Skin Care: Physicians’ Formula’s New Rx

Cosmetics company is introducing a skin care regimen that will launch at Wal-Mart this August.

Physicians Formula, the cosmetics line known for its problem-solution approach, aims to go below the surface by introducing a skin care regimen. The cosmeceutical range, called Physicians Formula Skin Care, will launch at Wal-Mart this August and be carried exclusively in 2,500 of its doors through yearend.

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Physicians Formula views its entrance into the skin care category as a return to the 74-year-old brand’s heritage. Chairman and chief executive officer Ingrid Jackel said it was a natural extension for the brand. “We were a doctor’s brand from inception,” she said.

Physicians Formula was created in 1937 by Dr. Frank Crandall, who formulated the line for his wife’s sensitive skin. The line — very purposefully — also fills a niche within Wal-Mart’s beauty department.

“As we looked at the white space, we noticed the dermatologist brands in the prestige channel, and we looked at how to bring that part of the business to mass,” said Carmen Bauza, Wal-Mart’s vice president and divisional merchandise manager of beauty and personal care. Bauza approached Jackel about creating a line in December 2009, and by the following month Physicians Formula had presented its concept to Wal-Mart.

Physicians Formula Skin Care will join the other doctor-inspired lines currently carried at Wal-Mart, including Dr. LeWinn by Kinerase and Cosmedicine.

The line was refined to three regimens focused on the common skin concerns, namely Aging (purple), Moisture Balance (blue) and Sensitivity & Redness (red). Each regimen includes three steps: cleanse, moisturize and treat.

The simplicity of the line grew out of in-store research by Jackel. “I found myself completely confused,” she said. “There are too many products, too many claims and too many ingredients.” The aim of this offering is to make it easy for women to select a product. To that end, each regimen is color coded, as mentioned above, and the three to four cosmeceutical ingredients along with the percentage used are listed on the front of each product. For instance, in the Aging line, two of the four actives in Wrinkle Corrector & Firming Moisturizer with SPF 15 include 5 percent Lifting Fruit Acid Blend and 2.7 percent Alpha Hydroxy Acid.

Physicians Formula said each of the product claims are clinical proven — which in the case above is “Look 6 years younger in 4 weeks.”

Such claims will be loudly touted on the product display at Wal-Mart, which will also include before and after photos. In a first for Wal-Mart’s beauty department, the display also will include QR codes, which shoppers can scan with their mobile device to view videos taken during the clinical testing. Over at Physicians Formula’s cosmetics display, shelf tags will alert shoppers about the arrival of the skin care line.

“It’s going to provide a great education for the customer, but in a very easy, understandable way,” said Bauza of the in-store display.

Marketing efforts will launch this August with a print ad campaign in beauty and lifestyle books, and social media efforts. The brand also has tapped New-York-based dermatologist Meghan O’Brien, M.D., as the line’s consulting dermatologist.

Next year, Physicians Formula Skin Care plans to expand distribution beyond Wal-Mart’s doors to other mass retailers.

The skin care offering will launch with 14 stockkeeping units said Jackel, but she noted in the future the line could significantly contribute to the company’s total revenue. “This could be material in changing the future of the brand,” she said.

“We bring a problem-solution approach to everything we do,” said Jackel.