beauty shopper hero

How nurturing relationships with skin care professionals builds retail sales and credibility

Dermatology and Retail Alliance meets in Austin, Texas, to discuss strategies for improving patients’ skin care outcomes.
Nigel F. Maynard
Editorial Director

The second annual Dermatology and Retail Alliance met in October, and the main takeaway from the event is that trained beauty consultants and pharmacists can fill gaps, especially as innovative skin care products are available on retail shelves. 

Composed of dermatologists, brand leaders and retailers, the Alliance works collaboratively on strategies to improve patients’ skin care outcomes. 

The number of Americans reporting sensitive skin conditions and other issues is on the rise yet only 38% seek professional help. Trained beauty consultants and pharmacists can help.

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This year’s session focused on topics such as:

  • Simplifying product discovery especially since shelves offer more than 400 items in some retailers;
  • The importance of leveraging skincare professionals, especially on digital platforms to halt misinformation;
  • Opportunities to segment products into solution sets across channels; and
  • The importance of elevating sun care needs.

“We are trying to reshape the experience as a shopper and a patient,” said John Reed, general manager-CeraVe US, Integrated Health, L’Oréal derm sales team and one of the creators of the alliance. “As people care more about their skin today and chronic skin conditions are increasing, we are missing opportunities and have a shared responsibility to do more.” For the second year, CeraVe hosted the industry event.

This year’s gathering in Austin, Texas, included a tour of the Sanova Dermatology, a private dermatology practice specializing in skincare retail, custom IRI research sponsored by The Emerson Group, a deep dive into the transformation of retail services from VMLY&R and two informative panel discussions headlined by leading retailers and top-notch dermatologists. 

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Highlights from The Personal Skin Health Journey presented by Laura Toscani, consultant analytics and insights at IRI include the following:

  • There is potential to boost sales within the current shopper base.
  • Consider this: 85% of households have purchased skin care in the past year, the skin care shopper averages nine purchase trips annually, and 52% have purchased dermatologist-focused brands. If all skin care purchasers bought one additional time, annual sales could increase by $1.5 billion. 
  • Clean and sustainable are table stakes. We know 23% of shoppers are willing to pay more for products with clean ingredients, 27% seek out retailers that carry sustainable products.
  • Social media is a skin care megaphone with significant influence. Consumers are swayed by TikTok (40%), YouTube (39%) and Instagram (44%) but dermatologists and other skincare professionals are equally important influencers as dermatologist-focused products outperform traditional products. Fifty-four percent of skin care purchasers believe medical credibility is very important when making a facial skin care purchase.

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Here are some highlights from The Personal Skin Health Journey presented by Laura Toscani, consultant analytics and insights at IRI:

“At Walgreens, we are focused on driving efficiencies that allow our pharmacists to provide more clinical services and establish more meaningful connections with patients and providers,” said Heather Hughes, Walgreens Group Vice President, GMM of Beauty, Personal Care and Seasonal. “Our micro-fulfillment centers remove routine tasks from the pharmacy by filling prescriptions at a central location that are then sent back to the local Walgreens pharmacy for customer pick up. Walgreens is among the first pharmacies to leverage micro-fulfillment centers at this scale to drive efficiencies and cost savings in the last-mile delivery of prescriptions. Enabling our pharmacy team to focus on the activities for which they are licensed and provide expanded patient care not only helps us better serve our communities but allows for more fulfilling and purpose-driven work for our team members. In addition to our pharmacists, we have highly educated and trained Beauty Consultants in over 3,000 doors. Having both sets of expertise for shoppers and patients is the key to the future. For example, as part of our Feel More Like You service, pharmacists and Beauty Consultants are specially trained to help people better manage internal and visible side effects from cancer treatment. We partner with our clinical team to validate what products are best for patients and it’s strides like this that help us to be more inclusive to everyone as we live out our purpose of creating more joyful lives through better health.”

“There is skinification across all beauty categories. We know it can be daunting walking into a skin care environment, especially with prestige, masstige and mass offerings across so many brands,” said Penny Coy, Ulta Beauty’s VP skincare, Sun care, fragrances and bath. “That’s why we have licensed skin aestheticians, beauty experts, and our skin advisor app. Even while in front of a display, our guests go to the brand and our website. One white space we are exploring and leaning further into is the guest who is interested in pre-menopausal and menopausal skin care.  Additionally, our Skinfatuation program works to share greater education by specific themes. Brands come in and educate our teams via videos and in-store events which creates richer guest connections.”

Dr. Peter Lio, Board Certified Dermatologist: “I really believe if you get the right topical OTC products you can change the course of someone’s illness and prevent them from needing the next level medication. What we recommend can mean all the difference in someone’s journey. Companies like L’Oréal are pushing the limits, in the best possible way, of a drug. We are seeing amazing stuff.”

Dr. Patty Farris, Board Certified Dermatologist: “We saw the intersection between wellness and beauty [retailers reported] as practitioners as well. Topical skin care [sold at retail] is more top-of-mind than ever before and the more dermatologists know, the better. I take my hats off to the industry, especially the dermatology brands—before CeraVe no one was talking about ceramides. Now everyone is. All the brands do an incredible job with R&D and that’s why derms are recommending them.”

Here are some highlights from the panel, Winning in the New Retail World, presented by Brian Owens, VMLY&R Health Senior Vice President, Commerce Strategy:

Owens, who brings personal experience with skin conditions, focused on personalizing the skin care journey, “skinfluencers,” the symbiotic relationship between skin care, health services and new commerce experiences.

  • Consumers expect brands to anticipate their needs. The brand’s role is to help them find innovative products or solutions. They expect connected journeys across physical and digital. And consumers expect brands to understand how they use their products.
  • Exposure is eye opening. TikTok alone has 67 billion views for the #skincare, 13.8 billion for #skincareroutine, 350 million-plus for #oilyskin and 476 million-plus for #koreanskincare.
  • The industry needs to leverage retailer influencer programs. 
  • A Board-Certified hashtag handle could help foster greater trust on social media. 


Panel: Winning in the New Retail World

Owens’s presentation served as a jumping off point for a lively discussion with practitioners and retailers. Highlights include:

  • Summer Kerley, Rite Aid Vice President, Clinical and Market Access Solutions: "We’ve done a lot to raise awareness about skin care at Rite Aid. For example, we recently launched a brand campaign focused on radical empathy.  We are telling customers that we understand everyone’s vision of 'whole health' looks different; we’re not here to judge, we’re here to help customers find balance.    Furthermore, we have a focus on health care conditions that we change bi-monthly, and we incorporate skin care into the training we provide our pharmacists.
  • Sarah Freedman Walgreens Director, Business Optimization and Integration: With regard to micro-influencers, we have a real opportunity to reach a younger generation through social media. Having a skin condition, such as acne or eczema, can really influence someone’s mental health so using micro-influencers to reach teens can let them know they aren’t alone. For individuals who are having a hard time finding a dermatologist, the Walgreens app has a function called “Find Care” which can connect patients to dermatology care.
  • Dr. Ted Lain, Board Certified Dermatologist: "The push into the OTC space is from the lack of [insurance] paying for topicals. It behooves retailers and product developers to focus on education because patients are going to come in with true skin care issues that they need treated… wellness versus beauty. There is opportunity for greater collaboration between derms and retailers. I would like to see merchandising by state—acne, psoriasis, atopical dermatitis, especially because companies are developing specific products for these concerns.  I don’t want a rosacea patient to buy an acne product."
  • Dr. Mamina Turegano, Certified Board Dermatologist, Derm Influencer: "Whenever I work with retailers and brands my goal is education, not just trying to sell the product. Let’s understand why you have clogged pores; let’s understand what is going on with your skin. There is a lot of misinformation on social media. One of my goals is to bring research and awareness of when someone should see a derm."


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