By and  on August 4, 2006

PARIS — Lancôme is adding a third pillar to its Absolue skin care franchise this fall. Called Absolue Premium Bx Absolue Replenishing Cream SPF 15, it targets women age 50-plus and has a formula containing a new antiage molecule patented by L'Oréal, Lancôme's parent company.

Odile Roujol, the recently named managing director of Lancôme International, called it a "major breakthrough."

"L'Oréal's goal has always been to bring to consumers the newest, most innovative products based on cutting-edge research," said Laurent Attal, president and chief executive officer of L'Oréal USA. "That's one of the reasons why our company dedicates more than 3 percent of consolidated sales each year to investment in research and development. It is this extensive commitment to scientific advancement in skin care that has enabled L'Oréal to introduce a completely revolutionary molecular antiaging structure, Pro-Xylane, after almost a decade in development. Pro-Xylane, an antiaging molecule that applies what we know about cell function to the structure of the skin, is, without a doubt, one of the company's most significant discoveries in 10 years."

The molecule, seven years in the making, is billed to be the first to work simultaneously on the epidermis, dermal-epidermal junction and dermis, three parts of the skin that have recently been found to be interwoven in what's known as the "extra-cellular matrix" — and therefore highly instrumental in keeping the face's skin feeling and looking youthful. According to a scientific study spearheaded by Matthew Nugent, PhD, a professor of biochemistry at Boston University, the matrix weakens as one ages, preventing the skin from retaining moisture.

"We rarely use the word ‘revolutionary' to describe a new moisturizer, but this is no ordinary moisturizer," said Eric Lauzat, president of Lancôme in the U.S. "Because of Pro-Xylane and its moisturization ability, Absolue Premium Bx raises the bar for what customers can expect from an antiaging product. We would never make changes to a franchise as successful as Absolue unless we had an ingredient as advanced as Pro-Xylane with which to update it."

Pro-Xylane, which is formulated from a sugar derivative called xylose, purportedly targets the matrix's primary components. "Pro-Xylane promotes the healthy production of glycosaminoglycans — what we call GAGs for short — which act as moisture reservoirs for the skin," explained Alan Meyers, senior vice president for research and development for L'Oréal. "It also protects the best-known GAG — hyaluronic acid — in the skin, which helps keep the moisture in the skin."Absolue Bx also contains what the company calls a bio-network reconstructor, which is also patented. Many of its ingredients, such as brown algae, soya and wild yam, are already in the formulas of earlier Absolue products; the new addition in Absolue Bx is barley, which is said to boost the resistance of certain types of collagen that in turn help the matrix's fiber protection.

The new collection comprises four stockkeeping units: Absolue Premium Bx Absolute Replenishing Cream SPF 15, $108 for 1.7 oz.; Replenishing Lotion, $108 for 2.5 oz.; Night Recovery Cream, $132 for 2.6 oz., and Eye Cream, $73 for 0.5 oz.

"Our strategy is age-based because each of these products specifically targets hormonal and other changes in women's skin," said Nina White, deputy general manager and senior vice president of marketing for Lancôme in the U.S.

Absolue Bx follows the 2005 introduction of Platineum, for women 60-plus, and the 2001 launch of Absolue, for those age 55 and over. Absolue Bx is marketed to women 50-plus, who at that age "generally experience deterioration in the entire extra-cellular matrix, causing their skin to become dry, slack and less radiant. The matrix is deeply modified," said Veronique Delvigne, scientific director at L'Oréal.

While Lancôme executives declined to discuss sales projections, industry sources expect Absolue Bx to generate $120 million in retail sales in its first 12 months worldwide. Sources estimate that nearly half of that volume, or $50 million at retail, will be generated in the U.S.

In the U.S., the products will be sold in Lancôme's full distribution of 2,000 department and specialty store doors, including Lancôme's four freestanding boutiques and www.lancome-usa.com.

While none of the executives would comment on advertising and promotional spending, industry sources estimated that the brand will spend at least $15 million on advertising and promotion in the U.S.

National print advertising in the U.S. begins in September fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines, including Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, W and Town & Country. As well, Lancôme plans to produce upward of 375,000 samples of the new line for in-store and direct-mail vehicles, said White.

Advertising for Absolue Bx features the signature Lancôme rose, used in a striking visual. One half of the rose is a creamy white; the other is a textured gold hue. "We're playing on the rose, which is a Lancôme symbol and a symbol of the skin," said Roujol, adding the rose is meant to look reconstructed and to recall skin that's been treated.Absolue Bx will be launched in most of the world, including the U.S. and Europe, in September, and in Asia in January 2008.

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