Cashing in on cosmetic medicine

Beryl Reker is in her 60s, though she barely looks 43. She’s got help, it’s true. That 40ish-year-old-looking skin and glow is an amalgamation of education, medical-grade products, living right and a surgical touch or two. She’s the Medical Aesthetician at Aesthetics by Design in Englewood, but she’s also a living, breathing testament to a beautiful face that appears relaxed and natural. “Our primary goal is to have our clients look like themselves, only better,” she says.

Dr. Mario Imola employs Reker and owns both Colorado Facial Plastic Surgery and Aesthetics by Design. Imola is a cranial facial reconstructive surgeon and intimately knowledgeable about muscles, nerves and all other intricacies of a face. He brings more than 18 years of experience in treating facial trauma, including those suffering with birth defects and skull imperfections, to his cosmetic surgical practice.

Yet both Imola and Reker have watched their business and their treatments shift from mostly surgical-based procedures to products and less-invasive applications in the past half-dozen years. “Though we do a thriving surgical practice, we also continually learn new procedures,” Imola says. “And in the past few years, our practice went from one that was primarily reconstructive to one that’s now more cosmetic.”

Indeed, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) reported in February that U.S. cosmetic procedures rose 5 percent in 2012, representing growth in the industry for three consecutive years. Moreover, minimally invasive procedures like Botox and chemical peels rose 6 percent, while invasive procedures like rhinoplasty (nose reshaping) and breast augmentation decreased 2 percent.

The ASPS tracks the industry both nationally and by region, and Colorado’s Mountain Region reports a healthy 7.8 percent industry increase – compared with New England’s 5 percent and the East South Central region’s 4.2 percent increase.

And those cosmetic enhancements have never been more accessible. Med-spas are businesses that offer traditional beauty services, like hair and nail care, but add treatments performed by a medical professional, often a registered nurse, to
the mix. Injectables like Restalane, Juvederm and medical-grade facial peels are typical med-spa options.

Blondie’s the Beauty Shop, located in Denver’s Bonnie Brae neighborhood, offers clients all the expected hair care and manicure services. In July 2012, Blondie’s expanded its business with an on-site med-spa.

“We offer almost anything injectable – lip fillers and medical-grade peels, for example – which can all be done at one time,” says Blondie’s co-owner, Amy Lerge. “It’s a good business move for us because it’s an asset to our client. They don’t need to drive to four or five different places. It’s one-stop shopping. Those services are performed by registered nurses with years of experience. We took a long time building our med-spa.”

People want to look pretty, recession be damned, it seems. Few in Colorado’s cosmetic enhancement industry felt a significant or sustained slow-down in business despite the recent economic downturn. “My business is up overall,” says Carrie Ireland-Miller, who owns Specialized Aesthetics in Englewood. A registered nurse, Ireland-Miller has more than 15 years in the industry and offers medical-grade services and skin care.

“I’ve found that vanity never takes a holiday,” she says. “People don’t stop coming in, even in a recession.”

However, job competition during the economic stagnation may account for the change in cosmetic surgeons’ and aesthetic enhancement businesses’ clientele. Dr. John Grossman owns Grossman Plastic Surgery and is a cosmetic surgeon with facilities in Denver and Beverly Hills, Calif., and he has worked on many the celebrity, including royalty, often performing procedures on the other side of the globe.

“Forty years ago, the percentage of clientele that were men was perhaps 0.5 percent,” he says. “Today that percentage is more like 25 percent. Men are having eyelid, rhinoplasty, facelift and liposuction procedures. During the recent recession, our male population went up considerably. Men were trying to be competitive.”

Even those cosmetic upgrades that don’t involve surgery or medical-grade efforts have grown. Getting professional make-up application and instruction, skin services and facial treatments may seem like indulgences that get eliminated the minute the money belts tighten, but Michael Moore’s Cherry Creek-based Simply Moore’s business is booming.

“It’s amazing and we’re lucky,” Moore says. “We’ve had 100 percent increases every year – and we’ve been in Colorado for 11 years and in our Cherry Creek facility for nine of those years. We think our consistent growth is due to the level of service we give a person. They can see the value in a dollar.”

Dr. Edmon Khoury  is a Lone Tree-based cosmetic surgeon (Denver Cosmetic Surgery) who specializes in the aging face, with a clientele more advanced in age than the ages of the typical client of other surgeons. His practice focuses on face lifts and eyes. Khoury’s business, which includes several trips a year to perform services in Dubai, has never been better.

“We’ve kept a healthy baseline (of clientele), and we’ve grown through the recession,” he says. “We may have a speed bump when political and economic issues come up in the news. There may be a week or two when there’s a national sense of things not going well, and maybe our phones slow down, but that’s a short period. We have a great practice and no matter the economy, it’s full. I think we do great work and so we made it through the recession.”

Colorado may be faring well relative to the rest of the country’s cosmetic enhancement industry, but is it keeping up with the latest and greatest ways and methods to maintain that youthful look? A plethora of products hit the industry in seemingly non-stop waves of new and improved, and while Beverly Hills may be the beta-test site for avant guard facial upgrades, Colorado offers most any and all proven product and procedure found on either coast.

“Often, Los Angeles might offer procedures that are considered ‘cutting edge,’” Grossman says. “But it’s not that different than fashion. It might, at first, look kooky when it’s first seen on Wilshire Boulevard, but add another year and you’ll see it in Cherry Creek.

“There are no secrets in medicine,” he adds.

So what amid this wellspring of products and services accounts for Colorado’s booming cosmetic industry? Cutting edge (no pun intended) surgical procedures are certainly one boon to the business; surgical procedures have never been more sophisticated and are often less invasive than in years past, and Colorado enjoys access to most every procedure possible.

But the products, the non-invasive options, have never been better or more refined. Many medical-grade quality treatments can now be administered at home, and often can improve skin health. Combined with in-office laser, light or micro-needle procedures, the results can be remarkable, lasting and affordable.

Dermapen, for example, looks like a pen, is applied in-office and is said to reduce collagen and encourage skin repair. Reker’s menu includes Dermapen, but she also customizes patient plans that might include serums, technology, vitamins and peels that do everything from removing pre-cancerous cells to eliminating age spots.

“We’re not a cookie-cutter facility,” Reker says. “People come to us because they feel embraced by the staff. We also work to make all treatments as affordable as we can.”

When she speaks, she smiles from that youthful face, and you sense it’s true.  

For further information, visit:

(in order of appearance in story)

Aesthetics by Design and Colorado Facial Plastic Surgery

American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Specialized Aesthetics

Blondies the Beauty Shop

Grossman Plastic Surgery

Simply Moore

Denver Cosmetic Surgery