By  on October 8, 2010

As if she speaks an entirely different language from her mama and grandmama, today's beauty-junkie- in-training scans her medicine cabinet shelves in the morning not for such mundane fare as a mere moisturizer and concealer but rather a Line Filling Luminizer and a Radiance Corrector Pen. Later, as she's rifling through her purse for a little pick-me-up, she's on the hunt for Tinted Lip Treatment rather than lipstick and Pore Smoothing Corrector instead of a swipe of old-school powder.

Unlike previous generations, this fresh-faced whippersnapper has been weaned on the burgeoning category of hybrids, a growing product arena that combines key elements of makeup and skin care. The ultimate modernity bid, hybrids wouldn't exist if (A) women weren't demanding high-performance multitaskers to power them through their jampacked days; (B) younger consumers weren't shunning traditional makeup in a big way, and (C) the technology for pumping major treatment benefits into color cosmetics hadn't improved by leaps and bounds in recent years.

"I was just in a meeting with our senior product developers, and they were definitely going that route— to incorporate treatment into more and more of our makeup," says Tom Mammone, Ph.D., executive director, Clinique research and development worldwide. "When you put a lipstick on, why should it just be a beautiful red lipstick? Why can't it also be antiaging? When you put mascara on, why can't it also boost the hair? It makes sense, but we have to develop the technologies for each one of those ideas. And those are going to occur as we mine for them."

In fact, more and more companies are mining for them. Some, like Fusion Beauty and Tarte Cosmetics, have built the merger of color and skin care into their brand DNA, only creating products that combine treatment and cosmetic properties; others, such as Clinique and Avon, have gotten into the game more recently with massive launches but are not yet making a 100 percent commitment to this new makeup-meetstreatment ethos.

Both groups are starting to have an impact on sales. According to the NPD Group, while overall makeup usage is down in the U.S., interest in makeup products with skin care benefits is growing. Almost nine in 10, or 86 percent, of makeup users have used a color product that contains skin care benefits in the last year. About six in 10 women are using such products in addition to their regular skin care regimes, while nearly two in five are using them instead of skin care products with the same benefits.

Still, quantifying the size of the hybrid market is difficult, given the fact that even NPD doesn't formally track the category. Yet.

"The challenge is in figuring out where these products go," says Karen Grant, vice president and global industry analyst for beauty at NPD. "It's like your BlackBerry. Is it a phone? An organizer? Some of these items are closer to one category than the other. So we're trying to look at our definitions to see how we can group them."

If Grant seeks total clarity on the matter, she might not want to chitchat with uberderm Howard Murad anytime soon. Ask the doc whether his new line of primers and eye-area concealers, which is literally called Hybrids, is more akin to treatment or color, and he politely refuses to pick a lane. "It's both," he says.

Although he and his team flirted with the idea of color over the years, Murad was loath to bring anything to market that would undercut his standing as a skin care expert. "We had a lot of customers asking us for makeup, but I didn't feel it was 'us,' " Murad says. "As a science-based cosmeceutical brand, we felt it was more important to remain as that than to add makeup."

Especially, says Murad, since it's a goal of many of his patients to get their skin in such great shape that they don't need makeup. Or at least not much.

Thus, his Hybrids contain just a dab of color amid a slew of good-skin ingredients, including peptides, lentil bean extract, a pore-shrinking complex and Adaptive Shade Technology, which was designed to enhance a wide range of complexions. "The reason there are only two primer stockkeeping units is that there's actually very little pigment," says Murad. "But there are all kinds of light reflectors and other agents that make it compatible for everybody, whether you're African- American or Irish."

While she's thrilled more of her competitors are entering the hybrids arena ("It only validates the category even more" ), Fusion's Caroline Pieper-Vogt freely admits that there are easier paths to take. After coming on board as chief executive officer of Fusion Brands in May 2009, Pieper-Vogt was blown away by consumer research that suggested that, based on response to the company's wildly successful LipFusion high-tech plumper, it had a whopper of a credibility surplus that could be deployed across every conceivable product category. "[Our customers] loved LipFusion because it really delivered results," she says. "And they basically said, 'You can do anything. You can do hair or skin or makeup—as long as it delivers the results that LipFusion did.'"

If only it were that easy; once a beauty firm starts playing the claims game with items like blush or luminizer—whose role, historically, was merely to sit there and look pretty—costs escalate. Take Fusion's new PrimeResults Corrective Primer Collection, a four-item line that seeks to address a wide range of skin concerns—from acne to redness to loss of radiance to fine lines and wrinkles. In the shorter term, because they're tinted, the primers instantly neutralize discoloration and make the skin look better. But each also contains a high level of active ingredients to deliver longer-term results. For example, the Acne Control Primer contains about 10 percent actives, says Pieper- Vogt, including salicylic acid. "Not only was it a feat to create, but it cost $150,000 to test that one single product," she says.

Of course, on paper hybrids sound perfect. What company wouldn't want to provide its customers with makeup that immediately improves the texture of the skin, or with diligent use, turns back the hands of time? "It's easy to ask: Why has no one done this before," says Pieper-Vogt. "Why haven't they done it in every product across the board? It's because it's hard. It's really hard to do."

Just ask Maureen Kelly—if you can find her. When she's not manning the company fort in New York or tending to her two young children in her Jersey Shore home, the Tarte Cosmetics founder can often be found trekking the globe, sourcing ingredients for her 10-year-old line of "earth-engineered beauty." From the get-go, this entrepreneur, who launched in the golden age of indies, needed and wanted her makeup to do more.

"As a 'real' woman and not a makeup artist, I've always been into multitasking and double-duty beauty," says Kelly. "Now that I'm a mom, I don't even remember when I last got eight hours of sleep. So for us, it's all about high-performance naturals. The ingredients are all natural, but at the same time we've done hundreds of thousands of dollars of testing to prove that they're efficacious." Making the efficacy task easier is Tarte's trademarked "skinvigorating" ingredients complex. Whether it's the antioxidant vitamins and jojoba seed oil found in LipSurgence, the Amazonian white clay in Smooth Operator Micronized Clay Finishing Powder with PM20, or the GABA and ginseng in Lifted Natural Eye Primer with Firmitol, skinvigorating components figure prominently in every product.

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