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."Top skin care lines at Balliet's include La Prairie, Erno Laszlo, Alexandra de Markoff, Chanel and La Mer.

Hot items include Age Management Serum from La Prairie, Day Lift from Chanel and Sleep Tight from Alexandra de Markoff.

At The Village Pharmacy here, cosmetics manager Wilhelmina von Heflick said treatment generates 30 percent of her beauty sales, with the category ahead by at least 5 percent for the year.

Von Heflick is especially bullish on acids. In February, The Village Pharmacy launched Elizabeth Arden's Alpha-Ceramide, and von Heflick said early response was upbeat.

She said men are increasingly flocking to the store's treatment counters and noted that Ceramides from Elizabeth Arden and L'Oreal's Plenitude are current favorites for them.

Best-selling skin care lines are Elizabeth Arden, Aida Grey, Kalemata, Plenitude, Soins Complice, La Via Lattea and Mustela, a skin care line for babies that is finding favor with adults.

Hot-selling items include Arden's Ceramides, Grey's Regeneratrice firming and moisturizing goods, Plenitude's Hydra-Renewal and Advanced Wrinkle Defense products and Soins Complice's hand and night creams.

Von Heflick said she's noticed a growing trend among her customers of purchasing pure aloe vera gel for skin care purposes.

"It's been around since ancient times, you know," she said. "And it does supposedly have healing properties."

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