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Transforming the beauty narrative

Merz Asia Pacific aims to meet new demands in aesthetics with science-backed innovations

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‘Here at Merz Asia Pacific, we seek to change that narrative: our top priority is to empower each individual towards embracing the best version of themselves.' - Lawrence Siow, CEO Merz Asia Pacific.

MERZ is on a mission to reshape the aesthetics industry's prevailing narrative. "Attention is focused on inadequacies, on correction of flaws or even on conforming to a perceived standard of beauty. Here at Merz Asia Pacific, we seek to change that narrative: our top priority is to empower each individual towards embracing the best version of themselves," says Lawrence Siow, CEO Merz Asia Pacific.

"At Merz, we simply sell our mission - we want to help people around the world live better, feel better and look better," he says. And he believes Merz, with more than a hundred years in beauty and skin health, is well-placed to achieve this.

Committed to science and customers

"First, we are dedicated to 'true' innovations that are backed by science - products that are safe, effective and of high-quality," he says. "Second, we want to develop relationships with our customers and patients that are long-lasting and based on trust," says Mr Siow. This is especially key since, in aesthetics, customers and patients have plenty of options. Which is why, as the Merz Asia Pacific CEO, overseeing a staff of 300, Mr Siow is prioritising innovation, and a commitment to customers and colleagues.

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As Merz evolved from a mid-sized pharmaceutical company into a global leader in aesthetics and neurotoxins, it has been growing rapidly its direct presence in major markets - including ones across the Asia-Pacific - by working with local partners.

Merz's aesthetics products are currently sold across Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, India and Vietnam, while its over-the-counter business is primarily in China, India and Korea.

Its regional headquarters here in Singapore - which houses functions from marketing, scientific affairs and regulatory affairs, to human resources, legal and compliance - allows Merz to roll out smoothly strategies conceptualised at the regional level, Mr Siow says.

Countering stigma, pursuing growth

And Merz continues to expect good growth, especially in markets such as Korea, Australia and Thailand. "We are also seeing good momentum in the Philippines and Indonesia, where there is growing acceptance of aesthetic treatments."

In fact, Merz is countering head-on any stigma against medical aesthetic treatments. Recently, it ran a social campaign, featuring the stories of 11 women from 11 countries across Asia-Pacific and their experiences with Merz's treatments.

The goal was to start a conversation that encourages people to view such treatments as "not that different from other ways of enhancing one's beauty, such as makeup, hair and fashion styling, or going to the gym for exercise", says Mr Siow.

Apart from campaigns to kickstart conversations redefining beauty, Merz is also ready to ride the latest trends in medical aesthetics.

Patients seeking alternatives to surgical options with long recovery periods are now showing more interest in non-invasive treatments. Those desiring to prolong youth seek preventive rather than corrective measures - patients in their 20s and 30s request fillers and botulinum toxins before lines become apparent. And, combination anti-ageing treatments are becoming more popular as patients pursue several treatments to optimise results.

Mr Siow believes that Merz - which has been actively acquiring companies - has built up a curated portfolio of products for the face and body that puts it in good stead to ride these key trends.

For instance, Ultherapy - the world's only US FDA-cleared ultrasound treatment that aims to lift skin in a non-invasive way - has offered more than one million treatments worldwide.

Dermal fillers such as Radiesse, a filler for biostimulation that is calcium hydroxylapatite-based and also cleared by US FDA, as well as Belotero, an advanced dermal filler made of hyaluronic acid, have also gained popularity.

And, as pure botulinum toxins that are free of complexing protein becomes the gold standard in injectables, Merz offers Xeomin, a US FDA-approved botulinum toxin.

Tackling challenges

Success has brought its share of challenges though - Ultherapy's popularity has given rise to counterfeits. "Merz has supported the authorities in Singapore, China and Hong Kong to conduct raids at tradeshows, in factories, offices and warehouses, as well as in beauty salons and clinics across the region," says Mr Siow. Counterfeit products have been seized, fines levied and numerous arrests made.

Apart from seeking legal enforcement, Merz also runs "authenticity campaigns" to raise awareness among doctors and consumers. "Merz will continually innovate and practice evidence-backed science. Not only for getting the best products, but also to improve the way we train the users of our products," says Mr Siow.

Globally, Merz now spends about 12.5 per cent of its one-billion-euro (S$1.53 billion) annual revenue on research and development. It has also launched the Merz Corporate Venture Capital Initiative, which offers funding to early stage startups that are developing technology relevant to Merz's business.

What these strategies come down to though is still that shift in narrative among consumers and potential consumers, when it comes to beauty. "We hope to nudge each individual to realise his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and with that, to embark on a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance," says Mr Siow.