Dermatologist Harold Lancer was never interested in selling his skin care line in outlets beyond his Beverly Hills office and its Web site. But Oprah Winfrey has a way of changing people’s minds.

This story first appeared in the May 13, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Winfrey became Lancer’s patient after her trainer, Bob Greene, started seeing Lancer about a year ago. Pleased by the results of his straightforward skin care regimen, the duo encouraged the 57-year-old doctor to let consumers get their hands on his products.

“If Bob Greene thinks it is a good idea, and Oprah thinks it is a good idea, I probably don’t have to think about it anymore. It probably is a good idea,” said Lancer. He proceeded to enter into a business agreement with Greene, with whom Lancer has co-authored a book titled “20 Years Younger,” to put Lancer Skincare into stores.

Nordstrom exclusively launched six products — $50 Polish, $50 Cleanse, $100 Nourish, $50 Vitamin C 10% Cream, $50 Glycolic 10% Facial Cream and $34 Vitamin C Antioxidant Sunscreen SPF 30 — in 17 doors the last week of April. Lancer said the products would likely roll out across the department store chain within three months. Industry sources estimate Lancer Skincare would generate around $1.2 million in first-year retail sales from the Nordstrom distribution.

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Cece King, Nordstrom’s national market buyer, cosmetics, recounted that Greene approached the retailer about Lancer Skincare and piqued curiosity by mentioning Winfrey had recommended it. “The fact that the line was being made available for the first time outside of Dr. Lancer’s office was appealing to us. We were aware that he has many clients, including bold-faced names like Ms. Winfrey herself, who were devotees of the line, and we hoped our customers would respond to it as well,” she said.

King also thought Lancer Skincare’s pared-down scrub-cleanser-moisturizer routine was appealing. The routine is centered upon three products: the skin-resurfacing Polish, cleanser Cleanse and day or night nourishment cream Nourish. Although Lancer has up to some 20 products available at his office, he explained the additional products address individual needs, and the basic three-step process is for everyday skin health. “In today’s complex world, we think our customers will respond to a concept based on simplicity,” said King.

Based on the skin care experiences of his patients, Lancer concluded, “The consumer buys a whole bunch of stuff and has no idea what it is for or how it is to be used, and that results in confusion and noncompliance.” With Lancer Skincare’s polish, cleanse and nourish system, he continued, “it is impossible to fail in using it right. That leads to brand dedication and follow-through in use.”

Lancer realizes his products might encounter skeptics who’ve been disappointed by dermatologists’ brands. Aiming to mimic the success of the dermatologist-fronted brand Murad, he said, “There was a whole bunch of copycat private-label things that burnt out the market.” Unlike most private-label derm brands, he continued, Lancer Skincare “has for the last decade been developed for use by my patients and that hasn’t changed. The issue will be whether the consumer recognizes that.”

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