Byline: Laura Klepacki

NEW YORK — After years of catering to older women, skin care is getting more youth conscious.
Beginning with the discovery of alpha-hydroxy acid, the market swelled with anti-aging items intended to improve the condition and appearance of aging skin. Of late, a subsegment of menopausal products has even emerged.
But now mass marketers are recognizing there may be opportunities at the other end of the age spectrum. Efforts have begun to educate consumers that skin care regimens are not just for the mature.
Although it’s not the only company to make a foray into the youth skin care market, L’Oreal is launching one of the largest initiatives to date. With the launch next month of a five-item collection for 20-somethings — Hydra Fresh — the company is also reorganizing its retail skin care sections into age-specific product categories
“When we analyzed the market, there was so much activity against the aging skin issue, but developing products for younger skin is an emerging market,” said Carol Hamilton, general manager of L’Oreal Retail, commenting on Hydra Fresh, which falls under its Plenitude brand.
L’Oreal executives contend that mass product development has focused on acne items for teens and anti-aging creams for baby boomers. “There was nothing in between,” declared Celine Brucker, senior manager of L’Oreal’s Plenitude brand. “There is a need gap today.”
Hamilton noted there has long been migration of young women interested in skin care regimens to department and specialty stores for brands like Clinique. Otherwise, research found that while some use cold cream or cleansing products like Noxzema skin cream, a majority wash with soap and water. What makes category development more viable now is the mind-set of young women raised to protect themselves against sun damage.
“Younger consumers today are so much smarter about SPF. They are a more sophisticated consumer,” said Hamilton. “They are well aware of how skin care and sun protection can affect their skin in the future.”
The Hydra Fresh collection offers a three-step system — to cleanse, tone and moisturize. There is Hydra Fresh Cleanser Foaming Cream for normal to dry skin and a gel version for normal to oily skin. A 6.5-oz. tube is $4.99. The moisturizer — Hydra Fresh Super Fresh — contains magnesium, calcium and vitamin C. It is available for both normal to dry and normal to oily skin, at $8.99 for a 2.5-oz container. The toner, $4.99 for a 8.5-oz. bottle, is good for both skin types.
L’Oreal is backing the launch with a $10 million ad budget, according to industry sources. Plans include featuring L’Oreal’s newest model, actress Virginie Ledoyen, in commercials and on retail displays. Ledoyen currently stars with Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Beach.” Sources said first-year sales of Hydra Fresh could increase the Plenitude business — estimated at about $120 million — by 15 to 20 percent, or $18 million to $24 million.
With Hydra Fresh, the company says it now offers skin care products for every age group. It has developed handouts identifying products useful for “20ish,” “30ish,” “35ish” and “45ish” women. That age spectrum will be reflected in product merchandising beginning this spring as retailers reset departments, noted Hamilton.
“We are really redefining our whole age approach this year,” added Brucker.
L’Oreal has also kicked off a traveling mall kiosk program to educate consumers on skin care issues. Each weekend for 14 weeks, L’Oreal skin care specialists visit a different city. No products are sold; only information, samples and coupons are offered. “Skin care is a category that is going to boom, but consumers need education,” said Hamilton.
The company also recently signed dermatologist Dr. Lydia Evans to consult on skin care issues, such as formula evaluation and identifying opportunities with consumers.
Cynthia Henry, category manager, cosmetics at Longs Drug Stores of Walnut Creek, Calif., expressed interest in L’Oreal’s plan to graduate women through the company’s skin care lineup, beginning at 20. “It makes sense to step up to the next level of product, and to get the younger user in. It is great because they [younger women] mostly are using soap and water,” said Henry.
Unfortunately, Henry noted that a skin care launch last year by Clairol’s Herbal Essences also targeting 20-somethings has not met expectations at Longs. But the L’Oreal story could be different, she said.
“Plenitude is a highly successful line for us, and they [L’Oreal] keep on top of skin care current trends. They have done well in bringing in the younger consumer on the hair color side of their business. If they can make that connection with skin care, it [Hydra Fresh] will be successful.”
At least one other company wants to take the category even younger. As reported, Jane Cosmetics announced it is branching beyond cosmetics this spring with a skin collection for teens called Good Skin. Unlike the more serious 20-something launches, Jane has factored fun elements like colorful formulas and packaging and added fruity scents to products that are also efficacious.
Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble plans to discontinue its new Noxzema Skin Fitness collection launched last June. The line, geared toward “active and athletic” young women, contained two facial cleansers, a “Toner Cleansing Disc” and oil-free moisturizing lotion and cream and a body wash. The company had no further comment.

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