By  on June 15, 2007

PARIS — Kérastase, the L'Oréal-owned professional hair care line, has set its sights on skin care.

The prestige brand, which is part of L'Oréal's Professional Products Division, will introduce Kéraskin Esthetics, a treatment brand, starting in December.

The brand will bow facial care items in Europe, followed by body care in 2008 and hand products after that. After Kéraskin Esthetics facial care launches in Europe, the line will roll out to the U.S., Canada and the rest of the world beginning in 2008. Training for salons will start this August.

"It's an historic step for our division," said Jean-Jacques Lebel, vice president and general manager of L'Oréal's Professional Products Division. "The luxury hair salon business has changed. Customers want a total service, not just a haircut."

Lebel added the French beauty giant is constantly on the lookout for new niches, such as products for men or for older consumers, for example, that can increase sales for the company.

"In the salon business, we've created all kinds of new experiences: Disco salons, spa salons, salons with restaurants, bars, environmentally friendly salons," he said. "Today, we feel that professional skin treatment is one of those niches. Our competition is not necessarily other hair salons but anywhere that offers head-to-toe beauty treatment," he continued.

While L'Oréal executives declined to reveal sales estimates, members of the brand said high-end hair salons represent a dynamic and growing channel. The worldwide professional skin care market is estimated to represent between 1.3 billion and 2 billion euros, or $1.7 billion and $2.7 billion at current exchange, according to L'Oréal.

Created with Parisian skin care expert Joelle Ciocco, Kéraskin's formulas contain ingredients developed by L'Oréal's research team, such as pro-xylane, which purportedly fights aging.

While Kérastase certainly has a loyal following for its hair care products, it may take some time for consumers to accept its new positioning as a treatment skin care brand. L'Oréal, however, seems to have faith in taking trusted brands from one category to another. Earlier this year, the U.S. division of L'Oréal Professional Products expanded makeup artist brand Shu Uemura into the luxury professional hair care category with Art of Hair. Industry watchers remarked at the time that it would be interesting to see whether consumers would accept a makeup line as a credible hair care brand.Aesthetician Sonya Dakar, the founder of the Sonya Dakar Skin Care Clinic in Los Angeles and the creator of a 120-item plant-based line, said only time will tell whether Kérastase will be successful in skin care.

"With all due respect, Kérastase has a really strong following, but what I see is that people like to know [that their skin care brand] has been in skin a long time like a doctor's brand or a big company like Estée Lauder or [a line from] an aesthetician. But everybody has the potential to be successful. I think customers may test [the Kéraskin line] once or twice, and if it's good quality they will continue with it. [Consumers] give a lot of thought to something that's not in their [usual] territory. It will take time for them to adapt to the idea," said Dakar.

Kéraskin's lineup includes 34 facial care products created in single-dose packaging for use by L'Oréal-trained professional beauticians — or "Kérafacialists"— in luxury hair salons.

The treatment protocol will include a two-step skin diagnoses. Kérafacialists will examine clients using a "skin chip" camera, while a device called "derma score" will be used for pigmentation analysis. Initial consultations will last around 40 minutes. Having diagnosed the skin's needs, therapists will then concoct bespoke treatments using combinations of the single-dose products, which are applied using a specially devised massage technique.

In addition, a 17-unit line of premixed monodose products will be available for customers to buy. The items contain lower levels of the active ingredients used in the salon version of the line.

While the exact lineup is yet to be revealed, products will include Resculpting Mature Skin Cream, Mattifying Immersion Fluid, Waterproof Make-Up Remover, Post-Floral Peeling Balm and Mineralizing Toner.

Kéraskin will be positioned at the prestige end of the market with price tags to match.

"We're aiming for 100 euros per salon hour [or $133] and 150 euros [or $200] for an antiaging cream," said Lebel.

The collection will be limited to just 2,000 high-end hair salons worldwide over the next five years. Each salon will be equipped with treatment rooms.Advertising to support the launch will break in December and will include three teaser pages followed by a double-page spread in professional magazines.  — With contributions from Andrea Nagel

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