ATLANTA

The idea of aging freaks me out a little. OK, a lot. So I dragged Pamela, my close friend and colleague, to the mall to check out the hype on Elizabeth Arden's Alpha-Ceramide four-step treatment, the newest cure for aging skin.

First stop: Rich's at Lenox Square Mall. Oversized green bottles embellished with Arden's insignia were encased in secure lucite boxes.

We lingered about five minutes at the Arden counter eagerly awaiting someone's attention. Finally, a loud Southern drawl pierced the air.

"Do you need some help?" yelled a woman with a blond crew cut from three counters over. We gave her a nod and asked her to tell us about Arden's fountain of youth.

She didn't push or nag, but she was emphatic that no other beauty company markets anything like Alpha-Ceramide. For $55, I'd get step 4 of the product with a 7.5 percent acid concentration, which she said was the highest on the market. As a bonus gift, I'd get the first three steps, which have increasing concentrations.

Our resources were limited though. We decided to think about the purchase and continued our shopping, winding up at Parisian.

A horde of women were at the Arden counter trying to get their hands on Alpha-Ceramide. As Pam and I stepped closer to the counter, a smiling saleswomen descended upon us.

She was all over the product, ranting and raving about its miraculous effects, enumerating facts, drawing us in. She seemed to have a sixth sense for detecting when to back off and let us think and talk between ourselves.

"Right now, if you purchase step four, you get steps one through three free," she said. "And starting the 24th, with any $17 purchase, you also get the whispering blush, matte velvet lipstick, bath and shower gel and a neat black and white tote to go with it."

She definitely had a firm grip on the know-hows of selling a product and kindly let me know that Alpha-Ceramide doesn't only act as a treatment for the elasticity of my skin, but that "it will help clear up some of those blemishes as well."

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