A new wrin­kle in beauty mar­ket

Shop­pers launches ser­vices such as Botox at stand-alone clinic; doc­tors ques­tion safety


ORONTO — Shop­pers Drug Mart took its most ag­gres­sive step into the beauty busi­ness last week­end with its first stand-alone clinic to of­fer Botox in­jec­tions, fillers, laser treat­ments and med­i­cal-grade peels.

But while the Beauty Clinic by Shop­pers Drug Mart is be­ing touted as “a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion” of the drug­store chain’s moves into the cos­met­ics space, some wary ob­servers fear it fur­ther com­mod­i­fies med­i­cal pro­ce­dures in­creas­ingly re­garded as ca­sual touchups that don’t re­quire the ex­per­tise of a physi­cian or sur­geon.

The in­au­gu­ral shop opened Satur­day in Oakville, Ont., just west of Toronto, af­ter a soft open­ing Dec. 22 that saw a steady stream of cus­tomers come through the sparsely fur­nished, three-bay clinic, says Sarah Draper, se­nior di­rec­tor of health-care part­ner­ships and in­no­va­tion.

“This is re­ally what our cus­tomers have been ask­ing for,” Draper says.

“We’re kind of a trusted ex­pert in the space and are po­si­tioned pretty well, I think, to of­fer en­hanced beauty ser­vices in a set­ting that’s com­fort­able and con­ve­nient for peo­ple.”

Tucked into the cor­ner of a sub­ur­ban strip mall, the nearly all-white colour scheme, min­i­mal­ist decor and serene at­mos­phere evoke a spa-like re­treat.

A “concierge” greets ar­rivals and con­firms ap­point­ments in the en­try­way, where a bank of med­i­cal-grade beauty prod­ucts cov­ers one wall. Vis­i­tors are ush­ered into a wait­ing area, where cush­ioned seats, tablets and sleek wood pri­vacy screens of­fer a quiet space to fill out pa­per­work.

Draper says one of three nurse prac­ti­tion­ers then con­ducts one-onone con­sul­ta­tions with each client and takes “an in-depth med­i­cal his­tory” to de­ter­mine a treat­ment reg­i­men.

“Our nurse prac­ti­tion­ers all have med­i­cal es­thet­ics cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and over a decade ex­pe­ri­ence in nurs­ing,” she says, not­ing their higher med­i­cal clas­si­fi­ca­tion gives them author­ity to pre­scribe and ad­min­is­ter in­jecta­bles.

A med­i­cal es­theti­cian han­dles lasers, chem­i­cal peels and mi­cro­der­mabra­sion. The Loblaw-owned chain says pro­ce­dures and train­ing were de­vel­oped in con­sul­ta­tion with doc­tors who pro­vide on­go­ing ad­vice, but physi­cians are not on­site.

That’s what both­ers Dr. Michael Brandt, a fa­cial plas­tic and re­con­struc­tive sur­geon in Toronto who won­ders about qual­ity and whether staff are able to ad­e­quately re­spond to med­i­cal emer­gen­cies.

“You wouldn’t sign up for surgery at a gro­cery store,” says Brandt, not­ing that while there are many ex­cel­lent providers in the field, the lu­cra­tive in­dus­try has also at­tracted less qual­i­fied prac­ti­tion­ers.

“All med­i­cal pro­ce­dures have indi­ca­tions, con­tra-indi­ca­tions, al­ter­na­tives and lim­its as to what each of those pro­ce­dures can pro­vide and with each of these pro­ce­dures you need to go through a very care­ful as­sess­ment of

Tthe pa­tient and then make an ac­cu­rate di­ag­no­sis. None of this is cookie cut­ter.”

And while nurse prac­ti­tion­ers have the author­ity to con­duct these beauty treat­ments, Brandt ques­tioned whether all of them should.

“Just be­cause a pro­fes­sional has the author­ity to per­form a pro­ce­dure does not au­to­mat­i­cally mean it is ap­pro­pri­ate to do so,” he says, not­ing there are nonethe­less very qual­i­fied nurse prac­ti­tion­ers in es­thet­ics. “Is it ap­pro­pri­ate for a nurse prac­ti­tioner to be per­form­ing surgery? They might have the ca­pac­ity to do it, they might be al­lowed as a del­e­gated act to do it, but most peo­ple would choose to have a sur­geon per­form their surgery.”

Brandt warned that if im­prop­erly ap­plied, lasers carry the risk of se­vere burns, scar­ring and dis­coloura­tions. If a filler is in­jected into a blood ves­sel, it can cause an oc­clu­sion of that ves­sel, killing any­thing it supplies.

Still, there’s no deny­ing that grow­ing pub­lic in­ter­est has ig­nited a spe­cial­ized in­dus­try pre­vi­ously the do­main of der­ma­tol­o­gists and plas­tic sur­geons.

Mil­ica Duran, a co-or­di­na­tor for the es­theti­cian pro­gram at Cen­ten­nial Col­lege in Toronto, calls it “the fastest grow­ing in­dus­try in the world.”

“Our num­bers and the in­ter­est has been sky­rock­et­ing,” she says of the school’s pro­grams, which in­cludes a spe­cial one for nurses en­ter­ing the field.

Job open­ings, too, are grow­ing: “Now we have more place­ment sites than stu­dents.”

She cred­its that to ad­ver­tise­ments, youth-ob­sessed im­ages on so­cial me­dia, and the ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.

“We have our baby boomers, we have more money here hap­pen­ing, more so­cial me­dia, more aware­ness, more ed­u­ca­tion,” Duran says.

“This is why so many nurses want to go into the field — there are so many doc­tors’ of­fices that can­not find qual­i­fied staff.”

Oakville es­theti­cian Cyn­thia Webb notes that while some der­ma­tol­o­gists and sur­geons do their own in­jec­tions, most del­e­gate to a nurse, such as her­self.

She works for a Toronto plas­tic sur­geon and con­ducts treat­ments in that clinic, as well as in her own clinic. She can’t help but won­der whether the re­tail gi­ant will erode busi­ness for in­de­pen­dent op­er­a­tions like hers.

She notes many pa­tient de­ci­sions are driven by cost, and that’s what can get them into trou­ble.

“When they call, the first thing they’ll ask is: ‘How much is a unit of Botox?’ Well, you’re not pay­ing for the Botox or the neu­ro­mod­u­la­tor or the filler. You’re pay­ing for the ex­pe­ri­ence of the prac­ti­tioner,” says Webb, a reg­is­tered nurse who sends all her pa­tients to a doc­tor for con­sults and fol­low-ups.

Shop­pers Drug Mart cus­tomers can earn PC Op­ti­mum points on a va­ri­ety of ser­vices, and Botox in­jec­tions start at $10 per unit.

Draper says prices are “in line with the mar­ket” and that the goal is not to be more com­pet­i­tive than the lit­tle guy.

“For us, this is re­ally about pro­vid­ing the ser­vice that our cus­tomers want in a trusted and con­ve­nient space and im­prov­ing on the beauty of­fer­ing that we have at the ta­ble.”

Duran isn’t sur­prised Shop­pers has en­tered the fray and guesses they will ex­pand rapidly be­yond the Oakville pi­lot and a Toronto lo­ca­tion set to open later this year.

“We’ve come so far with lasers, chem­i­cal peels and this is all very lu­cra­tive,” she says.

“All plas­tic sur­geons, all der­ma­tol­o­gists have ei­ther nurses or med­i­cal es­theti­cians work­ing for them, even GPs as well. Ev­ery­one’s in on it.”

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