From the annual congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, Paris
Dermatology has a split personality these days. One personality is focused and driven, hard at work doing research that is slowly improving our understanding of a host of skin conditions and diseases that can inflict unimaginable suffering on patients. The other personality is charming and worldly, chasing after the ever-elusive goals of perfecting beauty and looking young indefinitely.
Walking around the exhibition halls here at the annual congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology in Paris, it’s clear that there’s a tremendous amount of money invested in and to be made from the beauty side of dermatology. The booths generating the most traffic were those giving out the best freebies. Lancome, Roc, L’Oreal—they all had long lines.
It’s not just cosmetics that generated interest though. Booths featuring fillers, lasers, phototherapy, ultrasonic liposuction, and machines to mechanically breakdown cellulite drew crowds with demonstrations. On the disease side of things, it’s only the companies with expensive biologic therapies to promote that can spend money on large booths. They’re all here—infliximab (Remicade), adalimumab (Humira), etanercept (Enbrel), and efalizumab (Raptiva).
It’s a different story in the poster halls though. Very little space here is taken up by fillers, laser resurfacing, or other anti-aging techniques. In the poster halls, the walls are covered with case reports, clinical trial data, genetic analyses, and epidemiologic studies on the big-name diseases (melanoma, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, acne) and very rare conditions.
Interestingly, what both personalities of dermatology share are gruesome and disturbing pictures. There’s been no shortage here. Perversely, the disease side of dermatology features pictures of horrible skin conditions that research is making some headway in ameliorating, while on the beauty side the unpleasant pictures are part of the cure. Laser resurfacing or phototherapy or skin peels might ultimately result in fewer wrinkles and better skin tone but the cure sure looks worse than the “disease.”