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CINCINNATI-Exfoliants have become an irritant that Procter & Gamble Co. can no longer afford in its Oil of Olay skincare line.

P&G voluntarily suspended sale of Oil of Olay Visible Recovery Series Renewal Lotion and Renewal Cream last month following 572 complaints about minor eye irritation from consumers in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

The two moisturizing cream products, which contain hydroxy acids that exfoliate dry, older cells from the skin, account for 5% of the $130 million in annual Oil of Olay sales.

Only one in 7,000 consumers reported eye irritation, none of it lasting or serious, a P&G spokeswoman said, though she added that concern about possible effects on other Oil of Olay sales prompted the move.

"Women trust the Oil of Olay name and they expect they can use our products with complete confidence anywhere," the spokeswoman said. "From our perspective, the bigger issue is letting these two relatively minor products hurt the Oil of Olay name. That's what we don't want."

P&G added a warning label to the products last fall directing consumers not to use them near their eyes, but that didn't stop complaints about eye irritation.

Advertising for the two moisturizers will be discontinued; Wells Rich Greene BDDP, New York, handles.

P&G has no estimate of how long it will take to reformulate milder versions of the products, the spokeswoman said.

But she asserted: "Certainly, we expect to be back in the hydroxy acid segment of the market."

P&G's move shouldn't affect the rest of the segment because the Oil of Olay products have a different active ingredient from most others, said a spokesman for Chesebrough-Pond's. Most exfoliants use alpha hydroxy acids, including Ponds Age-Defying Complex, she said. But the Oil of Olay products had salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid also used in acne preparations and wart removal creams.

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