Byline: Jenny B. Fine

NEW YORK — The pharmacy is taking another step into the beauty department.
Clinique is preparing a pair of launch products that contain hydrocortisone — an ingredient used primarily in over-the-counter products, but which has been approved for use by the Federal Drug Administration for topical use in concentrations of 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent.
Clinique’s Exceptionally Soothing Cream and Exceptionally Soothing Lotion For Upset Skin, each containing 0.5 percent hydrocortisone, will be the industry’s first prestige-market skin care items to contain the ingredient when they hit stores in February.
The launch follows the entrance of more pharmacy-related products into the broader skin care arena. Johnson & Johnson, for example, made a big splash last year when it introduced Renova, a prescription treatment product.
While Renova contains the same active ingredient as Retin-A, the Clinique products use hydrocortisone because it is said to treat itchy, irritated, red skin by stopping the action of cytokines, the chemical signals that stimulate a string of inflammatory responses.
Dan Brestle, president of Clinique Laboratories, noted that Clinique created the Exceptionally Soothing products, which are suitable for all skin types, to expand on existing skin care categories.
“We believe in treatment and the three-step program,” he said, referring to Clinique’s traditional regimen, “but we also want to make sure we have all of the accessory products for individuals who need help. The other skin type categories have been talked to death. We’ve tried to broaden the scope.”
“About 80 percent of the population will have reactive or ‘upset’ skin at one point, so this is geared toward a larger population than the sensitive skin people or other categories,” added Eunice Valdivia, executive vice president of marketing and finance.
The products represent Clinique’s major treatment initiative for spring, Brestle said. Together, they should account for 4 percent of the firm’s overall business during their launch period, and then 2 percent on a continuing basis.
Although Brestle declined to provide figures, industry sources estimate that would mean a wholesale volume of about $8 million for the three-month launch period and $20 million for all of 1997.
Brestle said the Exceptionally Soothing items are “a product versus a category.” But department store retailers said the items fill a need for more specifically targeted, niche brands.
“What seems to be selling now are not only new products, but new products that offer advanced technology or new and innovative ingredients. That’s what customers are coming into the stores for,” said Rita Mangan, senior vice president of cosmetics and fragrances for the Federated Merchandising division of Federated Department Stores. “Combined with the credibility of having Clinique behind this, I think customers will be willing to try it.”
Deborah Mathews, divisional merchandise manager of Mercantile stores, agreed.
“This product is new and different, but our customers are educated enough to understand that this kind of product will handle skin that is irritated or stressed from different factors,” she said.
She added that up-to-date and effective skin care ingredients such as alpha-hydroxy acids continue to drive the business.
“When fruit acids first came out, there was concern, but look what happened,” Mathews added. “Ingredients like this are the future.”
The new items, which will retail for $30 apiece for a 1.7-oz. jar or bottle, will be introduced in Clinique’s department store distribution of about 2,000 doors in mid-February, with advertising breaking in February magazines.
Featuring a picture of the cream with a bandage superimposed over the jar and the tag line “Skin-Aid,” the ads will run in Allure, Martha Stewart Living, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair, among others, and are scheduled to run throughout the spring. Clinique will also air radio ads, although details are not final.
The company is reportedly spending over $1 million on the launch effort.
“We want to keep the focus going for a long period of time, because the need for this product is there, but we have to tell the consumer about it,” said Valdivia.
An extensive sampling campaign will also be implemented. About four million packettes will be distributed at department store counters, while miniature sizes of the lotion and the cream will be given out at selected stores.
In addition, a 1-oz. size of each product, at $15 apiece, will be sold in selected accounts for a limited time.
“Packettes can be dangerous in the skin care business, because unless a consumer sees a result, she won’t buy the product,” Brestle claimed, “but with this product, if she has a problem, the packette is enough to solve it.”
In addition to hydrocortisone, both Exceptionally Soothing items contain green tea, sucrose and oat extract, which purportedly soothe skin; vitamin E to act as an antioxidant; sodium hyaluronate for hydration; shea butter to act as an emollient, and linoleic acid and cholesterol to help skin retain moisture and prevent the penetration of potentially irritating substances.
In addition, executives said, the products are suitable for sensitive skin because they don’t contain emulsifiers, parabens or dyes.
Rather than function as an everyday moisturizer, the Exceptionally Soothing items are designed to be used only when a woman has a skin irritation.
“This is for when a woman wakes up and feels like her skin is going to crack because it’s so dry or she has redness or itching caused by environmental factors or stress or product overload,” said Shirley Weinstein, vice president of product development worldwide.
She noted that the company will recommend a dermatological consultation if the skin remains irritated after using the Exceptionally Soothing products for seven days, adding, “We call this a product for bad skin days.”