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A joint venture of Unilever has plugged into the switched-on world of red-hot beauty devices with a hand-held antiaging laser.

This story first appeared in the March 14, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Priced at $595 and approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in smoothing and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes and mouth, the Iluminage Skin Smoothing Laser will be launched in the second quarter of this year in Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. The laser device is designed to spur the creation of collagen, thereby bolstering the skin’s underlying support structure and tightening the surface. After 3,640 individual treatments, according to the company, 95 percent of the subjects “demonstrated a significant reduction to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in 12 weeks.”

The laser will be accompanied by a four-product antiaging skin-care line called Iluminage Youth Cell Skincare. The regimen contains a concentrate, eye cream, cleanser and day cream. The formulas contain proprietary complexes and antiage agents that Unilever claims are new to the beauty industry — Survixyl, which is said to keep stem cells together to prevent migration and decomposition, and Conjugated Linoleic Acid that is meant to help accelerate the proliferation of epidermal skin cells, thus easing the appearance of wrinkles.

Rounding out the trio is an Iluminage Skin Rejuvenating Pillowcase, which was launched at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman late last year to a reportedly strong response, and will be rolled out in the second quarter to Nordstrom and more Neiman’s doors. The fabric of the $60 pillowcase contains copper oxide fibers to help reduce wrinkles by stimulating the self-renewal mechanisms within skin cells. The company has clinical data indicating that improvement is seen after as little as four weeks of use.

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The Iluminage brand is produced by Iluminage Beauty, a venture between Unilever and Syneron Medical, a laser technology leader. Unilever started developing the laser four or five years ago in partnership with Cynosure, a specialist in professional devices, which had not created an in-home model.

It is a bold move for Unilever. The beauty device market is a rapidly burgeoning field, perhaps the fastest within the industry. The global device market now stands at $1.3 billion in sales, dominated by the U.S. and Japan. Over the next five years, the total market is expected to grow at 13.1 percent a year, finally totaling $2.4 billion by 2017.

Iluminage Beauty was founded by Marie-Pierre Stark-Flora, who remains the chief marketing officer of the brand.


She considers Iluminage to be in the forefront. “It’s a beauty brand, but built around devices,” she said, noting that some companies offer topical brands and an increasing number of other market devices. “Nobody has really brought the two together. What we are trying to achieve is create a beauty brand, which means that suddenly devices are included within the way women do beauty, within the regular regimens but with a much more sophisticated level of efficacy.”

Flora-Stark maintains that Iluminage has a three-angle attack against the effects of aging: first, the power of its laser device; then the topicals, which boost the potency of the device and add extra benefits, and finally, the fabric in the pillowcase as “the third dimension. They all work together.”

In order to beef up its lists of firsts, the company incorporated an interactive feature in the laser device so that treatment data, including before and after photos, could be uploaded after each session. Skin specialists will be available online, she added. To give the device an artistic aesthetic, an agency, Design Continuum, and designer Karim Rashid, were hired. The goal is to entice women to keep it out in open sight and hopefully in use. “The death of a device is the drawer,” Flora-Stark said.

In terms of further distribution possibilities, she said the brand could be sold on QVC by early summer, retailed through doctor’s offices and sold online via the Web sites of Iluminage, Bergdorf’s, Neiman’s and Nordstrom.

Unilever does not break out sales projections, particularly when dealing with such a tiny distribution in a nascent category. But industry sources estimate that within the first year, sales of Iluminage could approach $10 million.