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Acne is one of the most common skin conditions, affecting almost everyone at some point, usually during puberty or adolescence. According to the British Skin Foundation (BSF), this condition affects as many as eight in 10 people between the ages of 11 and 30.
The condition is less prevalent in adults – it affects about 5% of women and 1% of men – but anecdotal evidence suggests more people are getting acne later in life. A report in the Daily Telegraph in 2016 said that cases of adult acne had increased by 200%, and quoted a doctor, from a private skin clinic in London, who said the spike was ‘like an epidemic’.
According to a 2017 study by market researchers ReportLinker, more than 680 million people had acne is 2016, up almost 10% from the 2006 figure of 612 million.
The same study put the cost of acne – in terms of treatment and loss of productivity – at more than £2.2bn a year. Another report valued the market for acne treatment in 2016 at £3.6bn.
Since the symptoms of the condition are visible, it can be a major source of embarrassment and stress for those affected.
On the NHS’s website, its advice on the condition says: ‘Several creams, lotions and gels for treating spots are available at pharmacies. If you develop acne, it’s a good idea to speak to your pharmacist for advice.’
Of course, pharmacies regularly provide advice and treatment for acne. However, few – if any – provide a specific service, as they might for, say, weight management, flu vaccination or smoking cessation.
The closest offering to an acne service appears to be LloydsPharmacy’s skin analysis service. Anshu Bhimbat, a pharmacist at a Buckinghamshire LloydsPharmacy, describes it as ‘a test that looks at your skin as a whole’.
It’s a free service conducted by a pharmacist or a healthcare assistant, who will place a probe on the patient’s face at four points to check their skin for hydration, pH, elasticity, sebum, temperature and melanin levels.
‘According to the results, skincare advice can be given,’says Ms Bhimbat.
‘If hydration is low, we will recommend hydrating emollient creams or generally increasing water intake. If the pH level is low or high, a similar thing could be suggested.’
She says acne is ‘something that can be dealt with in pharmacy initially… it’s one of the self-treatable conditions that don’t necessarily need referral to a GP’.
While Ms Bhimbat stresses that LloydsPharmacy’s main concern is ‘to make sure we’re giving the correct healthcare advice’, she says the skin analysis service may end with a sale.
So, should independent community pharmacies take a leaf out of the multiple’s book and do more to serve those with acne — and find an extra revenue stream?
Author: Vincent Forrester