Medical Aesthetics Goes Mainstream

Medical Aesthetics Goes Mainstream

1024 683 Tom Seery

In just the past month, nearly 10 million people from over 100 countries visited RealSelf to do aesthetic research and find doctors and clinics. The Internet is amazing in how information seamlessly crosses political and geographic boundaries. My long-term vision for RealSelf is to meet the needs of all of our site visitors. To do so requires international expansion and broadening the role we play in personal self-improvement and in connecting consumers with medical specialists. This is an important, transformative period we’ll have in our company’s history.

Driving a high rate of change requires innovation and taking risks by investing ahead of the curve, much like I did when starting RealSelf in 2006. At the time, aesthetics was in its relative infancy, and largely a story of surgical intervention. Allergan sold just one aesthetic product: Botox. David Pyott was a visionary, seeing aesthetics as a valuable, sustained market opportunity. Upon acquiring Inamed, he explained that it “will help us better serve the needs of our customers and address the growing demand among the `baby boomer’ generation for safe and effective products that enhance one’s well being and appearance.” Talk about foresight.

In recent years the rate of change in aesthetics has dramatically increased, especially in the non-surgical market, which is growing at double-digit rates and driving increased consumer demand. We’re certainly seeing the effects of this growth at RealSelf. In the past five years, the number of treatments RealSelf monitors through user reviews and treatment areas has grown 70% to more than 450, and traffic to RealSelf has grown more than 275% to 10 million monthly unique users.

As consumer interest and demand have responded to the surge in innovation, so have doctors and other providers:

  • ~40% of med-spas are attached to a plastic surgeon or physician’s practice (AmSpa, 2017)
  • Non-surgical treatments are outpacing surgical at a rate of nearly 8:1 (ASPS, 2017)
  • It’s estimated that over half of non-surgical treatments are conducted by non-core doctors and clinicians (multiple manufacturer sources)

RealSelf is also evolving based on these market factors along with consumer and doctor feedback, which are critical sources of insight for our team. For instance, several years ago we decided to allow “non-core” providers to list on RealSelf for non-surgical treatments. There were some business considerations in this change, but the primary driver came down to what consumers expected. We have an important responsibility to our users and to each of you to ensure RealSelf reflects what is happening in the real world every day. This means there are — and will continue to be — more medical and other credentialed voices in RealSelf over time. This is spelled out in detail in our guidelines for professional participation.

I recognize that for RealSelf to keep up with the pace of change in aesthetics and digital we also need to accelerate our rate of learning, whether it be experimentation on the RealSelf platform or sitting down with a doctor at a conference. I’ve challenged my team to increase dialogue with you and ask for more feedback. In addition to better listening, we are going to share much more about where we’re headed and what’s being worked on by our team. This blog will be a key vehicle we use to share these insights, which is why we named it Inside RealSelf.

Your feedback is incredibly important to us, and I encourage you to reach out if you have any questions or comments about our community expansion and…well, anything.

Thank you for your continued support. We have come a long way over the past decade, and I can’t wait to see where we go over the next 10 years.


P.S. I will be on the road over the next few weeks. Hope we have a chance to connect in-person. In the meantime, follow us on Instagram (@realself). I am at realself_tom.

RealSelf on the Road

  • Aesthetic Innovation Summit, April 24
  • ASAPS, April 25-28
  • Vegas Cosmetic Surgery, June 6-10


Tom Seery

Tom Seery is the founder and CEO of RealSelf, the most popular online resource that helps consumers research cosmetic treatments and find the right medical aesthetic provider. Each month RealSelf attracts 10 million unique visitors who view 50 million photos. Another 500,000 people contact doctors and clinics seeking more information or appointments. Integral to RealSelf is a model that showcases the expertise of aesthetic providers. Experts have posted two million answers to questions and routinely upload educational videos, and patient before & after photos. Prior to RealSelf, Tom was a member of the founding team at Expedia, where he conceived a $1.2b private-label travel business, launched the cruise travel line of business, and introduced search marketing long before Google was a household name. Tom sits on the board of ReSurge International, a nonprofit that builds plastic reconstructive surgical capacity in developing countries. He also regularly lectures on innovation and serves on the board of the entrepreneurship programs at the University of Washington. Tom holds an MS from Drexel University, MBA from University of Washington, and BA from Connecticut College. He resides in Seattle with his wife and two highly energetic boys. He is @seery on Twitter or @realself_tom on Instagram, should you wish to connect.

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