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True Cosmetics Hails Power of Antioxidants

LOS ANGELES — Admittedly, “Idebenone,” laughs Michelle Balmer, the cofounder of True Cosmetics, “sounds like a lounge singer. And it really is the star of the line.”

Along with the widening converts crooning the...

LOS ANGELES — Admittedly, “Idebenone,” laughs Michelle Balmer, the cofounder of True Cosmetics, “sounds like a lounge singer. And it really is the star of the line.”

Along with the widening converts crooning the benefits of this super-antioxidant, Balmer and the three fellow industry vets who founded True are serious about Idebenone’s use in the skin care and mineral makeup sold through the recently founded San Francisco-based company.

With the beauty world hailing the potent synthetic form of the antioxidant coenzyme Q10 as the next wonder ingredient, it was only a matter of moments before products brandishing Idebenone would emerge. 

Prevage, created by Botox makers Allergan, was first out the gate last year to market the name, yet its availability is limited to prescription through dermatologists. And Q10 already is available in other cosmeceuticals: Dr. Nicholas Perricone was among the first to praise its potential in 2002.

Yet its beauty applications are only about to be tapped.

True Cosmetics bowed at ISpa late last fall, with the exclusive domestic rights to Idebenone for use in products sold through spas and salon-spas. It has since been claiming shelf space at Spa Mystique in Los Angeles, the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, the Ritz Carlton New Orleans and the Spa at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

For Janis Chakler at Restore Spa in New York, the new aesthetician door by Albert Garcia — brother to celebrity nutritionist Dr. Oz Garcia — True “is the first line that incorporates mind, body and wellness with cosmeceuticals. I saw results very quickly — within two weeks, as a matter of fact. Other lines usually take six to eight weeks.”

This month, True launched a lactic acid treatment in client spas. “It’s the acid of choice because it’s multifunctioning acid, but with Idebenone,” pointed out Balmer, “it reduces inflammation without the redness and side effects some skin otherwise undergoes.” 

On, the spa-affiliated site touts Tree’s Youth Revealing Complex with 0.5 percent Idebenone as providing the same results at a better price than Prevage’s 1 percent, citing that clinical tests “show no significant difference in results.” A 1-oz. pump of True’s is $90, with Prevage’s marked down $16 on the same site to $99 for the same size.

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The True line offers 0.5 percent Idebenone content in the skin brightener to the sheer lip gloss.

But it’s not the only hallmark of the line, which rolled out with 30 stockkeeping units in the seven collections of skin care and 175 in color cosmetics. Many formulations include antiaging white tea and anti-inflammatory green tea, as well as high-grade essential oil blends and, instead of water, pure hydrosols.

“Water might be the first ingredient in many products,” noted Balmer, “but it’s harsh. Pure hydrosol — from lavender, rose, chamomile — provides a lot more efficacy and benefits from the product.” 

There is also a signature True aroma, created to reduce stress and “lift the spirit” based on ylang-ylang. 

The cosmetic collection, encased in sparkling hunter green packaging, boasts both the environmental protection of Idebenone and, those with minerals, a natural SPF of 17. 

Proceeds of the Altruistic Lip Shine, $18, are donated to the Skin Care Foundation. 

There are also 19 tools and brushes custom-designed by co-founder Alphonse Wiebelt, whose résumé includes working with Kevyn Aucoin, product development at Trish McEvoy and introducing Paula Dorf in the west.  

Formally created last summer, True Cosmetics is the culmination of “really just a bunch of friends saying ‘One day…,’” recalled Wiebelt, who shares the vice president of development and education title with Balmer. The former model left the casting calls to learn about aromatherapy and spas in St. Moritz and later San Francisco, and she spent the last 13 years establishing the Pevonia line through the western U.S.

Their longtime friend, Deirdre Burke, True’s president, also grew up in the professional skin care arena, helping launch Cellex-C and Jane Iredale Mineral Cosmetics, and helming sales at MD Formulations and BareEscentuals. She is also CIDESCO licensed domestically and internationally.

Vice president of sales and marketing Celeste Winters, whose career began as a licensed cosmetologist at the makeup counter and moved up to Macy’s cosmetic buyer overseeing Lancôme, Clinique and others, rounds out the team. Her executive stints in the spa industry include BABOR Cosmetics and Bioceutix/MD Beauty.  

The privately held company will not directly comment on first-year sales, but industry sources project True could do $2 million in its inaugural year through its designated channels.