NEW YORK -- When Elizabeth Arden launched Alpha-Ceramide last month, it took alpha-hydroxy acid skin care to a new level: The company claims the item has the highest AHA concentration of any product in department stores.

While Arden hopes Alpha-Ceramide will attract consumers looking for strong product efficacy, one possible drawback is the fear that discomfort might be increased by the heavy dosage.

"What [Arden] has to do is ease the fear of irritation by being very clear in the information they give to the customer," said Jane Scott, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Bloomingdale's.

WWD sent reporters to stores across the country, as well as in Paris and London, to see how Arden's beauty advisers were presenting Alpha-Ceramide in its initial days on the market.

LONDON

On a fine, crisp day I sauntered along London's Oxford Street to the Debenhams department store flagship.

The medium-sized beauty hall takes up the front half of the ground floor. The Elizabeth Arden area is not one of the biggest counters, but the space seemed to have been used very well, though it was a little sparse.

The only items on the countertop were the Arden color cosmetics display and a collection of Arden's Millenium treatments. Products were clearly visible on shelves behind the counter, however, and in the glass display counters at the front.

One sales assistant was in the process of closing a sale. The other, who seemed more senior, let me browse for about 30 seconds before coming to help me. I explained I was having problems with my skin drying out in the cold, polluted atmosphere of London, and I asked for her advice.

She immediately started to tell me all about the benefits of the Ceramide range. "The creams contain ceramides, like your skin," she said. "They help to lift the skin so that the moisturizer can get in."

She said that the Ceramide Time Complex Capsules are good for the face and neck. "They also contain an exfoliator," she said.

Concerned about irritation, I queried if the regimen is safe for everyday use.

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