NEW YORK — The Gap is taking the beauty plunge. The San Francisco-based specialty retailer is developing its own line of bath and body products, a spokesman for the company said Monday.

Gary McNatton, the creative force behind Mottura, a San Francisco-based design firm that supplies personal care products to stores such as Henri Bendel in New York and Fillamento in San Francisco, was hired to head the project.

“Gary will develop personal care products for us,” the Gap spokesman said. “We don’t know what the product line will be yet. Gary’s first day was Friday.”

McNatton was named senior director of personal care product development, which is a new division.

The spokesman said a launch date for the line has not been set.

The Gap has already branched out into other areas beyond apparel, including shoes and accessories, so beauty products should be a logical extension.

However, the Gap’s timing is not great. Industry experts said the category has become crowded with bath and body specialty lines and chains. The Limited’s various chains have developed bath and body lines, competing with such specialists as The Body Shop, H2O Plus, Garden Botanika, Origins and Goodebodies.

Analysts are expecting a shake-out in the mass market, where the bath and body boom began.