The journey – a 25 year history of the UK cosmetic industry

2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the Hamilton Fraser family. Created as a niche insurance broker in 1996 the fledgling company’s clutch of commercial clients included a few medical practitioners, mainly nurses, who were practising in a new health and beauty sector, aesthetic medicine.

The journey – a 25 year history of renting in the UK

Back in 1996, the burgeoning aesthetics industry in the UK was being stifled by red tape, with unaffordable insurance premiums making entry into the market and sustainability, almost impossible. Hamilton Fraser relentlessly ‘knocked on doors’ until they found and forged relationships with other forward-thinking professionals; those that believed in the potential of the sector as much as they did.

The dominance Hamilton Fraser has enjoyed within the aesthetic sector is irrefutable. Since 1996, the business has innovated, educated and ultimately led the sector and, in many ways helped create elements of the aesthetics industry the UK enjoys today. Hamilton Fraser took a niche industry, recognised the opportunity it represented and helped turn it into a thriving sector worth £2.75 billion in the UK.

Together with its private rented sector business, Hamilton Fraser now employs more than 200 staff who look after more than 500,000 individual customers. In celebration of these milestones, the following chronicles the part the company has played in the inception and the seemingly unstoppable rise of the aesthetic and cosmetic industry.

The journey – a 25 year history of the UK cosmetic industry

There’s a lot of information here, but you can skip ahead using the menu below:

The evolution of the cosmetic and aesthetic sector

War. (What is it good for?)

Throughout history civilisations and individuals have always taken an interest in their appearance. Cosmetic improvements and aesthetic enhancements of people’s bodies can be traced back to antiquity, with references to procedures taking place during the height of both the Egyptian and Roman empires, and plastic surgery dating back to 800 B.C. in Ancient India.

Almost every civilisation has documented reconstructive techniques for numerous facial defects, be it noses, ears, lips or eyes. But it is American surgeon John Peter Mettauer who is often recognised as the pioneer of cosmetic surgery, carrying out a cleft palate operation in 1827 with self-designed instruments.

The journey – a 25 year history of the UK cosmetic industry

Necessity is often called the ‘mother of invention’ and very often the catalysts for essential innovation have been wars. As conflicts became increasingly industrialised from the 19th century, the unprecedented number of disfiguring injuries sustained brought about the rapid development of reconstructive surgery techniques, anaesthesia and more hygienic processes.

Surgeon Harold Gillies’ work developing facial reconstructive surgery following the huge rise in the number of drastic facial injuries in the first world war (1914-18) marked the dawn of cosmetic surgery as we know it today.

From silicone valleys to the mainstream

The decades that followed the second world war (1939-45) saw plastic surgery become increasingly popular and more respectable in the medical community. Silicone initially used for breast implants for the first time in 1962 was swiftly adapted for other surgical procedures. With increased prosperity surgeries moved into the mainstream.

Dermal filler procedures were first carried out in the 1970s when various animal collagens had been researched and tested enough to use on humans and collagen injections and implants were introduced.

The journey – a 25 year history of the UK cosmetic industry

Get a cosmetic insurance quote

Leave your details, we'll give you a callback to provide a quote

The changing face of cosmetics

In the late 1980s, an alternative to cosmetic surgery was offered in the form of non-surgical procedures. Also referred to as ‘non-invasive’, these procedures include anti-wrinkle treatment, lip enhancement and cheek and chin augmentation. The original injectable wrinkle relaxer botulinum toxin type A (Botox) was first introduced onto the market in 1989.

Initially the sole preserve of celebrities and the wealthy, increased media coverage and general acceptance, combined with greater affordability and the non-permanence of the treatment, saw non-invasive procedures move quickly increase their popularity.

From wrinkle relaxing injections to dermal fillers, laser hair removal, chemical peels and non-surgical fat removal, the non-invasive cosmetic sector shows no sign of abating in the UK, not least due to their ready adoption by millennials.

But how did the aesthetic and cosmetic industry initially take off in the UK? How was a start-up insurance broker, with a handful of clients, so vital in its early adoption? And how did that insurance broker come to lead the industry for 25 years?

The journey – a 25 year history of the UK cosmetic industry

Hamilton Fraser Cosmetic Insurance

In 1996, Hamilton Fraser opened its doors for business in a small office in High Barnet, North London. In the same year a small but growing aesthetic medical market in the UK was dominated by wrinkle-busting collagen injections supplied by manufacturers such as Q-Med, Allergan and Collagen Aesthetics.

Get a cosmetic insurance quote

Leave your details, we'll give you a callback to provide a quote

Releasing a suffocated industry

The aesthetics industry was being held back by the lack of relevant and affordable malpractice insurance cover. Medical practitioners needed to obtain a form of insurance from medical membership bodies and the pricing was based on the area of medicine that was practised.

So new was the branch of medicine that the membership bodies classed the risks – and the premiums – based on those for invasive reconstructive plastic surgery.

  • Premiums were set at around £20,000 per year
  • The average earnings of a practitioner at this time were less than £15,000 per year

The journey – a 25 year history of the UK cosmetic industry

After much searching a small Lloyds underwriting business that specialised purely in medical malpractice in the UK and emerging territories called Marketform was found.

They were an innovative insurer looking for new opportunities, a perfect match for Hamilton Fraser. Insurance for collagen injections set at £1,000 a year ensured this insurance was an instant hit.

Spreading the word

With an affordable and relevant insurance product now available, in the late 1990s Hamilton Fraser went about cementing their position with an ever-expanding customer base.

To do this the company needed to better understand the new aesthetic products and procedures finding their way onto the market.

So ensued numerous meetings with both manufacturers and the practitioners.

A regular monthly slot in the training department of Collagen Aesthetics was therefore secured. Speaking to newly trained nurses about insurance helped the Hamilton Fraser name to gain traction within the industry and this created a knock-on effect of recommendations and further networking invitations.

Eventually, this escalated to speaking engagements at the Royal College of Physicians in London and the International University of Monaco.