By  on March 18, 1994

DALLAS -- Acid and botanical-based items are turning up the volume of Southwest skin care sales, according to retailers here.

Store executives said the treatment business is ahead 5 to 20 percent over last year, adding that the category typically outpaces color and fragrance.

While simplified regimens of four products or less that cleanse, tone, exfoliate and moisturize remain consumer favorites, it is the single-item business that's coming on strong -- from eye elixirs to moisturizers to wrinkle eradicators.

Sara Swanson, color and treatment buyer at J.C. Penney Co. here, said treatment was outpacing last year by about 15 percent.

"Skin care continues to outpace color and fragrance because of all the newness, especially with the acids," said Swanson. "It's an item-intensive focus, too, as stand-alone products are driving the business. The wave should continue with the alpha-hydroxy line extensions that are being offered from several companies."

She cited Ultima II's Brighten Up Tighten Up under-eye cream for $18.50, and Smart Move alpha-hydroxy moisturizing lotion, $25, along with Charles of the Ritz's three Timeless Difference items as bestsellers.

Swanson speculated that newness in the skin care market could also come from products formulated with anti-oxidants.

"The buzz in the industry is about eliminating free radicals in the skin with anti-oxidants," she said.

Top-selling skin care lines at Penney's include Color Me Beautiful, Dermablend, Frances Denney, EB5, Ultima II, Charles of the Ritz and Flori Roberts.

At Neiman Marcus here, the treatment business is trending up by at least 10 percent, said John Stabenau, vice president and divisional merchandise manager.

Estee Lauder's Resilience and Lancome's Renergie, both launched at Neiman's in the last couple of months, are generating strong sales and are meeting plan, according to Stabenau.

Best-selling treatment lines include La Prairie, Sisley, Prescriptives, Lauder and Chanel.

Melba Allard, cosmetics buyer at Balliet's, Oklahoma City, Okla., a women's specialty store, said January and February treatment sales were up by 20 percent over last year.

"It's the alpha-hydroxy acid boom," reasoned Allard. "The companies are doing so much advertising to lure the business in. It makes the consumer curious. Even doctors are claiming the acids work."

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