Venus-i Laser System by Laserscope

The Venus-i Laser System, made by San Jose CA-based , is a portable, high power Erbium:YAG laser system with applications in dermatology, cosmetic and plastic surgery, general surgery, ENT and ophthalmology.

The laser is the smallest — yet among the most powerful — Erbium:YAG lasers on the market. It's an option for younger patients with mild wrinkles or moderate sun damage, and can be used on facial and non-facial skin such as the hands.

CT3 Laser by CoolTouch

Roseville, CA-based CoolTouch's CT3 Laser delivers controlled energy to stimulate the production of collagen. The treatment works on all skin types and improves the appearance of acne scars and wrinkles. The CT3 treats acne by altering the sebaceous gland — targeting the source of acne versus bacterial symptoms, for longer lasting results.

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