The money’s where the pout is

Non-surgical methods and simple procedures like Botox injections are boosting the cosmetic surgery market – and paving the way to more complex surgery

The Botox brigade, famed for having their wrinkle-banishing injections at afternoon parties, is sweeping the nation as more men and women succumb to youthand beauty-enhancing treatments.

According to Mintel, the US is still the world leader in cosmetic surgery in terms of the numbers of procedures conducted per head of population, followed by Brazil and then the UK.

The largest increase has been in the use of botulinum toxin (or Botox) injections, which increased from 65,000 in 1997 to over 1.6 million in 2001 in the US (up 2,362 per cent). A number of other non-surgical procedures also showed very strong growth, including chemical peels (up 183 per cent), collagen injections (up 216 per cent) and the newer laser hair removal (up 75 per cent). But the most popular surgical procedures are liposuction, breast augmentation and reduction, and facelifts.

While such phenomenal growth rates have not occurred in the UK, nor are they likely to do so in the near future, the data gives a valuable insight into what is a more developed market.

The cosmetic surgery market in the UK is not monitored by any central medical or government body. No official data exist on the number and type of procedures carried out. The data given here, therefore, represent Mintel’s best estimates.

Mintel’s estimates, which are cautiously calculated, are intended to cover most private cosmetic surgery procedures excepting those on the periphery, such as hair transplants or laser hair removal, and procedures which would ordinarily be carried out by the NHS, including the removal of birthmarks.

Mintel’s last report on this market excluded procedures carried out in beauty salons, but these have been included in this study to reflect what is happening in the market. No retrospective adjustment has been made to data for 1997 to 1999 since it is only recently that salons have been making inroads into the market in any significant way, for instance with procedures such as laser hair removal or laser skin rejuvenation. This means there would have been a dramatic rate of growth from 2000 anyway, especially with the popularity of non-surgical procedures.

In the UK, it is estimated that 110,000 procedures took place in 2002, an 83 per cent increase on 1997, and the market is worth £225m. At current prices, it is estimated that market value has increased 88 per cent, and is worth twice as much as in 1995 (then £110m).

Although growth in the UK is not on the same scale as in the US, it is still a significant one. Consumers are becoming more accepting of cosmetic surgery as a means of enhancing their appearance and this, along with advances in techniques and the fact that the cost of treatments has become more affordable, is driving demand.

The rapid rise in popularity of non-surgical procedures, especially injectables, has had a major impact on the beauty enhancement market. As well as the extra value these treatments bring to the market, they have a further significance in that, for some users, having a fairly simple treatment such as Botox can make them more ready to contemplate more complex surgical procedures.

Some trade sources report that men are also increasingly ready to consider cosmetic surgery, because looking younger or more youthful is thought to be a benefit in the working environment. However, women are considerably more positive and interested than men in such procedures overall.

Mintel’s research finds that respondents are more likely to have an opinion on the subject of cosmetic surgery than they were two years ago, which is in line with a general growth in awareness of cosmetic surgery. Nevertheless, when opinions were broadly grouped into three – feel positive towards cosmetic surgery, negative, or neutral – respondents are still more likely to fall into the neutral group (64 per cent) than either the positive (21 per cent) or the negative (48 per cent).

The biggest worry for consumers is still the potential long-term health implications of cosmetic surgery (31 per cent mention this). A quarter (23 per cent) think only vain people undergo cosmetic surgery; 21 per cent worry about the pain involved; 19 per cent about the possibility of not liking the result; and 17 per cent that the industry is not properly regulated.

Younger consumers in general have more positive views towards cosmetic surgery and, although these might shift slightly over time, this augurs well for future demand. In terms of socio-economic status, the two more affluent groups (ABs and C1s) are most likely to express concern over issues such as health implications or regulation.

Key trends that will continue to boost demand for cosmetic surgery include: the increasing acceptability of cosmetic surgery; advances in techniques and technology; the blurring of boundaries between beauty treatments, non-surgical and surgical procedures; wider availability of non-surgical procedures; and an ageing population. Add to this the fact that young people are more positive to cosmetic surgery, and the future of beauty and youth enhancements looks positively rosy.

Factfile is edited by Sonoo Singh. Amanda Lintott, consumer analyst at Mintel, contributed

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