Skincare is an opportunity for pharmacies to make up for lost profit on prescription supply. Deborah Evans explains…


The skin is the body’s largest organ. It is our first line of defence against infections, and its overall health, look and feel has a great emotional effect on people at all stages of life.

Visible aging in our society has sparked a renewed focus on the role of skin health and the impact on how others perceive us as well as how we see ourselves.

With GPs less likely to prescribe skincare products, community pharmacists and their teams have a great opportunity to improve their sales by helping their customers understand how to manage their skin, whether it be for cosmetic or healthcare reasons.

Skincare presents an opportunity for community pharmacies facing funding cuts to sell higher margin lines to make up for lost profit on prescription supply.

However, business owners must make an informed decision about which products and lines to stock based on the local market opportunity, consumers need and an understanding of how to optimise growth through training, motivation and merchandising. Simply putting these products on the shelves will not guarantee success.

The UK Health & Beauty Market 2017-2022 forecasts that the annual spend per head will rise by £73 to £487 over this five-year period. The report also predicts that skincare will be the fastest growing subsector rising 27.9%, with much of this due to product innovation in both the mass and premium markets. Now is the time to keep on top of health and skincare trends, or risk losing out to competitors.

As with any category, it is critical to know your customers and where the opportunity exists in your local community. The health & beauty market remains very female dominated, with 78.0% of females buying into the category in the past year, compared to 41.5% of males.

However, the male facial care market is growing fastest and is an area to consider for growth. Body care products including sun care represent 20% of total skincare sales and is an additional area where pharmacy can differentiate with added value associated with being a trusted healthcare professional.

Growth can be achieved in the skincare category with existing customers:

• Prevention – linked to general health and wellbeing. We can support individuals on issues such as sun damage, stretch marks and scarring.
• Maintenance – people with problem skin need to maintain their skin every day to help minimize any ongoing issues e.g. additional emollients and bath oils, barrier cream for incontinence.
• Enhance treatment – adjunctive therapy to the treatments the doctor has prescribed e.g. acne skincare products.
• Support – advice to support compliance and to get better results e.g. how to apply emollients for best effect.

To make the most out of your skincare category and increase average customer transaction value, consider:

• Setting up regular health promotion displays, focusing on a specific skin concern and potentially linked to national promotion activity such as National Eczema Week and National Body Confidence Day.
• Refresh your displays with different themes including skincare concerns (e.g. sensitive skin, anti-aging), dry, seasonality (e.g. sun damage prevention, winter dry skin conditions) and specific skin complaints (e.g. acne, psoriasis, eczema in babies, stretchmarks, scarring).
• Feature the best sellers and sizes in each brand and focus on a specific skin concern.
• Avoid overstocking the category, perhaps focussing on the top 2-3, including one other that you and your team particularly advocate and use.
• Consider having your most popular recommendation packs available for testing.
• Ensure you pharmacy staff are well trained in the basics of skincare to keep communication consistent, build trust amongst customers and enable confident staff.
• Let your team try different products and report back to each other what they think of them.
• Engage patients in a skincare conversation and encourage your team to do the same. Ask patients with certain skincare medications or conditions what they are currently using to manage symptoms or adverse effects.
• Once the customer is given a product they like the feel of and gives them results, they’ll come back and buy it again. Not only because they’re good, effective products, but because they’re teamed with trusted pharmacist advice. Ask them to come back to you.
• Be up-to-date so that you can demonstrate your expertise.

A recent survey by Bio-Oil revealed pharmacists felt that they were the best placed healthcare professional after dermatologists to offer advice on skincare such as scar aftercare. Skincare offers a great opportunity for the sector to add value, make a difference to people and build the business.


Deborah Evans is managing director of Pharmacy Complete and a practising community pharmacist.

New training resources launched to support pharmacists
To help pharmacists feel confident discussing skin conditions such as scars and stretch marks with their patients, Bio-Oil has created a suite of new educational materials including a series of training videos, an A-Z Scar Guide and a recently-launched Pharmacy Leaflet to help all pharmacy staff advise customers about scars and stretch marks and provide tips on how to approach these topics sensitively.
The materials are intended to help healthcare professionals develop their knowledge around the management of scars and stretch marks and equip them with the skills to help patients confidently manage their skin conditions. Created in collaboration with clinical experts, the materials can be viewed and downloaded at