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Unilever's Elizabeth Arden Co. is undertaking a new-products initiative that includes a high-tech touch with wide-ranging implications for marketing makeup.

In development since 1991, beauty-industry underdog Arden is starting a global launch of a computerized skin analysis and on-the-spot makeup mixing system called Custom Color.


While many cosmetics companies already claim to do custom color-an individualized match of face makeup to skin tones-Arden executives say Unilever engineers from its food sector have built a better mousetrap. Key is a hand-held Spectrophotometer that in seconds reads all skin properties, including color tones, into a computer. That prompts the mixing of a bottle of foundation at the counter within 5 minutes.

Arden's system factors in the effects of all three forms of light- sunlight, incandescent and fluorescent-any one of which can effect a perfect match between makeup and skin tone.

The development offers minority women with hard-to-match skin tones an alternative to existing non-customized lines and could give Arden a chance to compete in markets, such as Japan, where it hasn't been strong.

Arden President-CEO Peter England said the system was tested in two Florida and New Jersey department stores over the past 18 months. It will be up in 30 stores by the yearend. About 150 will be added worldwide in 1997.


Arden, with advertising in-house, is seeking a direct-marketing agency for Custom Color. It also will run ads in newspapers and city/regional magazines to support the fall launch.

Arden also will introduce Fifth Avenue fragrance, with $18 million in marketing; Skin Illuminating Complex, meant to produce results similar to Johnson & Johnson's prescription drug Renova but with no irritation; and the Lip Story, a long-wearing lipstick that will help kick off a repackaging of Arden's makeup line.

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