Growing Skin Clinic Concept Skin Pharm Brings A Stylish Touch—And Lots Of Niacinamide—To Cosmetic Dermatology
Before founding skin clinic concept Skin Pharm in 2017, Maegan Griffin worked in dermatology and plastic surgery. While there’s definitely a correlation between her past and current ventures, direct experience in the field wasn’t the only impetus for the nurse practitioner to establish her own practice and, eventually, a skincare brand.
“I launched within six months of having the idea,” she says. “I think a lot of what kicked my butt into gear was having my first child. That was such an empowering moment. After pregnancy and delivery, I was like, ‘If I can do that, I can do anything.’” Griffin’s initial vision was to found a clinic in her hometown of Nashville that felt simultaneously more comfortable and more stylish than a typical dermatologist’s or plastic surgeon’s office. “I really enjoyed my time practicing both specialties,” she says. “However, I just wasn’t able to find anywhere that I would want to go as a patient myself. So, that’s what really sparked my interest in starting Skin Pharm.”
In medical dermatology clinics, Griffin witnessed a fast-paced model that saw providers meeting with some 40 patients a day for mere minutes at a time. “That’s what’s necessary for them to survive,” she says. “That’s the practice model, but, as a patient, you can kind of feel like [the visit] was super quick, and you weren’t given that much of [the provider’s] undivided attention.”
On the plastic surgery side, Griffin detected a disconnect between treatments and contemporary beauty preferences. “They’re doing things like free tissue transfers,” she explained. “So, these people have severe wounds; there’s diabetic ulcers, breast-cancer repair, and it tends to be so invasive that by the time you go into a room for a 30- or 40-something-year-old, and they just want a dusting of Botox, there was always a heavy hand,” she says. “They didn’t really know how to pull back and do these preventative skincare treatments. There really wasn’t any meeting in the middle.”
In 2017, Griffin opened Skin Pharm’s first location in Nashville just around the corner from her house. Two years later, the clinic moved to its current flagship location. Griffin says, “A patient who came in just said it perfectly. They said, ‘It’s just an experience from the minute you walk in to when you talk to the front desk to when you see your provider to if you run to the chic restroom.'”
Griffin orchestrates Skin Pharm’s interior design, a creative outlet for her. “We’re hip. We’re on-trend. We’re constantly working on the interior design. I’ll come in and throw up a new piece of artwork probably every six months,” she says. “I find the interior to be livable, but still professional. We’re doing these sterile, minimally invasive treatments, but, at the same time, people will say it doesn’t doctor’s-office-y, and I know they mean that in a very good way. It’s just that it’s comfortable. When they come, they want to stay a little while.”
Among the services offered at Skin Pharm are Botox, Dysport, microneedling, chemical peels, personalized skin consultations and a Gold Infusion treatment that uses a gentle stamping method to deliver hydrating ingredients and Botox into the skin. Skin Pharm employs nurse practitioners and physicians assistants as its providers, and it can dispense prescriptions, but generally doesn’t.
“It’s not that we don’t believe in prescriptions, but it’s not usually our first-line choice,” says Griffin. “Usually, we’re going to try to give you a luxurious serum that you’re going to want to use every day. Those tend to be a little more fun than a two-gel prescription. We’ve had plenty of times where we do need to supplement with a quick course of an oral antibiotic, and we’re able to do that. I love that we can really meet in the middle of what I used to practice.”
An on-site boutique carries goods from the Skin Pharm product line, which Griffin founded in 2018. She says the desire to develop a skincare collection stemmed from the same pain points that drove her to do the clinic. “I had been exposed to plenty of great skincare lines and medical-grade lines that we were administering to our patients at the time, but I could never invest in just one. I was never comfortable saying, ‘This provides all of the essentials that you need, but no less or no more,'” she says. “It was either too much and too many steps or there wasn’t enough, and we were missing an SPF people would actually want to use every day. The best SPF for you is the one that you actually want to apply. It did just organically happen in that we realized that we needed a skincare line to go along with these in-clinic treatments that we were doing.”
Sold via direct-to-consumer distribution, Skin Pharm product line kicked off with Papaya Enzyme Cleanser ($40) and has grown to contain nearly 30 stockkeeping units. Hero products include brightening Clarifying Pads ($50), and Youth Serum ($115), which is undergoing a reformulation that will be rolled out in September.
Youth Serum’s forthcoming formula will feature the popular ingredient niacinamide. “It just does everything for the skin,” says Griffin. The product will also contain a derivative of azelaic acid, an ingredient she plans to lace through Skin Pharm’s entire line going forward. The tweaked serum will be four times as strong as its predecessor, but Griffin says it’s “still very gentle and soothing. Overall, the formulation is slightly improved, and it’s even better for acne and rosacea. We just see tons of that in our clinics.”
In 2020, Skin Pharm opened a clinic in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. A Dallas outpost in the ritzy Turtle Creek neighborhood followed in 2021. In 2022, a Charlotte location is slated to open. Skin Pharm joins a growing field of cosmetic dermatology studios from the likes of Ject, Ever/Body and Alchemy 43. According to recent article in Business of Fashion, a Zoom boom has bolstered the studios amid the pandemic as clients continually staring at themselves on computers flock to them for tweaks to their appearance. Skin Pharm’s revenues have been doubling annually.
Other skin clinic companies have raised big money—Ever/Body pulled in $38 million in series B funding—but Skin Pharm is self-funded. “It’s really a labor of love,” says Griffin. “We’re doing this because we’re passionate, and we care. This isn’t because we have people breathing down our necks, telling us that we need to grow at a certain rate. I’m so close to it that I actually really want to maintain culture and make sure that we never grow too fast.”
That doesn’t mean that Skin Pharm is slowing down. “The skincare line is just so well-informed by these real patients coming in with these skin concerns, so it works hand-in-hand,” says Griffin.“We don’t want to have our plates too full, but we decided that it really would be a shame if we didn’t continue to grow.”