Selling skin care is no longer about just a pretty face. Beauty ads now carry so much scientific detail that consumers need the help of a medical dictionary.

Going shopping for a skin cream? Better take along your “Gray’s Anatomy” and a chemistry dictionary for help.

The days when brands made simple marketing promises — say, that a lotion would deliver softer, smoother skin, next to a photo of a model with a perfect complexion — are over.

Science, pure and simple, is the language of the skin care market now. And more and more, brand marketing efforts are sounding — and looking — like something straight out of the research lab.

Marketers have taken to not only explaining how their products are designed to work, but informing consumers about what happens to skin to make it flake, sag and wrinkle.

In the marketing materials for its new antiage cream, Wrinkle De-Crease Advanced Wrinkle Corrector & Dermo-Smoother, featuring Boswelox, a trademarked ingredient, L’Oréal informs consumers the human face has more than 40 muscles.

“With each smile or frown, some of these facial muscles tense and contract to make your brow furrow and your skin crease, causing crow’s-feet around the eyes and laugh lines and frown lines to become more pronounced.”

L’Oréal said smoothing fibers in the Boswelox formula “help fill in and mask skin imperfections such as pores and wrinkles.” Wrinkle De-Crease, described as providing Botox-like results, is expected to become L’Oréal’s top-selling skin care item this year, representing 20 to 25 percent of its skin care sales. And with the introduction of Wrinkle De-Crease, which hit shelves in July, the company is dropping its longstanding Plenitude brand umbrella and replacing it with the Dermo-Expertise banner, a move reflecting the seriousness of its skin care, said Carol Hamilton, president of the L’Oréal Paris brand. In promoting Wrinkle De-Cream, Hamilton said, “We will absolutely maximize the magic of our technology.”

And L’Oréal is not alone in adopting a scientific slant. In September, Avon is introducing a subsegment within its Anew franchise — Anew Clinical. It is dedicated to “providing targeted skin treatments that resurface, lift, firm, plump, repair and de-age with clinical precision,” the company said. The first product is Anew Clinical Line and Wrinkle Corrector. The formula, designed to plump up wrinkles and fill in lines, has four patents and multiple patents pending, according to Avon. In promotional materials, Avon tells consumers: “So before you go to your doctor…call your Avon lady instead!”Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble has a blockbuster on its hands in Regenerist, its latest antiage collection under the Olay brand. Regenerist uses peptide technology, known for its use in wound healing and claims to regenerate skin, “revealing new skin one cell at a time.” It is positioned as an alternative to derm treatments like chemical peels. After six weeks in market — the products made their debut in April — Regenerist held the number one share position in the U.S. mass market, said Michael Kuremsky, marketing director for Olay.

“It is the biggest launch in [Olay’s] history,” he added. “We see it performing ahead of Total Effects.”

Total Effects, which targets the “seven signs of aging,” also has been a success story for Olay.

Kuremsky said there is just much more interest in the science of skin care. “Regenerist targets a sophisticated user group which is looking for products developed and proven in science. They know about procedures in the dermatologist office, and Regenerist offers an alternative approach.”

Kuremsky said the scientific breakthroughs in skin care treatments over the last five to 10 years have really changed the category. The use of scientific terms in marketing is “a result of science coming a long way, in and of itself,” he said. “‘Hope in a jar’ is a term of the past. Because of the knowledge and expertise, we can bring products that really make a difference.”

When Dove broke into the facial skin care market in June with the Essential Nutrients line, it also took a much more scientific approach than it ever had with its 46-year-old Dove cleansing bar. The products contain the Essential Nutrients complex — a cocktail of lipids, amino acids, minerals, green tea, grape seed extract and spring water — to restore moisture and deposit a proper blend of nutrients and vitamins to keep skin healthy.

Shiseido and Nu Skin both have partnerships with university medical schools to develop skin care products.

Through the Nu Skin Center for Dermatological Research at Stanford University Medical Center, the beauty company has been working with researchers on developing new products. Its latest item, slated to hit the market this fall, is Nu Skin Tru Face Revealing Gel. The antiage treatment adapts science used to keep donor organs from deteriorating during transport. A key ingredient is the preservation agent, lactobionic acid, an antioxidant that also removes excess iron in the skin, thus reducing oxygen damage.Shiseido’s latest product news was spawned through its research venture with Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Benefiance Wrinkle Lifting Concentrate was developed using research that shows how the sun causes skin aging. It will hit stores later this year. Sources predict first-year retail sales in the U.S. could reach $3.5 million.

And in a restructuring at Johnson & Johnson, its Ortho Dermatological and Neutrogena Corporation divisions are working together in a new business unit called OrthoNeutrogena. According to the company, the divisions joined forces to offer a “complete line of dermatologist-recommended and -prescribed skin care products.” A new Web site,, is expected to go up before yearend.

But laboratory scientists must be watching skin care marketers, too, as at least one pharmaceutical house has stepped into the skin care arena with a concept of its own.

Hoffman-LaRoche last fall introduced the Metric Skin Care Studio inRidgewood, N.J. It is a combination retail outlet and treatment center. The shop provides educational materials and skin analysis. It also carries a proprietary skin care line under the Metric brand and offers services such as microdermabrasion and therapeutic facials. At Metric, consumers can have their skin analyzed using technology that examines the skin at “microscopic levels,” according to the company. By using a combination of three-dimensional wrinkle mapping, skin ultrasound, photography and a video microscope, skin damage is identified and assessed for treatments. Then, 10 to 12 weeks after the first visit, skin is reassessed for progress.

“For the first time ever,” claims Philippe Burnham, director of business development, Metric Inc./Roche Consumer Health, a division of Hoffman-LaRoche, “clients can actually see scientific proof of fewer wrinkles and fine lines.”

Just like in “Gray’s Anatomy.”

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