NEW YORK — Lancôme plans to make the face peel a common commodity in mainstream department store life this October, with its Resurface Peel Restructuring and Soothing System.
Once only known inside dermatologists’ offices, procedures involving facial skin-resurfacing chemicals have been steadily moving into retail. And thanks to the cachet of derm-designed retail skin care lines — a trend that seems to be taking on the prominence that makeup artist-designed color cosmetics lines enjoyed in the early Nineties — getting a real peel at home is getting more accessible than ever.
And it’s not just for the well-heeled: As reported, L’Oréal Paris this month launched its own take on the be-a-derm-at-home trend, ReFinish Micro-Dermabrasion Kit, a $24.99 product that claims to use the same types of fine crystals in its formula as those that are used in a dermatologist’s office.
At the upper end of the market, Prescriptives’ Dermapolish has selected specialty and department store distribution, and DermaNew’s lineup of products are sold in Ulta and on Home Shopping Network, among other venues; both are said to be doing strong business.
Lancôme, however, is set to offer perhaps the most widely distributed, department store do-it-yourself derm line with its new system, which is being touted as an at-home glycolic peel. It is also the first product to be developed with the guidance of Dr. Tina Alster, the Washington-based dermatologist and Georgetown University clinical professor who is a consultant for Lancôme. In the U.S., the kit will be available in about 2,200 department and specialty store doors, and industry sources estimate that the $145 kit could ring up sales of $25 million at retail in the U.S. in its first year on counter. It is slated to hit doors in Europe and Asia by yearend.
“This is a preview of the future of Lancôme’s skin care business,” said Odile Roujol, Lancôme’s deputy general manager and senior vice president of marketing, noting that “the U.S. market is very educated and very savvy about skin care.” The kit includes an 8 percent glycolic acid peel along with a 5 percent physio-peel enhancer — which, the doctor contends, offers a professional-grade glycolic peel without the accompanying skin irritation. The physio-peel enhancer, which is said to boost the effects of the glycolic acid, is proprietary to Lancôme.
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Critics may ask if the rise of these products is akin to an at-home chemistry experiment with one’s face. Like other beauty treatments, home dermabrasion and face peel kits are considered cosmetics by regulators at the Food and Drug Administration. Unlike drugs, cosmetics don’t require pre-market approval as long as they don’t contain regulated pharmaceutical ingredients. These legal ground rules have been in place since 1938, which means the agency doesn’t determine the safety of cosmetics.
However, after a product is on the market, the agency can order a cosmetics item off the shelves if it causes injury or its advertising or packaging touts product’s ability to change the “structure or function” of the body. As a result, most companies are exceptionally careful in how they state their claims.
The agency has been monitoring the growing market for do-it-yourself face peels and dermabrasion products for structure or function claims since they burst on the mass market in the early Nineties, said Allen Halper, senior compliance officer with the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Color. To that end, last year the separate FDA divisions responsible for cosmetics and drug oversight decided to share information to keep better tabs on whether such “cosmeceuticals” — what regulators call cosmetics like face peels that perform quasi-medical tasks — are crossing the legal line.
But Alan Meyers, senior vice president of research and development for L’Oréal USA, insists that while the kit is intended to mimic the effects of doctor-provided treatments — dealing with blotchy skin, fine lines and large pores — the products are calibrated in a way that make it hard for consumers to go too far astray. The cornerstone of Lancôme’s system is a low-pH glycolic acid which is said to have the lowest possible pH level allowed in over-the-counter products. The low pH is the key to effectiveness, Meyers said, adding that while glycolic acid is available in numerous over-the-counter skin care products, its benefits are negligible without properly balanced pH levels.
The kit has four components, which are packaged together as a kit. The first step, a towelette, is intended to remove surface oils from the skin. The second, Renewing Peel, is a solution that is brushed onto the face and left there for five minutes, bringing the skin’s pH level to 4.2 and “peeling” the dull outer layer of cells from the skin. In the third, soothing cloths remove the peel and cleanse the remaining solution from the face. And the fourth, Comforting Cream, is intended to calm any redness or irritation to the skin and helps restore the skin’s pH balance to a normal level of 5.6. A head band to keep one’s hair out of the face during treatments is also included.
The system is designed to be used up to twice a week, and contains about eight uses — “a bargain,” said Alster, “when you consider the average price of a chemical peel in a dermatologist’s office averages $150 to $250 per treatment.”
Roujol said she expects Resurface Peel’s target user to be a 30- to 50-year-old woman.
National print advertising breaks in October fashion, beauty and lifestyle books, and radio featuring Alster will also be a part of the brand’s promotional plans. Roujol wouldn’t comment on budgets, although industry sources estimated that at least $8 million would be spent on advertising and promotion in the U.S. during the product’s first year on counter.
— With contributions from Joanna Ramey, Washington