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To hear Arcona Devan tell it, the fountain of youth is right here in the San Fernando Valley. And it isn’t a fountain at all. Mostly, it comes out of bottles and jars. Devan, with her husband Chris, owns and operates The Arcona Studio and Mythic Tribe Store, where they dispense facial treatments and sell bath products and fragrances the couple says can peel away the effects of aging and enhance health and well-being. While consumer advocates are dubious about such claims, business is good for the Studio City company. Last week it moved into a new shop, tripling its space and the number of beauty therapists it employs. “I had to raise my price,” Devan said of her fee for personally doing facials. There was so much demand for her work, she said, “I could work from 7 in the morning to 12 midnight.” The relentless pursuit of eternal youth is nothing new in Los Angeles. But some of the newer advances in skin care and anti-aging treatments have spawned a rash of new products. Sales of anti-aging skin care products soared 40 percent to about $4.2 billion in 1998, from $3 billion in 1994, according to Market View, an Austin, Tex.-based marketing firm that specializes in the cosmetics industry. The Devans won’t disclose their sales figures. But they say that about 100 to 120 people a week pass through the salon for one or more facial treatments at $65 to $85 each, up from about 70 appointments a week eight years ago. The growth was fueled mainly by alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), plant-based formulas that peel away the top layers of dead skin, and more recently products containing vitamin C and a variety of enzymes. “AHA’s hit the market about the time the baby boomers realized they weren’t immortal,” said Marlene Eskin, president of Market View. “They were the first ‘magic’ ingredient in a very long time, and it really kicked off a whole ingredient focus.” Devan, who develops all her products herself in consort with chemists, began mixing up her lotions and serums eight years ago, when alpha-hydroxy products were beginning to come onto the market. Clients typically come to the salon for Devan’s signature treatment, facial contouring, a one-hour massage that the couple claims reduces puffiness and lines and tightens and tones the skin. In addition, there are 90 different retail products, including the Mythic Tribe, a line of fragrances, bath gels and massage creams made from essential oils. Like its skin-care line, the emphasis is on natural ingredients. “Essential oils can affect you emotionally,” Devan said. “When you smell it, it can lift you or calm you.” Though she was not familiar with Arcona, Paula Begoun, a consumer reporter who has been a watchdog of the cosmetics industry, said that, in general, the ability of a product to halt that breakdown has little to do with whether it is natural or not. “There are superior, awesome, wonderful synthetic ingredients, and there are excellent natural ingredients and there are also nasty, horrible natural ingredients,” Begoun said. “Not everything that grows should be on the skin.” Devan isn’t concerned about the lack of research supporting the effectiveness of the other ingredients she uses. “We’re so far ahead of a lot of other people that it hasn’t been written up yet,” she said.

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