NEW YORK — Sometimes, you have to look back to create a future star product — or at least that’s the path Kiehl’s Since 1851 is taking with its new Ultra Facial Cream.

The product, which is a richer version of the Ultra Facial Cream Kiehl’s launched in the Seventies, is designed to hydrate skin in the most extreme climates. And to illustrate its properties, Kiehl’s turned to an unusual target group — five hikers who scaled mountain peaks in Greenland last May.

“We figured if it worked for their skin, it would work for everyone’s,” said Philip Clough, president of Kiehl’s. The company was one of the sponsors of the expedition, Greenland First Ascent, which took lab samples of the new product along on the journey. According to Clough, “all five reported that the cream kept their skin well-hydrated.”

Kiehl’s became involved with the trek because of the brand’s long association with climber Robert Anderson, noted Hillary Solomon, senior vice president of marketing for Kiehl’s. “He has been a friend of Kiehl’s for years, and we’ve had him try out various products on his adventures,” she said. “He was planning the Greenland trip while we were working on the cream, and we were delighted to be able to test it in such extreme conditions.”

The product’s key technology combines antarcticine, a glacial glycoprotein Kiehl’s is sourcing from Antarctica, with imperata cylindrica, a desert plant indigenous to the Australian Outback. “We found that when we combined the two, we came out with a formula which allows skin to retain moisture in extreme conditions,” said Clough. The formula also includes apricot kernel oil and avocado oil, and is designed to be a 24-hour hydrating formula — the first that Kiehl’s has produced, said Solomon.

Ultra Facial Cream, which will launch later this month, will retail for $22.50 for 1.7 oz. “As with all of our products, we wanted to make it accessible, and that meant a reasonable price point,” said Clough, adding that it is a unisex product. It will be available in about 150 specialty store doors in the U.S., including Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, as well as 22 Kiehl’s freestanding stores and at kiehl’

This story first appeared in the May 19, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Greenland trek had another goal: raising awareness about global warming. Kiehl’s has joined forces with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on a new Web site, — launched, appropriately enough, on Earth Day. Kiehl’s will donate 25 cents to the NRDC for each of the first 500,000 clicks on the site, noted Clough. Kiehl’s is printing a map of Greenland on Ultra Facial Cream’s jar, along with text that explains the trek and Kiehl’s association with it.