Byline: Cara Kagan

NEW YORK — When it comes to the future of the mass market skin care business, vendors are focusing on two questions: Is their life after alpha-hydroxy acid? And how can we reach younger consumers?
In the last few years, mass manufacturers have put the exfoliating alpha-hydroxy acid ingredients (AHA’s) in everything from moisturizers and cleansers to cuticle cream and nail enamel.
The use of alpha-hydroxy acid products has been the primary way that vendors have been tripping over themselves, with unprecedented zeal, to compete for the dollars of aging baby boomers.
But while manufacturers continue to see maturing women as a major driving force behind skin care sales, many are taking note of the slow emergence of a new consumer group — younger women interested in preventative measures.
And even though alpha-hydroxy acid is still considered to be as hot as ever, other ingredients, such as vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes, are gradually becoming industry buzz words.
“When 39 million people are going in one direction, as a marketer you respond to that phenomenon,” said Kathy Dwyer, executive vice president and general manager of Revlon’s mass market cosmetics division, referring to the vast aging baby boomer population. “That is why so many companies are addressing women over 35. But while the baby boomer of today didn’t get into skin care until their 30s, younger women are now being better educated on the causes of premature aging and sun damage.
“We are finding that these women, who are all under 35, are heavy users of treatment products,” she continued. “They use almost as many products as women over 35. I think we are going to see an influx of products that are preventative and are designed to check the earliest signs of aging aimed at this age group.”
“We are finding that more and more women in their late 20s and early 30s are becoming increasingly interested in what they can do to head off any problems early on,” agreed Robert Hiatt, president and chief executive officer of Maybelline Inc. “Younger women today have a higher awareness of precautions they can take, such as sunscreens and antioxidants. This concern extends not only to the treatment products they are choosing but to the cosmetics items they select. Women are looking for products that not only color and cover, but that protect and treat.”
Hiatt noted that Maybelline’s new Natural Defense foundation, which contains moisturizers, sun protection and antioxidants, is aimed at women who are younger than the company’s 35-plus audience that buys its Revitalizing collection of color cosmetics and treatment.
“The wide usage of skin care products is definitely broadening to women of all ages,” said Marcia Levis, vice president of marketing for Beiersdorf Inc., which markets the Nivea Visage facial care line. “People tend to deal with damage control first — how they can correct the problems they already have — and then preventative skin care comes into play, which the younger consumer taps into.
“I see women under 35 as a big opportunity for the mass market,” she added. “This age group is reasonably concerned about the health and appearance of their skin and they are aware of the department store brands. They just don’t necessarily have the time or the money to shop there.”
Nivea made a bid for a younger consumer early last year with two new gel-based items: Nivea Visage No Oil All Moisture Hydro-Gel and Nivea Visage Hydro-Cleansing Gel.
The products were created to appeal to women with oily, young or problem skin. The company maintained that these women need moisture but tend to avoid cream or lotion-based products because of their traditionally oil-rich ingredients.
Many firms have been refocusing their efforts on basic cleansers and moisturizers that don’t have major anti-aging claims as a way of enticing women under 35 into buying their skin care offerings.
Last May, Nivea updated its 12-item basic Visage lineup with new and more feminine graphics. To give the products a more prestige edge, all of the cartons were cellophane-wrapped.
In addition, all of the lotion moisturizers and cleansers were put into pump bottles instead of screw-top containers.
L’Oreal has also streamlined and updated its fundamental cleanser business. The Plenitude cleansing collection now consists of four items instead of seven.
The company also repackaged its Deep Gel and Hydrating Cleansing Cream in flip-top tubes, with new graphics, in lieu of the original bottles.
On the flip side of the burgeoning under-35 treatment market, Dwyer cited the development of an even more mature consumer segment.
“As the majority of baby boomers move toward menopause, I think that there will be a whole new generation of skin care products designed to meet the specialized needs of those women,” she said.
While manufacturers have started to turn their attentions to luring in new categories of consumers, they are also intent on finding what new magic ingredients may be on the skin care horizon.
“I think the skin care market will continue to move beyond AHA’s to more specific types of treatment,” said Rosanna McCollough, senior marketing manager of Neutrogena skin care. “I think people are past the phase where they believe that one product will do it all for them. AHA’s work well against lines and wrinkles, but they don’t necessarily do a lot for clogged complexions, and they are not a preventative measure.”
L’Oreal’s Excell-A3, which bowed last year, is billed as a triple assault against aging. In addition to the exfoliating action provided by alpha-hydroxy acid, the product contains sun protection and antioxidants to combat free radicals, which reportedly cause skin damage.
Antioxidants designed to combat free radicals are also part of the company’s renovated lineup of basic moisturizers, due for an introduction this month. The company has reformulated its Active Daily Moisture line and scaled it down three items from the original five.
The new products are regular and oil-free versions of Active Daily Moisture Lotion with Vitamide Complex, along with Active Daily Moisture Lotion SPF 15, which incorporates antioxidants to combat free radicals.
“Excell-A3 is going gangbusters for us, and we are planning for that momentum to continue,” said John Wendt, senior vice president and general manager of the L’Oreal cosmetics and fragrance division. “But not everyone is looking for products with AHA’s.”
Last fall, Cabot Laboratories introduced Vitamines, a six-item line of moisturizers fortified with vitamin complexes.
The premise behind the collection, according to the company, is that some skin conditions are caused by vitamin deficiencies. The Vitamines version for dry skin, for example, contains Vitamin E plus Vitamin F, both of which the company claims protect and strengthen the skin’s upper layer to help it retain its natural moisture.
There are also formulas to treat sun-damaged skin, sensitive skin, oily and normal or combination skin. Each contains a different combination of Vitamin E, an antioxidant, which the company says combats free radicals.
“Vitamins are a multi-billion-dollar industry that are sold in drugstores, so the mass market consumer is definitely familiar with the concept and is becoming even more aware of it,” said Pam Fields, president of Cabot.
Cabot became one of the pioneers in vitamin therapy in mass market skin care about 20 years ago when it launched a Vitamin E-based treatment line. Last year, the company repackaged the 10-item Vitamin E assortment to give it a more upscale appearance.
“We wanted to give Vitamin E a clearer positioning,” Field said. “I’m not sure that people knew if we existed before. It seemed like whatever business we did was done by accident.”
The use of enzymes, a much more complex and quieter trend, is also slowly creeping into treatment vocabularies and product mixes.
According to many vendors, enzymes, which naturally occur in the body, help the skin better utilize other product nutrients and act as catalysts to stimulate the skin’s own natural renewal processes.
“All of us are now looking into and reading about ways of enhancing the skin’s own natural functions,” Neutrogena’s McCollough said.”We are all concentrating on both restorative and preventative processes.”
Still, despite the new developments in technology and the emergence of new markets, many manufacturers are still high on acid ingredients and the 35-years-old plus market they tend to attract.
AHA’s are the basis for Sally Hansen’s first foray into facial skin care. Each of the four items, which bowed last month, contain an alpha-hydroxy acid complex, as well as botanicals, vitamins and moisturizers.
The new Sally Hansen lineup, which is manufactured by Del Laboratories, started shipping last month and includes two moisturizers: an oil-free facial lotion and a richer moisturizing facial cream. It also has two more intensive treatments, which are also acid based: Moisturizing Facial Capsules and Purifying Facial Mask.
The capsules were created to provide an instant burst of moisture, according to the company, as well as to soothe and exfoliate the skin. The mask was designed to cleanse and unblock pores, while exfoliating.
Del maintains that all of the products will help to diminish the signs of aging and improve the overall condition and appearance of skin.
“Alpha-hydroxy acids may seem like old hat to the trade, but for the mass market consumer, it is still a relatively new and hot concept,” said William McMenemy, executive vice president of marketing at Del.
Nivea Visage ventured into AHA territory last year with the Inner Beauty Daytime and Nighttime Renewal regimen.
The two AHA-based moisturizers were designed to work in tandem to provide continuous moisturization and exfoliation, in order to diminish fine lines and wrinkles.
According to company executives, the Inner Beauty products will bolster its technologically innovative anti-aging story, which previously included only Anti-Wrinkle Creme, a vitamin-based firming product.
Acid ingredients also continue to be a driving force for Chesebrough-Pond’s.
“We are very committed to AHA’s,” said David Cohen, category director for Chesebrough-Pond’s facial skin care division. “They are for real and are here to stay. They offer very real benefits, and people can perceive the difference in their skin after using them.”
Pond’s AHA endeavor is built around the Age Defying Complex franchise, which includes a foaming cleanser, a moisturizing cream and a cream for sensitive skin.
Dramatic Results skin smoothing capsules, a non-acid product with ceramides, vitamins and moisturizers, completes Pond’s anti-aging product lineup.
“The market is continuing to mature, and that process is only accelerating,” Cohen said. “As the skin ages, it has more needs that have to be addressed, which is why there are so many products out there targeting that segment. I do think, however, that AHA’s go beyond lines and wrinkles. Improvements in skin texture and radiance are issues that appeal to a younger consumer. “Also, AHA’s are great for reducing excess oil and healing blemishes in younger women,” he added. “I think that through taking novel approaches with AHA’s, younger women will be drawn to using the product.”
Cohen noted that the company’s acid-based cleanser attracted younger women into the Age Defying group.
“Younger women are more concerned with cleansing than mature ones,” Cohen said. “So we were able to offer them the benefits of an AHA in a product they all use anyway.” Enhanced cleansers were also on L’Oreal’s mind this year. The company became more deeply immersed in acid this month through the expansion of its Excell-A3 moisturizer business with three cleansers, called Clarify A3. All of the items contain the same alpha-hydroxy acid complex found in Excell-A3.
“We see a big opportunity in the cleansing arena,” said Larry Flanagan, assistant vice president of marketing for L’Oreal skin care. “Traditionally, cleansing has been seen as a way to take makeup off. We want to expand out of that positioning by incorporating treatment benefits into them.”
Maybelline moved into treatment for the first time last year, partly due to the booming AHA market.
The company introduced five skin care items as part of its overall anti-aging category, inaugurated when the Revitalizing color cosmetics line was introduced in 1993.
Maybelline’s treatment foray included an eye cream without acid, as well as acid-based and acid-free versions of a moisture lotion and a moisture cream.
The company is extending the line with an additional acid entry next quarter: Revitalizing Alpha Hydroxy Night Cream. The new product, designed for nighttime use, contains a higher concentration of acid than Revitalizing’s daytime formulas, according to the company. It also has nanospheres, which purportedly provide continuous moisturization, as well as elastin, to improve skin texture.
“The whole AHA exfoliating story has been more successful than the industry had ever dreamed possible, and it is far from over,” said Maybelline’s Hiatt. “It is an easy story to understand and one to which women can relate, since there is an immediacy of results.”