No pain, no gain, right? Wrong. There's a hot trend heading into summer that has nothing to do with spending hours working out or reading the fat content on food labels.
Call it beauty's latest miracle in a bottle: thigh creams that promise thinner, smoother, cellulite-free legs. One company, Houston-based Nobel Pharmaceuticals, even has a companion product for men graphically named Belly Buster Contouring Gel.
"At a certain age, you can diet until you're gaunt and still have pockets of fat. Men develop golfer's gut and can't get rid of it no matter how many sit-ups they do," said Nobel CEO Karen Mabray, whose company is searching for an agency to produce an infomercial and national advertising for its Belly Buster and Thin Thighs gels.
Thighs are what really have women's eyes.
"If there's a part of the body women dislike most, it's the thighs," said beauty industry consultant Suzanne Grayson of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Grayson Associates.
"They represent the highest level of personal discomfort. And the interest this year is incredible," Ms. Grayson said. "It's greater than in years past because of all the hype that has preceded it. The products have the `smell' of being legitimate because of the [ingredient] aminophylline."
Aminophylline is an anti-asthma drug that, when applied topically, is supposed to break down fat and trigger the body to release it.
Researchers-endocrinologists Frank Greenaway of Marina del Rey and George Bray of Louisiana State University, and Los Angeles physician Bruce Frome-who discovered the application have licensed several companies to market cosmetic versions. That includes Heico Cosmetics, which sells Smooth Contours through distributors like vitamin marketer Herbalife and drugstores.
Others have come out with their own versions. Nobel's, for instance, are a combination of aminophylline and yohimbe, a natural fat inhibitor, and are sold through health food stores and doctors. Nobel is also looking at taking the products, which sell for $29.95 for 8 ounces, into department stores.
Department stores sell an estimated $100 million annually of cellulite and skin toning creams, lotions and gels for the legs.
These tony emporiums are expected to get a big boost in the category this year from Christian Dior's Svelte Cellulite Control Complex, which was introduced in January. Bob Cankes, president of Christian Dior Perfumes, said Svelte so far has "captured 14% of our total target audience. We project we will triple the size of the anti-cellulite market in department stores."
Dior originally projected national sales of 300,000 bottles but has increased sales expectations to 500,000. The product costs $48 for 6.8 ounces.
Made with natural ingredients, Svelte contains no aminophylline, a fact perhaps lost on consumers but not on the Food & Drug Administration, which is considering a crackdown on marketers that do use aminophylline. As a result, the FDA won't target Svelte if it moves against the drug-based products (AA, March 14).
Svelte has stayed on the right side of government regulatory agencies by making no overt claims: A simple, copyless print ad created in-house features a bare-skinned model with nary a single cellulite dimple.
The print ad is also being used in regional cooperative TV commercials from Dior retailers. They include Bloomingdale's, which in recent weeks has called Svelte the store's "hottest" selling item.