By  on December 16, 1994

PARIS -- Guerlain is set to become the second major French prestige company to join the alpha-hydroxy acid treatment trend in the space of a few months.

In February, the company will launch a "gentle generation" antiwrinkle cream called Alphabella in France, Germany, Austria, Spain and Switzerland. It will be rolled out to the rest of the world, including the United States, in March and April.

Although the first AHA products were launched in France in late 1992, fruit acid products have only started to gain hold here recently. Clarins was the first upscale company to join the fray with the introduction of Bio-Ecolia in September.

Both Clarins and Guerlain claim that it was preferable to wait on the sidelines of the trend until nonirritating AHA formulas were developed.

Jacques Le Blay, director of Guerlain's research laboratories, said the company was "interested in AHA's long ago but were also convinced of their danger. We started testing all the existing AHA's three years ago to determine dosage and develop suitable packaging."

Alphabella is targeted to all skin types and all ages. It is available in two formulations -- for dry skin and oily skin -- and is packaged in transparent dual-chamber containers that separate the acids from a lotion. The user mixes the ingredients together before application.

This separation system is said to preserve the potency of the acid -- 2 percent glycolic acid for the what the company calls the "gentle" formulation for dry skin and a 3.5 percent glycolic and salicylic acid for the "intense" formulation for oily skin.

In France, Alphabella is priced at $55 (295 francs) for a 30-ml. container of each formulation. Guerlain is targeting sales of 300,000 units worldwide in 1995, according to the company, which would mean $16.5 million at retail.

In contrast, Clarins' Bio-Ecolia is slated to sell 130,000 units at $44 (240 francs) in France alone from September through the end of the year, according to Christian Courtin, president of Clarins' International Division. That would result in a volume of $5.7 million for the season.

The Paris-based Guerlain, which posted a global turnover of $370 million (2 billion francs) in 1993, is owned in majority by LVMH Moæt Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the luxury goods conglomerate run by financier Bernard Arnault.

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