Keep up appearances: Sperling Dermatology had dark days when pandemic hit, but renewed interest fueled its best 6-month stretch ever

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When a wave of COVID-19 cases came to New Jersey, it meant Sperling Dermatology, like a lot of local businesses, had to get lean.

April, May and June and the reappearance of mothballed summer swimsuits was supposed to mark a time of big business for the specialists in medical, cosmetic, laser and surgical dermatology, especially their unique, noninvasive fat reduction treatment called CoolSculpting.

Instead, the pandemic left the Florham Park botox brand in need of a bottom-line facelift.

Ari Katz, who co-owns the business with his wife, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shari Sperling, said the pause on their business allowed them to trim what wouldn’t work, and focus on what might in a virus-stricken environment. It was the sort of deep dive that hadn’t been done since the 2016 launch of the business.

Sperling Dermatology reopened in June. (Sperling Dermatology)

Out of that reevaluation, the business restarted in June and recorded its best six months ever. It performed more than $3 million worth of elective cosmetic treatments, with a recent Black Friday promotion bringing in a total of $600,000.

“That’s enormous for a one-doctor business such as ours,” Katz said. “I’d venture to say we’ve done more cosmetic treatments than any provider in the country during this time.”

Katz credits a couple of different factors, starting with the pent-up demand that built up in the months following the dermatology center’s closure in March. As a nonessential business, the company had to furlough its entire staff — the week after it completed the long approval process involved in opening a new location on Red Bank’s Broad Street.

But, when it came back online, people hadn’t gotten out of the market for cosmetic surgery. Neither face masks, video conference pixelation nor anything else was enough to make people want it less.

“I think the crux of it — I’ll say in a joking way — is that nothing can stay between a Jersey woman and her botox,” Katz said.

Sperling Dermatology’s leaders came up with a creative way of easing clients back into services during the pandemic. It invested in a 25-foot-long sprinter van that it could use as a mobile treatment center and, as Katz describes it, a mobile spa.

The introduction of this mobile system brought an immediate torrent of requests, including from celebrities, for cosmetic procedures. One of the biggest drivers of Sperling Dermatology’s revenue is CoolSculpting, which is designed to freeze and eliminate fat cells in the body.

At the same time that people started looking into these services again, the social media cachet of this local brand was reaching an all-time high.

“And for a lot of competitors, COVID-19 wasn’t great for them,” Katz said. “They just didn’t bounce back. So, now, you have people searching for these services, and people find us faster with less competition for the same treatments.”

In all, Sperling Dermatology came out of the pandemic shutdown in a better position than ever. Katz said it’s a talented staff that allowed the business to make it through a few roller-coaster months of drama and, Katz will confess, tears. He doesn’t know what the next year will hold for the business, but he expects demand for the company’s services will only grow.

With the spread of the virus still having a deadly impact, Katz knows what the perception might be: There are more important things during a pandemic than botox.

Well, he agrees.

“On the other hand, no more judgments,” he said. “People are going to do what they want to make themselves feel good and happy in a difficult time. We’re not validating that’s all that should make someone feel good about themselves … but clients want to feel better when they look in the mirror. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.”