THE SECRET BEHIND SOMME SKIN CARE

Byline: Kerry Diamond

NEW YORK — Is Somme the miracle on 34th Street or just another independent skin care line that promises more than it can deliver? After all, Simon Erani, the owner of Somme, said his products dramatically reduce wrinkles and fine lines, fade brown spots without the use of lighteners and eliminate adult acne.
“It’s really amazing what it does,” said Steve Howley, who as a booker in the celebrity division of Elite referred a number of models and actresses with problem skin to the company. Other fans include customers who could afford any product on the market, like a certain red-headed supermodel whose name the company isn’t at liberty to use on the record, plus Patricia Duff, the ex-wife of Revlon’s Ronald Perelman.
Duff, who joked that she sounded like a commercial, praised the products and their effect on her skin. “In fact, my dermatologist recently asked me what I’m doing with my skin these days,” she said.
The story behind Somme, which is a division of Dermatological Sciences Corp. of New York, is fairly quirky. Erani is a singer/songwriter and former shoe salesman who became obsessed with skin care when he began losing his hair in high school. He reasoned that keeping his skin youthful looking would counteract the aging effects of baldness.
About two years ago, he and a team of chemists began developing products for the Somme line. “We started going over different brands and their active ingredients to see which ingredients work and which don’t,” he said. “Then we started going through international scientific journals to see what was out there and what might be effective for skin, whether it’s for acne or sun damage.”
Dermatological Sciences is housed in a nondescript office building at 4 East 34th Street. Because Somme is not sold in any stores yet, clients visit the no-frills offices to pick up their products. The walls of the office are decorated with giant unretouched before-and-after photographs of women who have used the Somme products. Erani also has a scrapbook filled with dozens of other dramatic client photos, plus a series of ultraviolet photos that show the clients’ sun damage.
Erani plans to move the company later this year to fancier digs that will be called the Somme Institute. He is also working out future retail distribution. According to industry sources, the line is expected to do more than $1 million at retail in 2001.
The Somme product lineup consists of only five items. There is a nonfoaming, cream cleanser that retails for $19 for an 8-oz. bottle. Cotton cleansing pads containing alpha-hydroxy acids retail for $32 for 60 pads. A vitamin C serum retails for $37 for a 4-oz. bottle. It comes in two strengths, 10 percent and 20 percent. A moisturizer, called A Bomb, also comes in two strengths and contains vitamin A. A 2-oz. jar retails for $37. Double Defense is a lightweight moisturizer with SPF 25. A 6-oz. bottle retails for $25.
The key to all the products is a patent-pending process that Erani refers to as Molecular Dispersion Technology, or MDT5 as he likes to call it. This is described as a water dispersible delivery system that allows the skin to absorb the five-vitamin compound found in all the products.
The products come in simple stock packaging free of adornment except for a large colored dot. Erani himself admits it’s not the most attractive packaging. “We were going back and forth trying to decide what to put on the bottles,” he said. “Our designer came up with this generic ugly packaging.” After all, he added, “It’s not how we look, it’s how you look.”
Sommeinstitute.com will launch later this month with e-commerce.

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