Byline: Alev Aktar

NEW YORK — Alpha and beta hydroxy acid products, which smooth and brighten the skin, revolutionized the treatment industry in the early Nineties. Never before had customers used creams that provide visible results practically overnight, and they couldn’t get enough of them.
In August, Estee Lauder will unveil its first acid-free skin refinisher that executives think could become the company’s best-selling skin care product. Called Idealist Skin Refinisher, it offers the same benefits as the much-touted acids: The formula is said to smooth the complexion and even skin tone. In addition, the lightweight gel-lotion is designed to balance oil production, reduce the size of pores, and help to prevent the visible signs of aging.
“I think the word breakthrough is overused today, but we truly think this is the leading-edge in skin care,” said Daniel Brestle, president of Estee Lauder USA & Canada. “The technology does the same thing as alpha hydroxy acids but on a more continuous basis. It’s the best product we’ve introduced in years.”
Idealist is targeted to women aged 25 and up — a younger audience than Lauder’s traditional group of users. “The intention is to go to a new, much broader audience,” said Sandy Cataldo, senior vice president of marketing for Estee Lauder USA & Canada. “Historically we’ve appealed to women aged 35 and up.”
Idealist will be priced at $42.50 for a 1-oz. pump container — the same price as Fruition. Brestle declined to talk numbers, but sources say that the lotion could generate $50 million at retail in the first 12 months.
If Idealist hits its target, it will unseat Fruition Extra, which is currently Lauder’s number one treatment product. “This is an alternative for customers who prefer not to use an acid product,” said Dianne Osborne, vice president of skin care marketing. “If a consumer has additional concerns like large pores, then Idealist would be the right choice,” added Cataldo.
Idealist smoothes skin with two sugar-derived resurfacers — acetyl glucosamine and sodium lactobionate — as well as clary sage, which steps up the skin’s natural shedding cycle. “As the skin ages, the natural bond that holds cells together gets lazy and doesn’t shed skin cells efficiently,” said Dr. Daniel Maes, vice president of research and development for Estee Lauder. “The skin refinishing complex includes glucosamine, a natural element in the cell’s bonds. This complex is released between the cells to optimize skin’s natural shedding process to perfect the surface of the skin.” The ingredients are said to work for 12 hours.
At the same time, a breathable polymer smoothes skin, “paving the surface with a matte finish that hides pores and imperfections,” according to a release.
To even skin tone, Idealist contains optical technology that scatters light so skin appears less red. Concurrently, green tea and caffeine are included to calm over-reactive skin, while mulberry and saxifrage extracts brighten the complexion.
As for the skin-balancing properties, Idealist contains a marine algae extract that is said to curb excessive oil production, which in turn helps pores shrink. Ingredients such as sodium hyaluronate and a lipid blend help to boost the skin’s moisture barrier.
Finally, a collagen booster in the form of whey protein helps to plump fine lines while anti-oxidants like Vitamins Pro-B, C and E help to fight free radicals and maximize the skin’s defenses.
The product should be used after cleansing and in conjunction with a moisturizer, said Osborne.
Idealist will be backed with print, T.V. and radio advertising. Lauder will reportedly invest $6 million on media in the first six months. In addition, there will be more than 4 million samples distributed in magazines and stores.
“Sampling is really important because we think the whole ‘wow’ factor is amazing,” said Cataldo.