A whole-health approach to skin care: Could hormones explain your skin issues?

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Apr 21, 2022

Skin health often reflects our internal health, and many skin issues are driven by hormonal imbalances. Yet, when individuals go to the dermatologist, few have their hormones tested. This is the result of how we train providers to treat problems through the lens of their specialty. Dermatologists don’t generally cross-specialize in endocrinology. As a result, dermatologists presented with skin issues treat the skin, not hormones. 

In line with the trend towards whole-health care in the US, an innovative company, Veracity Selfcare, is taking a different approach to skin health: looking underneath the customer’s skin at the role hormones play in one’s skin symptoms. Based on the results of its at-home hormone test, Veracity guides customers to science-based solutions that can address their prevailing skin symptoms. Guidance comes in the form of personalized product suggestions, plus minimal nutrition and lifestyle advice to improve hormone balance. 

Veracity—a company that operates outside of the traditional medical ecosystem—mostly competes with other skin care companies offering topical solutions for aesthetic skin issues. Given its focus on the underlying causes of skin health, in this analysis, I’ll assess Veracity’s disruptive potential compared to seeing a dermatologist for aesthetic skin problems. 

Does its whole-health approach to skin care pose disruptive potential in the health care market? We put Veracity to our six-question test to find out. 

1. Does it target people whose only alternative is to buy nothing at all (nonconsumers) or who are overserved by existing offerings in the market?

Yes. When individuals encounter skin issues they are unable to resolve with over the counter skin care products, they often seek out a dermatologist. Yet, a dermatologist often “resolves” these problems with prescription strength medications. Steroids are one example. They can be helpful, but they often require ongoing use and come with a list of potential side effects. In this example, customers are overserved by the existing offering as they receive both the benefit of the prescription, but also a potential slew of undesired results. Additionally, as wait lists for dermatologists are long—and visits often expensive—many forgo the doctor’s office and are nonconsumers of this type of medical care altogether. 

Veracity provides a whole-health, personalized alternative to seeing a dermatologist for certain skin issues with its Skin + Health test. The test arrives in the mail, consumers spit into a tube, mail their sample back to Veracity, and it is analyzed in a lab before one’s personal hormone levels, product suggestions, and lifestyle advice are delivered back to the consumer via email.  

2. Is the offering not as good as existing offerings as judged by historical measures of performance?

No. Given the subjective nature of skin improvement results, this is both hard to judge and differs based on the skin issue one is addressing. While Veracity may provide a customer with better results for dry skin than they would have realized by seeing a dermatologist, they may receive worse results for acne, or vice versa. Given the subjectivity inherent in assessing skin improvement, we’ll say “no.” 

3. Is the innovation simpler to use, more convenient, or more affordable than existing offerings?

Yes. Veracity’s Skin + Health test is simpler to use and more convenient. First, the ability to spit in a tube on one’s own time, mail it back (in a prepaid return envelope), and receive results via email is easier than aligning schedules with a doctor for either an in-person or virtual visit. Second, there is no requirement to leave one’s home or travel anywhere. Third, as product recommendations are based on an individual’s personal hormone results, there should be less trial and error to find a product that leads to the desired results. Less trial and error means a simpler customer experience—and potentially a more affordable one. 

At $149, the Skin + Health test is also potentially more affordable than a dermatology visit. While estimates vary and have likely escalated in recent years, dermatology visits can average $221. This cost is approximately 50% more than Veracity’s test to understand your hormone levels and receive personalized product recommendations based on your results. 

4. Does the offering have a technology that enables it to improve and capture a larger market over time?

Yes. Veracity is currently the only hormone-based skin care solution on the market, enabled by its testing technology combined with its database and recommendation engine. It would be reasonable for Veracity to leverage this combination to expand its services to offer a whole-health approach to self care, including more detailed nutrition and lifestyle advice. While their current offering could be a replacement for a dermatology visit, expansion of their offerings could allow it to capture a larger market, potentially replacing nutrition services as well. 

5. Is the technology paired with an innovative business model that allows it to be sustainable?

Yes. While Veracity’s test and product recommendations don’t require a visit to a doctor, users benefit from the knowledge that their results are reviewed by a doctor. In traditional medical business models, doctors are the central resource delivering value to the consumer. In Veracity’s model, the role of the physician is much smaller, and therefore, their time is less of a cost driver. Veracity leverages limited physician input plus lower cost resources including its hormone test, database, and recommendation engine to put insights into consumers’ hands.

6. Are existing providers motivated to ignore the new innovation and not feel threatened by it at the outset?

Yes. Dermatologists are in high demand, and between 2009 and 2017 wait times to see a dermatologist increased 46% to an average of over 30 days. Given the high demand for their services, dermatologists are unlikely to pay attention to a non-traditional offering such as Veracity. As a result, they will likely ignore it and not feel threatened by its existence. 

Models like Veracity serve as a reminder to incumbent providers that disruption can come from outside the industry, and it doesn’t target your “best” customers. Given the enhanced role of consumerism in health care, and the increased accessibility and prevalence of at-home testing, Veracity will not be the last “outsider” to capture the opportunity to offer previous nonconsumers or over-served patients a more innovative way to solve their health problems. In the interim, Veracity is one innovator worth watching. 

Ann Somers Hogg is a senior research fellow at the Christensen Institute. She focuses on business model innovation and disruption in health care, including how to transform a sick care system to one that values and incentivizes total health.