By  on January 14, 2005

NEW YORK — In an extreme example of counter-intuitive beauty marketing, a Costa Mesa-based skin care concern is recommending clients bake under an ultrahigh-beam light box aimed directly at their faces. And here’s the even wackier part: The 20-minute procedure, dubbed Lumière and marketed through tanning salons, is meant to remove wrinkles — not create them.

Based on the concept of “photodynamic therapy,” the Lumière treatment was created in conjunction with companion ranges of skin care and nutritional supplements. When partnered with proprietary “photoceuticals” and “nutraceuticals,” the Lumière device, which delivers red light rays of 633 nanometers, is said to restore damaged skin cells to their more energized, youthful, original state.

According to Raymond Mead, chief executive officer of RAI Inc., which markets Lumière, the premise of the new procedure borrows heavily from mid-Nineties light-wave data gleaned from the U.K.’s Paterson Institute for Cancer Research. Through its work in photodynamic therapy, the research facility has successfully deployed red light to treat nonmelanomic skin lesions.

“Paterson understood that different wavelengths of light — in this case, 633 nanometers — stimulated cells and helped in the delivery of topical ingredients,” said Mead. “They were exploring photosensitizers intended to kill cancer cells, so they were applying topicals and then exposing the lesions to 633 nanometers of light.”

Evidently, the Paterson team stumbled upon a few unintended side effects. “What they noticed throughout the course of treatment was that, not only was it effective for treating the cancer, the skin was rejuvenating itself,” said Mead. “Deep wrinkles were starting to soften, dark patches were subsiding and the complexion was evening out.”

Although there are other light-based beauty therapies currently offered through day spas and dermatologists, services such as Intense Pulsed Light and Thermage differ in what Mead refers to as their “mechanism of action.”

“IPL, cold laser, Thermage — they all produce results through purposely inflicting controlled damage on the skin, which in turn stimulates the production of collagen,” said Mead. “Lumière is different in that there’s absolutely no damage, so there’s no downtime. We just use the light to energize the cell. And by applying the topicals first, we’re able to feed the skin what it needs to produce collagen and elastin.”In November, Lumière made its debut in American tanning salons. To date, 43 tanning facilities in 15 different U.S. markets have signed on, installing the device and training staff to sell the treatments in a series of monthlong packages. The package price ranges from $99 to $369, depending on how many sessions are received throughout the 30-day period. For the $99 “Vitalizing” starter package, for example, which is aimed at clients with the least amount of damage, only three sessions are deemed necessary. The “Firming” package, pegged to those with clearly defined lines and wrinkles, requires twice as many sessions.

Here’s how the initial Lumière experience unfolds: After viewing an explanatory video, potential clients and tanning salon staff assess the level of skin damage and decide among three starter regimes — Vitalizing, Repairing and Firming. Just prior to the treatment, the clients cleanse and prepare their skin with “session” photoceuticals. Then they stretch out on a spa table, don protective eye goggles, pull the Lumière device down close to their faces and push the start button. Within seconds, light beams crank up to full intensity. Twenty minutes later, the device clicks off automatically. Because of post-session “night vision,” clients are advised to allow their eyes to adjust before hopping off the table and zooming out the door.

Afterward, Lumière clients are urged to use the “home care” photoceuticals and nutraceuticals, which are included in the package price. The seven-item range includes a cleanser, exfoliant, toner, daily moisturizer, facial sunblock, repairing night cream and the dietary supplement.

Within a year, Mead expects to have expanded Lumière’s distribution to 300 locations — all essentially self-service. “We’ve pretty much eliminated the middle man with this process,” said Mead. “That’s why we’re in tanning salons now. It fits their operating model very well and those owners are used to making big capital investments. Tanning beds aren’t cheap — some can cost up to $35,000.

“We intend to offer this in other beauty-service environments,” Mead added, “but I see it more for multistation hair salons than day spas.”

Michael Higgins, owner of three Atomic Tan salons in California’s Orange County, was an early adopter on the Lumière front. Bringing the service on board in early November in all three of his locations, Higgins said he’s pleased with the results.“We’re very happy with it so far,” said Higgins. “And it’s actually attracting a pretty wide range of clients. Although most have been women in the 30-plus category, we do have a couple of younger people. In fact, there’s a 15-year-old who has been using it to clear up a bad acne situation. She’s absolutely ecstatic.”

Although RAI executives would not discuss figures, industry sources forecast first-year sales of $8 million for Lumière.

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