In Hollywood, a single pimple on otherwise creamy skin can ruin the day of any actor or model – especially with today’s high-def cameras.
And don’t get makeup artist Patty Bunch started on what she faces when a client arrives on set with ravaged skin after partying hard all weekend.
But Bunch and some colleagues are increasingly using what’s called medical makeup. The latest entrant to the market is a small line called Oxygenetix, made by a City of Commerce company of the same name.
“It can be hard to find something that covers well when you’re shooting with high-def cameras, and yet doesn’t make a skin condition worse,” Bunch said. “This is one of the tools I can use.”
Bunch is an esthetician who does makeup for TV shows and last week prepared Janice Crystal, wife of Academy Awards show host Billy Crystal, for her walk down the red carpet.
The Oxygenetix line is sold nearly exclusively through cosmetic surgery and dermatologist practices. It originally was marketed to cover and treat skin recovering from surgery, dermatological procedures such as dermabrasion, and conditions such as severe acne.
“There are consultations that go on every day in cosmetic surgeons’ offices that don’t result in a booking (for surgery) because the patient doesn’t want other people to know they’ve had something done,” said Oxygenetix founder Barry Knapp, 48. “We offer to physicians an answer to that argument.”
Knapp touts not only the product’s ability to cover unsightly skin, but an ingredient called ceravitae. It enables oxygen to get deeply into the skin, he said. The line’s moisturizer also contains high levels of synthesized humectants, chemicals normally generated by the body to help keep moisture in the skin.
Those ingredients come at a premium price. The foundation typically costs about $75, and the moisturizer, which contains several high-cost ingredients, sells for $85 to $120, depending on the size of the bottle.
Oxygentix has a lot of competition. Elise Minton, executive beauty editor at NewBeauty magazine, said medical makeup is a fast segment of the multibillion-dollar skin care industry. The niche until now has been dominated by lines based on minerals, which Oxygenetics does not contain, such as boutique line Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics of Simi Valley.
Mineral cosmetics contain a blend of pigments and natural minerals such as zinc, iron, and titanium dioxide that are finely crushed to produce microscopic crystals. The crystals are said to allow the skin to breathe as if it were makeup free.
“There is a lot of mineral makeup on the market these days, so having another unique ingredient to set your (medical makeup) product apart perhaps can give them an edge,” said Minton, whose magazine covers science-based products and procedures.
A native Angeleno who studied cosmetics chemistry in Europe, Knapp specialized in developing luxury makeup there during the 1980s. He eventually returned to the United States.
“All of the hottest skin care and cosmetics brands of the last 20 years have come out of California,” he said, citing companies such as ProActive and Bare Escentuals, and Obagi Medical Products Inc., a Long Beach company that sells skin care, but not cosmetics, also for postsurgical patients.
In the 1990s, he founded Lycogel, an L.A.-area company that boasted of developing the first “breathable” makeup to cover scarring after surgical procedures and skin conditions. The company was acquired and he left in 2001.
Knapp soon began developing the Oxygenetix line, financed with his own savings and through individual investors. Knapp released the product in 2009 and marketed the line at medical meetings via sales reps.
Dr. Andrew Ordon, a celebrity plastic surgeon seen on syndicated talk show “The Doctors,” now carries the line at his Beverly Hills plastic surgery practice.
The line inhabits a gray space between a prescribed medicine and cosmetic lines available in department stores, boutiques and drug stores. Although a prescription is not required, consumers generally have to go to a medical practice to buy the product.
That physician-focused distribution model limits the growth potential compared with, say, Bare Escentuals, which grew through extensive infomercial marketing. (It was acquired last year by Japanese skincare giant Shiseido Co. Ltd.)
However, the company has an agreement with doctors that allows it to be sold to production studios and professional makeup artists for use on the set.
Unlike many skin care products manufactured by third-party contractors, Oxygenetix is made at a company-controlled facility inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Knapp said.
Oxygenetix does not release sales figures, but he said revenue doubled in the line’s second year and was up 275 percent last year. That growth he attributed to Oxygenetix’s growing global presence. With the recent addition of Russia and the Netherlands, the line is available in 14 countries and from 1,000 physicians worldwide.
Unlike Obagi, which also is sold only in doctors’ offices and went public in 2006, Knapp said he has no plans to go public or even seek larger venture capital investors. He expects to be able to fund domestic and overseas expansion from cash flow, and said he has begun paying back some early investors.
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