By  on June 24, 2005

NEW YORK — As Bath & Body Works continues its course to become a retailer offering world-class beauty brands, executives saw it was remiss in not being part of the explosive dermatology skin care category.

"This is not a trend. The stakes are being raised for credibility. As space gets cluttered, it is important we work with someone who will have a clear vision about technology and a fresh philosophy on patients and customers," said Camille McDonald, executive vice president of merchandise and brand development at BBW.

Thus, they began a search for a dermatologist with a point of view.

But it was important to McDonald and her sales and product development team that their intended have a message, a clear one — without fairy dust.

Enter Dr. Patricia Wexler, one of the country's leading dermatologists who, despite her fame — she has appeared on several morning news shows and "Oprah," and contributes a column to Allure magazine — still runs a practice in Manhattan and is an associate clinical professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She also teaches at its dermatology surgery clinic. Wexler, who had been approached several times over the course of her 20-year-plus career to launch a product line with her name on it, was waiting for the right retail partner opportunity as well as cutting-edge technology to bring to patients outside her practice. Last year, she hit the jackpot.

With BBW courting her, Wexler had the retail part of her equation solved. For the technology aspect, she turned to an in-office antiaging treatment she administered over the past three years called Gentle Waves LED Photomodulation, which uses light pulsating at a certain frequency to shut off the enzymes or matrix metalloproteinase, or MMPs, that are responsible for degrading collagen and elastin. Results from eight 45-minute treatments (at $150 a pop) included improving the texture and tone of skin, decreasing fine lines and tightening pores, Wexler said. This technology — stopping the degrading activities of MMPs and preventing the production of new ones — is here to stay Wexler said, and it is one she wanted to bring to the mass market via her own derm line.With that, she and BBW sought out topical technology and were able to find research partners from Stony Brook University to help formulate a product line. Patented Niacy technology is used to accelerate benefits, boosting skin's strengthening barrier for a younger complexion.

Beginning in September, both Wexler and BBW will realize their long-term goals. It's then that the two-phase launch of Patricia Wexler M.D. will begin, first in about 80 BBW stores as well as Henri Bendel in Manhattan and eight C.O. Bigelow units. McDonald is evaluating other retail partnerships for the line, too, including QVC.

"We are not just marketers, we are brand builders," McDonald said of the planned expansion.

Stores first will receive a kit that includes six products: Universal Anti-Aging Cleanser, Microbrasion System (two products), Deep Wrinkle Eye Repair, MMPi (inhibiting) Skin Regenerating Serum, Universal Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 30 and Universal Anti-Aging Serum PM. The oversized cartons look to introduce consumers not only to the products, but to Wexler, complete with a photo, mission statement and biography of the dermatologist. "What is your skin concern?" will be scrawled along boxes, mimicking what Wexler asks of her in-office patients. Carton copy also includes skin types, name of products, ingredients and key benefits. Kits will retail for $45 for one month, and then return to their normal price of $75.

In October, stores will receive the full line of products, about 19 stockkeeping units, which comprise items meant for everyday use as well as products to be used for special skin concerns. It is important to note that each item contains MMPi technology to fight the signs of aging.

"MMPi is throughout the line and has an overarching antiage philosophy. It is fine to be used by all ages. It is just as compelling for a teen acne sufferer as it is for an older woman concerned about fighting the signs of aging," said Kecia Coby, director of brand development BBW.

Daily items have been formulated to cleanse, exfoliate, restore and moisturize for both the day and night. In addition to the daily items that are launching in the kit, there is also AcnoStat Acne Cleanser, Glyco Peel (a kit including three products), Oil Free Hydrator SPF 30 and Brightening Moisturizer.Items developed for specific skin care needs not included in the kit are an AcnoStat Acne Spot treatment, No Injection Wrinkle Relaxer, Resurfacing Microbrasion Skin Brightening Daily Moisturizer SPF 30, Skin Soothing Calming Mist, Exfoliating Glycolic Peel System, Spot Damage Lightening System, Under Eye Brightening Cream, De-Puff Eye Gel, Damage Reversal Lip Treatment and No Injection Lip Plumper.

Prices start at $18 for the cleansers to $55 for the MMPi serum. The glycolic peel kit retails for $65.

Several products are slated to be bestsellers, including the lip plumper, the moisturizers, the microbrasion kit and the depuff eye gel. The MMPi serum, McDonald said, can be used with any skin care regimen for immediate results.

Packaging, too, was not an afterthought.

"It's not too cold or clinical, or too feminine, to be credible," said McDonald, who described the white and merlot containers as the perfect blend of fashion, femininity and credibility — aspects missing in the derm space.

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