PARIS — Due to its color and hefty price tag, saffron is often called “red gold.” The rare spice is a key ingredient in Yves Saint Laurent’s new premium skin-care product, dubbed Or Rouge (“Red Gold” in French).

This story first appeared in the January 24, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

But it’s not just any saffron strain, explained Stephan Bezy, international general manager of Yves Saint Laurent Beauté at L’Oréal. It comes from high in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, a country with historic links to the founding couturier himself, since that’s where Saint Laurent gleaned inspiration. Saffron pistils from crocus flowers grown there contain a high concentration of a unique glycan known as crocin.

Glycans play a leading role in skin’s cell communication and metabolism, plus contribute to tissue structure and architecture. Their quantity diminishes as people age, causing skin to lose substance and the deterioration of its supporting architecture.

Glycan receptors on cells’ surface help the targeted transmission of messages, but many of them also decrease with age. However, YSL research found that one, called 6.D-m, does not, and that the bonding between crocin and 6.D-m can modulate skin’s “youth path” — what the company describes as skin’s ability to renew and fight against stressors. Youth paths generally become impaired over time.

To make the Or Rouge GFC complex, which is central to the new product formulations, YSL combined the crocin with another glycan, X-Glycan, said to stimulate skin’s renewal capacity.

YSL’s first line based on glycobiology was Forever Youth Liberator, launched in 2012.

Company executives bill Or Rouge as a “skin renaissance” treatment, a global antiage line that aids skin quality and uniformity and enhances its natural protection. It is said to work on fine lines, wrinkles, lack of firmness and dullness, among other signs of aging.

Noé Duchaufour Lawrance created Or Rouge’s sleek packaging. Its advertising featuring the product will come in numerous formats, including single and double pages and gatefolds.

Or Rouge is to have an exclusive introduction at Harrods in the U.K. starting in early February, followed by a mid-March prelaunch in the U.S. on The wider rollout will take place in April, although China is slated for September.

The line is to be carried in all of Saint Laurent’s beauty doors in Asia, where there are about 200, and only 20 percent of its distribution elsewhere.

Or Rouge will ultimately replace Temps Majeur skin care globally except in the U.S., where the brand’s face and eye creams are to remain.

In the U.S., Or Rouge’s pricing is to be $420 for the 50-ml. cream, $240 for the 15-ml. eye cream and $150 for the 200-ml. lotion.

L’Oréal executives would not reveal sales projections, but industry sources estimate Or Rouge will in its first eight months make 15 million euros, or $20.5 million at current exchange, in retail sales.

The launch is part of Saint Laurent’s quest to become a larger skin-care player globally, particularly in Asia.

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