LAUDER JOINS RETINOL RACE

Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — Estee Lauder USA is preparing a January introduction of a new skin care product called Diminish Retinol Treatment that the company thinks will be one of its hottest entries ever.
“This will be our biggest launch in the treatment area since Fruition,” said Robin Burns, president and chief executive officer of Estee Lauder USA & Canada plus the recently acquired Donna Karan licensing venture.
Fruition, which was launched in 1993 and succeeded in 1996 by Fruition Extra, has been called the most successful launch in the division’s history, becoming the number one dollar generator in the firm. It remains a division star, along with Advanced Night Repair, which was launched in 1991.
Burns mentioned no dollar figures. But industry sources figure that sales of $40 million to $50 million will be needed at retail for Diminish to equal Fruition.
Lauder is clearly going for it. Burns stressed that the opening promotional burst will be sustained throughout the year. Elements of the first-year promotional effort, including TV advertising, add up to an estimated $6 million to $8 million.
Diminish has as its driving ingredient retinol, a pure form of vitamin A, which stimulates the body’s production of collagen. That, in turn, is a factor in restoring the skin’s resilience, reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles and lessening discolorations.
During a video presentation, Dr. Daniel Maes, vice president of research and development for Estee Lauder worldwide, explained that the company has attempted to cope with the inherent instability of retinol and avoid the irritation usually associated with the substance by creating a special delivery system and airtight packaging.
Retinol converts to another, more irritating form when exposed to oxygen, light or water. So Lauder created microscopic spheres of collagen, called thalaspheres, that contain pockets of retinol. The substance is released over a 12-hour period, keeping it stable until it hits the skin.
He added that whey protein, a natural growth protein extracted from milk, has been added to the formula to help boost collagen production.
The formula also contains emulsifiers that are compatible with the skin to help strengthen the natural barrier against irritants.
Dominique Szabo, senior vice president of product development for Estee Lauder worldwide, noted that the formula also includes a lipid blend of ceramides, cholesterol and linoleic acid to further reinforce the skin’s protective barrier; a combination of green tea and marine extracts to soothe the skin, and anti-oxidants, such as vitamins C and E.
Citing test results, Maes said there was a 50 percent decrease in the appearance of lines and wrinkles after eight weeks of use and a 49 percent improvement in evenness of skin tone. He also reported a 68 percent increase in the skin’s moisture barrier and a 41 percent improvement in suppleness.
Joseph Gubernick, senior vice president of corporate research and development, drew a distinction between Diminish and prescription skin care products. The Lauder product makes cosmetic claims — a reduction of the appearance of lines of wrinkles — and the prescription items make drug claims, like curing acne.
Burns said Diminish can be marketed in concert with Advanced Night Repair and Fruition Extra. Fruition is designed to exfoliate dead cells and retexturize skin, she noted. Night Repair works “behind the scenes” to repair and prevent damage, and Diminish is aimed at boosting collagen levels to ease lines and wrinkles.
The new product, priced $47.50 for one ounce, is the most expensive of the three. Fruition is $42.50 and Night Repair is $40.
The January launch will be promoted with a blast of TV advertising, beginning Dec. 26 and covering 80 U.S. markets, Burns said.
There also will be local co-op print advertising. In addition Lauder executives say the product will be advertised in national magazines, but the list of publications has not yet been selected. This is in addition to what Burns described as “major in-store merchandising.”
Samples of cleansers from Verite, Lauder’s line for sensitive skin, will be handed out with every Diminish purchase.

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