Buzzing About Mascara, Eyeing Increased Market Share

Estée Lauder is hoping to bring some buzz to the mascara business.

Estée Lauder is hoping to bring some buzz to the mascara business.

This story first appeared in the June 13, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The cosmetics giant is set to release TurboLash All Effects Motion Mascara, which the brand is touting as the world’s first battery-operated, vibrating, all-effects mascara. It will be launched on July 17 as a Saks Fifth Avenue exclusive.

“There is a relationship between vibration, length, volume, separation and curl,” said Elana Drell-Szyfer, senior vice president of global marketing for Estée Lauder. “Together, they deliver an unbelievably enhanced first to market product, which we feel is revolutionary.”

While Lauder is describing its product as a first, there appears to be a mascara duel in the offing. L’Oréal, which has long been a leader in the mass and class categories, is launching its own vibrating mascara, which it touts as “revolutionary.” Archrival Procter & Gamble is said to be working on a similar product, but a spokeswoman there declined comment. In addition, Akasha launched Spinlash in March, a mascara with a brush that rotates 360 degrees in both directions to offer a smooth application and curl lashes. It is available at Target, Claire’s, Fred Meyer and online for $14.99.

The Lauder product was the brainchild of George Kress, vice president of corporate package innovation for the Estée Lauder Cos., and Paul Marotta, group leader of Estée Lauder makeup research and development. Kress said the inspiration came in spring 2004 during a trip to a big-box retailer when his eye was caught by a vibrating men’s razor. “We had been having discussions in the office for years about energy and its effects on cosmetics product delivery systems. Seeing that razor got me to thinking — what if that could work for mascaras?”

Kress teamed up with Marotta to refine the concept. “We focused first on studying what exactly happens to lashes when you use the brush,” said Kress. “We saw that the lashes instantly separated and spread apart. Once we knew that, we focused on the number of vibrations, and then the formula needed to produce the best results.”

The team determined that 125 micropulses per second — powered by a tiny battery in the mascara cap, which begins to vibrate as soon as the user unclicks the tube — would offer the best results. The next challenge was to create a formula that wouldn’t splatter, which proved to be “an interesting and arduous process,” said Drell-Szyfer.

“Traditionally, thickening mascaras work by creating a little clumping for volume,” said Marotta. “When you create a very separated eyelash, which this brush does, you don’t get a lot of volume. We had to develop something that almost wouldn’t work without the vibrating brush.”

The formula became a rapid-release gel formula composed of jellied water, olive oil and paraffin waxes, which nearly liquefies for application and immediately solidifies upon contact with the lashes. The remainder of the formula is a blend of micas, microspheres, kaolin clays and cellulose gums, Marotta explained. “Microspheres are like tiny Ping-Pong balls which allow for a creamy and thickening application, but under high speed, these microspheres roll on the lashes and roll right off like marbles on a floor. When coupled with a mica platelet, however, you get a hold that’s like Velcro — it holds without being sticky. And once you take the energy — the vibrations — away, the gel locks back up. The kaolin and cellulose gums suspend the lashes for long-lasting curl and length.”

TurboLash will retail for $30.

Saks Fifth Avenue will have the mascara as an exclusive until December, and it then will roll out to the Lauder brand’s 2,000 U.S. department and specialty store doors. It also will launch in Selfridges in London later this year.

Advertising featuring Hilary Rhoda will appear in an assortment of beauty and lifestyle books in August, with the bulk of advertising expected to coincide with the wider launch. Lauder also is working on an Internet campaign, said Drell-Szyfer.

Sampling is another unique aspect, continued Drell-Szyfer. “We gave Paul and George a second challenge — how to test this at counter since the traditional disposable wand wouldn’t work,” she said. “They created a disposable wand compatible with the vibrating base, which can be changed out for each customer.”

While none of the executives would comment on projected sales or advertising spending, industry sources estimated that TurboLash would do at least $35 million at retail globally in its first year on counter, and that upward of $5 million would be spent on advertising and promotion in North America in that time frame.

Lancôme’s Oscillation mascara also is billed as revolutionary by company executives, thanks to its brush that (as the product name suggests) oscillates.

Jean-Louis Guéret, creator of mascara brushes for Lancôme, said he came up with the idea for Oscillation after watching makeup artists at work. While applying mascara, their hands move in a zigzag pattern. So to best emulate the movement, Guéret explained, he conceived a flexible, polymer-based mascara brush that vibrates along its longitude at 7,000 micro-oscillations a second. Getting the battery-powered movement started takes simply pressing lightly on an area of the mascara’s outer tube, which turns on a 3-centimeter motor.

Guéret said that, as the mascara brush vibrates against eyelashes, they become “organized” and evenly coated with a mascara formula conceived with ultrafine particles specifically for the product, which also extends, curls, shapes and makes lashes seem thicker. He claims Oscillation’s Ultrafine Dispersion technology allows mascara to glide easily onto lashes and for rapid application.

A Lancôme spokeswoman in New York said the launch is being planned for the end of the year, but no date has been picked. A price point was not available.

Industry consultant Allan Mottus seemed excited about the possibilities posed by the innovations. “Finally some makeup news,” he said. “The greatest thing for the industry is to have a Lauder-Lancôme face-off that will drive customers to their counters.”