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Cashing In on Beauty’s ‘Allure’ : Magazines: With more reader-friendly design and fewer advertiser-angering features, Editor Linda Wells hopes to have the final word in makeup.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Linda Wells has the icy paleness of a Hitchcock heroine. Her hair is blunt-cut blond, her features are waspy blond and her Chanel-ish suit is baby doll pink. She doesn’t appear to wear any makeup which is surprising since she is the editor of Allure, a beauty magazine.

“It is either a testament to the application, or a total waste of time, because I do wear a ton of makeup,” Wells said during a recent stop in Los Angeles. She took up temporary residence at the posh Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills to glad-hand current advertisers, and look for new ones to invite into the fold.

Wells is the newest member of the sisterhood of Conde Nast fashion editors. She is not as visible as Vogue’s Anna Wintour or Vanity Fair’s Tina Brown . . . yet. But if Allure keeps on its current course, Wells could develop a high profile in the fashion business.

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Allure’s first issue appeared in March, 1991. Bad timing, said the analysts; even thriving magazines were suffering financial losses. Conde Nast chairman, S. I. Newhouse Jr., countered by saying there was never a right time to launch a magazine and gave the official go-ahead.

The circulation has more than doubled to 441,000 issues a month since last March, but the 40 pages of advertising in each issue are 10 short of what Conde Nast would like, says Allure’s publisher, Kathy Neisloss Leventhal. But even before the first-anniversary champagne corks were popped, the publication was cited as one of Adweek’s 10 hottest magazines of 1991.

“Initial issues may have misfired,” wrote Adweek’s Regina Joseph, “but Wells has honed Allure into an unflinching resource for women who prefer to know about such things as the chemicals they put on their faces and in their hair.” Media watchers give Allure good marks for content but have remarked on the vulnerability of its position. “A no-makeup trend could come along and that would be the end,” says Roberta Garfinkle, director of print media for advertising giant McCann Erickson.

Allure won’t ever be a mass-market vehicle like Vogue, observes Garfinkle, but, “it’s a nice little magazine for cosmetics junkies.”

The first issue was larger, brassier, and more hard hitting than the magazine is now. The original format, with Rolling Stone-sized dimensions, was shrunk to the traditional 8 by 10 1/2 inches for better newsstand position, says Wells.

And there have been no repeats of articles such as “Road Test,” which appeared in the first issue and compared effectiveness, price and side effects of eye-makeup removers.

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The article suggested that a Lancome product induced the most stinging reaction, and Lancome was not pleased.

Adweek reported that Cosmair, parent company to Lancome, was “wildly disappointed” in the magazine’s content, and Lancome ads were conspicuously missing in the second issue.

Lancome did not cancel its contract with the magazine, explains Wells a bit testily, “they just didn’t advertise for a while.”

In the first issue, Wells--who had previously reported on health and beauty for New York Times and Vogue magazine--established Allure’s somewhat subversive philosophy. She blasted standard beauty reporting for preying on readers’ insecurities about their looks.

Since then, Wells appears to have modified her magazine’s position. Lancome is back and side-by-side product comparisons are out.

Instead, Wells runs the results of a nationwide popularity contest called “Best-Sellers.” Hair sprays were the May product. Pantene Extra Firm Hold Unscented is the No. 1 hair fixative at Burns Drugs in La Jolla, while Aqua Net Extra Super-Hold Unscented is at the top of Walgreens’ chart in Phoenix, Ariz. Stores report customer preferences and no one is the fall guy. It’s very advertiser friendly.

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The confusing, reader-unfriendly type sizes and styles that characterized early issues have been jettisoned. The new typography is easier on the eye.

Fine-tuning, Wells calls it.

But Allure continues to run non-traditional beauty magazine fare. Photos of a real face lift, shown step by step, ran in the June, 1991 issue.

“We did not do it for sensationalism. This is the kind of information women want,” Wells says. “We weren’t going to treat surgery as if it was some make-over with no discussion of pain, bruising and side effects.”

Allure is more likely to report on cosmetic research and development than, say, tips on eyeliner tricks. Armed with product knowledge, says Wells, women can make their own choices.

For Allure to succeed, it must appeal to women who love makeup--and those who don’t--and to readers from different regional and cultural backgrounds.

“Women in Los Angeles are really concerned with skin and hair treatments and exercise. In New York, it’s all about makeup,” she says.

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Beauty concerns vary internationally as well. “The spas in France are all about skin care and makeup, never exercise. While in Brazil, the emphasis is on plastic surgery and being tanned. In Japan there is more interest in lipstick and nail color.”

Articles about cosmetics democratically address the entire range of skin tones and some issues of skin color are cast in social or political terms.

The writer of an article called “The Politics of Black Beauty,” argued that African-American women are victims of cosmetic stereotyping.

Even the glam side of the business is presented without its Erase. Candid shots of movie stars and models, caught in all their wrinkles and bad posture, are preferred over poses captured by a studio photographer.

Even more fascinating are the wicked computer-enhanced make-overs of the rich and famous. Pounds of flesh were added to skeletal socialite Nan Kempner.

Pat Buckley’s trademark Vampira eye makeup was toned down and her special pork-chop-shaped blush technique modified.

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Pictures of models are played in the magazine like the tabloids use movie star photos.

“Models are like the old movie stars,” reasons Wells. “They are always dressed to the nines. While movie stars are trying to become real people.”

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