By  on January 25, 2008


Plenty of women are spending the equivalent of nearly two barrels of oil — or more — to slather themselves in luxury body creams.

Creams priced above $150 are a small but mightily growing segment of prestige body care, according to The NPD Group.

Karen Grant, senior beauty industry analyst at NPD, said in 2004, sales of body care products priced at more than $150 totaled slightly more than $600,000, and accounted for 0.3 percent of the prestige body care business.

Last year, sales of these products surged to $4 million. They now represent 3.1 percent of the prestige body care market.

According to Grant, in premium priced body care, the entry price and ultrapremium segments are growing at a faster clip than the middle ground, or products priced between $70 and $150.

"This trend toward indulgence is seen across all beauty categories, including makeup, facial skin care and fragrance," said Grant.

Despite the tremors under Wall Street and rising gas prices, there is a subset of women who aren't willing to part with their holistic beauty regimen, and won't bat an eyelash at shelling out $349 for the 24-Karat Gold Facial at Willow Stream Spa in Newport Beach, Calif., for instance.

"If you whet people's appetites with treatments, then they'll understand the importance of body care," said Noella Gabriel, director of product and treatment development for Elemis, which is carried at Bergdorf Goodman and select Nordstrom doors. She noted spa treatments for the body — which four years ago often meant an unpleasant-smelling seaweed wrap — have become more decadent and results-focused. In Gabriel's view, the growth of luxury body care is an outgrowth of the increasing popularity of day spas in bustling cities.

Women's comfort inside day spas — and with their service prices — have prompted them to ask for equally elegant products to take home with them, said Lynne Florio, president of La Prairie, which sells its Skin Caviar Luxe Body Cream for about $375. The 3.4-oz. version for the face sells for $650.

Florio recalled that when La Prairie introduced the Skin Caviar Luxe Body Cream to retail buyers in 2000 — for $300 at the time — there was an audible gasp. But concerns about prices were assuaged by the success of the facial cream, which she said "set the industry in a different direction."La Prairie plans to introduce a $300 body care product — one that Florio hinted melds body and bath — during the opening of its 22-treatment-room spa at Rancho Mirage in California in October.

La Prairie — along with Elemis, RéVive, Natura Bissé, Kanebo and La Mer — have led their customers down the gilded path to luxury body care based on the technology blended into their face creams.

Pat Saxby, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics and fragrance at Bergdorf Goodman, said, "All the high-end brands we carry are doing body care. It's the natural progression once they've perfected a high-performance face cream." She noted that in the past, body creams often promised to solve the unconquerables, like stretch marks and cellulite. The new guard is focused on firming, toning and lessening discoloration.

"There are ingredients and technology that can deliver results on these benefits," said Saxby. "Maybe they are not making as strong a claim [as reducing cellulite], but they are delivering results."

She added that Bergdorf's recently introduced Amorepacific Time Response Body Renewal Creme for $220, an extension of its Time Response Skin Renewal Creme for the face; Elemis Pro-Collagen Radiantly Smooth Body Cream for $175, which will roll out to additional retailers in March, and the $270 Natura Bissé Diamond Magnetic. Referring to the new Natura Bissé product — a diamond-dust and micro ionized-infused cream activated by a magnetic tool — Saxby said, "It will be really big for us."

Next month, the upscale retailer plans to add a body care collection from Clinica Ivo Pitanguy. Prices range from the $105 Hands Beauty Formula, a light hand cream, to the $240 Firming Formula, an elixir said to firm and tone skin.

Brand executives reaffirmed the assertion that technology has prompted women to look below the neck.

"Once part of the body has overcome a portion of the signs of aging, it's only natural to extend those results to the rest of the body," said Jason Smith, vice president of brand management for RéVive, which introduced its $235 Sans Veines Body Repair Cream in 2004. Responding to whether a shaky economy could impact sales, Smith said, "Despite RéVive Sans Veines being a luxury body care product, it still only costs the same as a Starbucks coffee per day. Given a choice, many RéVive consumers would rather eliminate a cup a day in order to continue their skin care regimen."After all, the move toward wellness, coupled with pressures to look younger longer, has prompted many women to take a full-length view of skin care. New York-based dermatologist Sherwin K. Parikh, M.D., who practices at the Tribeca Skincenter, said women in their 30s and 40s are increasingly opting for chemical peels on their chest — where there's often a "V-neck of sun damage" — and their back to lessen spots and fine lines. He also performs laser treatments on the hands and décolleté. Parikh said in Los Angeles there's more of a focus on fruit acid peels to firm the thigh area, but added he steers clear of such services. "Those treatments are just a waste of the client's time and mine," he contended.

Patricia Fisas, chief executive officer of Natura Bissé, said a woman's desire to appear healthy and radiant means looking great from head to toe. "Women today are starting to realize, and even witnessing first-hand, that the same effective results they get with their face serums and creams, are also available through highly effective body products. In our case, we have translated the technology and know-how of creating products for the face into our basis for creating targeted products for the body." For instance, its Diamond Body cream uses artemia salina extract, which she said is an essential antiaging ingredient that "energizes dormant cells."

In May, Natura Bissé plans to extend its Oxygen range with an $80 body cream, which has already been introduced in Europe.

Reducing the signs of aging is precisely what women want their expensive body products to do, said Yukie Fujita, marketing manager for Kanebo Cosmetics USA. At the time of its U.S. launch in Bergdorf Goodman eight years ago, Kanebo had a high-end body cream in the line called Sensai EX La Creme Pour Le Corps for $260. Next month, Kanebo will reintroduce Sensai Cellular Performance Throat and Bust Lifting Effect for $110 and the line's Body Firming Cream for $130. Fujita also hinted that Kanebo will unveil a $400 body care product this fall. "Our customer doesn't care about price," said Fujita. "If the product provides results, they will buy it."

La Mer has found its customer is willing to spend just as much on body care as she does on the face. In fact, the brand developed its $195 Body Crème after finding that La Mer devotees were "bathing" in the face cream, said Mindy Grimes, senior vice president of sales and marketing. She noted that La Mer has just caught up with demand since the product's launch two years ago. Later this year, La Mer plans to introduce a travel-size tube of the Body Crème, which is housed in a 10-oz. tub.Good skin care, these brands assert, takes a regimented, whole-body approach.

Gabriel of Elemis declared, "There are no miracles in pots of cream, but there are in a [skin care] system."

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