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STYLE : Spring Beauty : The Latest on Looks : GUINEA PIG FOR A DAY

April 04, 1993|NINA MALKIN

Testing cosmetics on people makes sense, more so than determining which skin lotion nine out of 10 rabbits prefer. Willing to have their pores displayed for all to see, volunteers are dauntless, intrepid people . . . not unlike myself.

Recently, I visited Neutrogena after reading an ad for its hand cream and lotion that promised "17 Hour Relief for Dry Skin." I looked at the "Moisturizer Efficacy Study" bar graph and thought, "Oh, yeah? Prove it!"

Donning a less-than-glamorous paper hairnet, I met the doyenne of the company's skin physiology lab, Yohini Appa. She's the manager of product efficacy, safety and regulatory affairs as well as a woman who manages to look exotically beautiful despite lab-coat couture. Appa explained that many variables--environmental and human--affect testing. But Neutrogena, like many companies, does what it can to stabilize results--the lab's climate is controlled and daylight is simulated. Plus products are used under real-life conditions.

Results can be determined three ways: clinical tests, consumer-perception evaluations and instrumentation--state-of-the-art tools that give Appa the "third eye."

I let Appa use her third eye on me. She pressed a Scopeman video microscope, which magnifies up to 700 times, to my face. An image filled the screen: Those weren't pores; they were swimming pools!

Next came the rather low-tech D-Squame test for dryness and texture. Place transparent tape on the arm, then on a black surface. The flakier the tape, the drier the skin (on a scale of one to four, four being the driest, I was a two).

I was more impressed by the Skin Surface Hygrometer, which measures the skin's moisture with electrodes. Appa took five readings on my arm and calculated a mean. Under 10 is dry; I registered eight. After some Neutrogena Emulsion, my skin was a dewy 131.

Depressed as I was by the sight of my plugged pores on the Scopeman, I was interested in what the Sebumeter had to say. It measures skin surface oil. Predictably, my forehead rated a whopping 163 (over 100 is oily). After washing with Liquid Neutrogena Facial Cleansing Formula, I dropped to 7.

Appa said she has a "95% confidence level" in the accuracy of her equipment. Bells and whistles aside, I was satisfied. I left the lab with a softer arm, a cleaner forehead and a better attitude about the credibility of at least one cosmetics company.

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