Acne products are a strong drugstore category because most consumers treat this problem themselves. In fact, said Frost & Sullivan, a New York City-based market research firm, 70% to 90% of consumers self-treat acne rather than contact a physician. However, in more serious cases, professional help is needed.
A recent study by Patient Searchlight, a Montvale, N.J.-based company that specializes in research with consumer health-care panels, also supports the view that consumers generally treat acne problems themselves. There are about three OTC acne product users to one Rx product user, said the company.
Among males, half of acne sufferers are youths (aged 10 to 15), while fewer than one-third of female acne sufferers are in this age group, said Bierce Riley, account executive at Patient Searchlight.
Boys report that acne problems peak at a fairly young age. By the age of 18 to 24, only one-fourth of males say that they suffer acne. Young women, on the other hand, are still saying they have acne in their late 20s. However, as Riley pointed out, these results derive from consumers’ own definitions of acne or lack of acne rather than objective observation. One person might regard one pimple as acne, she noted.
In the general population, acne is present in 68 out of 1,000 people, said F&S. It is estimated that 83% of those aged 17 to 25 and 69% of those aged 12 to 17 suffer some form of acne–and 60% of the affected population is female.
According to F&S, sales of OTC acne treatment products will hit $102 million by the end of this year. When Rxs are included, F&S predicts total sales for this category will be $265 million at the end of 1986. While OTCs are a strong part of the market, prescription drugs are more expensive and therefore generate more dollar volume. As for the future, F&S expects that sales of the OTC segment of the market will reach $928.5 million by 2020, while total sales will hit $3 billion.
Teen-age sales down: But, at present, there is some decline in sales of acne products as a result of the decreasing numbers of teen-agers in the population. According to one manufacturer, unit sales are down by 2%, although dollar sales of these products are up modestly (also 2%). It added that “the decline in unit sales corresponds to the decline in the teen-age population.”
What are manufacturers doing to counter this trend? For one thing, they are capitalizing on other demographic changes. For instance, since the 25- to 44-year-old segment of the population is growing, marketers are reformulating and repositioning products to appeal to this older age group.
New formulations In this connection, some manufacturers have been introducing products with ingredients that have less drying effects on the skin, an advantage for the more mature segment of the market. The Commerce Drug Division of Del Laboratories in Farmingdale, N.Y., for example, recently added aloe to its products and reduced the amount of alcohol in its cleanser.
“We are communicating a new message to consumers about our Propa P.H. line,” said Charles H. Hinkaty, the firm’s president. “We have Propa H.L. Low Alcohol Skin Cleanser with Aloe that deep cleanses without overdrying the skin. In addition, our Propa P.H. Maximum Strength Medicated Acne Cream with Aloe with Salicylic Acid (2%) is effective in treating the acne condition without irritating the skin.” So the message from Commerce is that these products are soothing and less likely to dry the skin.
Cleanser market growing: And, said Hinkaty, Commerce is not feeling the effects of the demographic shifts because the cleanser segment of the market “is showing a more substantial rate of growth than the teen population is showing. This leads us to the conclusion that perhaps use of the products is extending beyond just the traditional teen audience.” As an example of this growth, Hinkaty noted that the new Propa P.H. skin cleanser has had “double-digit growth since it was introduced last year.”
Norcliff Thayer Inc., Tarry-town, N.Y., is also seeing strength in the cleanser segment of the market, said Eileen Fischer, group marketing director. As a result, the firm has been putting more emphasis on its cleansers, pads, and soaps because they are used frequently as part of the daily cleaning regimen. (Salicylic acid is the active ingredient in Norcliff’s skin cleaning products.)
This past July, Norcliff introduced an Oxy Clean Maximum Strength Medicated Pad with 2% salicylic acid. “We’ve had an extremely positive reaction to the product,” said Fischer.
Meanwhile, Norcliff expects the decline in the teen population to be temporary. This segment of the population “will start to increase again in 2020,” Fischer predicted.
Tapping the adult market: Richardson-Vicks Inc., Wilton, Conn., began tapping the adult acne market two years ago with its launch of Clearasil Adult Care. With this introduction, the company hoped to capitalize on the large number of men and women in their 20s and 30s who still suffer from acne breakouts. While adult acne is less severe than that experienced by teens, it’s still a problem.
Clearasil Adult Care’s active ingredient is sulfur resorcinol, which “helps accelerate the resolution of an acne blemish when it occurs,” said Deborah Bennetts, director of communications. “Since it’s not used on a preventa tive basis, it doesn’t have to be applied daily,” she said, “and this reduces the drying effect of the treatment.”
Bennetts believes that drugstore retailers could increase sales of adult acne treatment products with a cross-merchandising strategy. She suggested placing acne treatment products in cosmetics departments. “If young women see these products in the cosmetics department, this might encourage impulse purchases,” she said.
Ad campaigns: While there aren’t a lot of new products on tap at the moment, some manufacturers are hoping to fuel sales with ad campaigns. Norcliff Thayer Inc. is running advertising now in which it emphasizes that benzoyl peroxide in its Oxy line (including Oxy-5, Oxy-10, and Oxy-10 cover) kills bacteria that cause acne. The campaign will include network and syndicated TV and radio advertising.
“We plan to continue to support our Oxy line and the cleansing products with trade and consumer promotions, TV, and radio, as we’ve done in the past,” said Fischer.
Commerce Drug is in the midst of a TV campaign, both network and spots covering 40 markets, for its Propa P.H. products. The advertising will reach “92% of consumers 7.5 times during the four months” of the campaign, said Hinkaty. “And the spending is at a higher level than in the past.”