NEW YORK — Estee Lauder is riding the alpha-hydroxy marketing craze by taking exfoliating acids to a new category: sun care.

In mid-March, the company will expand its Self-Action line by introducing SuperTan, two acid-based self-tanning items.

While the new products will not have the exfoliating and anti-wrinkle properties of Lauder’s Fruition, which reportedly did over $30 million at wholesale last year, the alpha-hydroxy acids are said to help deliver smoother, more natural-looking artificial coloration.

“The acid prepares the skin for the self-tanner,” said Dianne Osborne, vice president of skin care marketing for EstÄe Lauder USA. “It then helps facilitate even dispersion and quicker penetration of the tanning ingredients. SuperTan also dries faster because it absorbs more quickly, which means the color develops more rapidly.”

“Self-tanning continues to be a very fast-growing category,” said Peter Lichtenthal, executive director of treatment marketing for Lauder USA. “As the interest grows, expectations grow as well. People are demanding more naturalness and evenness and a quicker drying time. The alpha-hydroxy acid helps with these goals.”

With the additions, the self-tanning category should account for nearly 15 percent of Lauder’s treatment business, Osborne said.

“We’ve been seeing consistent double-digit growth in the last few years,” she said. “SuperTan could do almost one-third of our self-tanning business this year.”

The executives would not discuss specific figures, but industry sources have estimated Lauder’s treatment volume to be over $250 million at wholesale. Using that figure, the two SuperTan items could have combined sales of over $11 million in 1994.

A 4.25-oz. bottle of SuperTan for Face will retail for $18.50. SuperTan, intended for use on the body, will retail for $25 for the same size. Each will be available in medium and dark shades.

According to the company, the new products contain a small amount of lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy, that balances the skin so that DHA, the ingredient that produces the tan, can be more efficacious.

Lauder stocks six other products in its Self-Action line: Two shades of Self-Action Tanning Spray, priced $19.50 for a 4-oz. bottle, and four shades of Self-Action Tanning Creme, $16.50 for a 4-oz. tube.

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SuperTan will be heavily advertised throughout the spring and summer, according to Muriel Gonzalez, Lauder USA’s senior vice president of marketing.

She said SuperTan’s ad budget was about two-thirds that of Resilience, Lauder’s major treatment launch this year. She declined to give figures, but sources estimate the new self-tanning items will be backed with $2 million to $2.5 million in their first six months.

“This will be our main focus for the category,” she said. “We’ll have a TV campaign and new print advertising that will cover a lot of ground.”

The new items will first be promoted at the beginning of next month, when retailers send out mailers, inviting customers to pick up a 0.5-oz. SuperTan for Face and a 0.75-oz. Self-Action Creme with a purchase of any Lauder skin care product.

The print campaign for SuperTan, which will carry the tagline, “Finally, a Self-Tanner with a Natural Fruit Acid,” will first appear in April editions of all major fashion magazines, according to Gonzalez.

The first airing of the TV spot, which will include a mention of the entire Self-Action line at the end, will be at the end of March. It will air in nearly 90 markets nationwide by the end of the June.

The word will also be spread through co-op newspaper advertising and a radio campaign in the fall.

“Everybody’s number one concern,” said Lichtenthal, “is to produce a natural-looking tan.”

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