You're out shopping for your mother-in-law's birthday gift and pop into a back room for a facial, say, or a shoulder massage.

On a business trip, your cosmetics bag is lighter, because fewer creams perform more functions. And when you want to know what the creams actually do for you, ideally the salesclerk will know.You wear more sunscreen and get more protection in general from the evils of the environment.

And in the really good news department, you're overwhelmed less in the elevator by overly strong perfumes.

That's the plan for 1989 and beyond, according to some members of the beauty industry. Pampering, protection and practical packaging are among the cosmetics industry's priorities in the skin-care arena. A gentler approach is on the slate for fragrance as well as cosmetics.

With the age of the so-called "hope in a jar" fading away, today's cosmetics companies are moving to woo a customer who is fast-moving, busy, growing older and stressed out.

She is, at the same time, inquisitive and cautious about the way she spends money on beauty products.

To be sure, increased service and opportunities for tender loving care seem to be on the upswing.

Well-trained salespeople behind the counters will be musts for the beauty industry, maintains cosmetics honcho Adrien Arpel. It is vital that these people have a thorough knowledge of skin care and be able to discuss the customers' lifestyles to evaluate their skins.

"A customer can say, `I'm blemished,' but is it because she is getting a divorce, or graduating from law school or has a stressful job?" Arpel said.

The industry will have to relate more closely to the customer, Arpel predicted. "Women are not interested in looking at a great beauty in a magazine beside a car and a great-looking guy."

Arpel offers facial treatments at mini salons in department stores.

Estee Lauder has moved to install department store "spas" providing facials and other pampering treatments aimed at calming the psyche. Six spas have opened in stores such as Bloomingdale's in New York and Chicago and Macy's in New York, said Dianne Osborne, Lauder's vice president of treatment marketing. "We are looking at about 10 more right now," she said.

That women need ways to help deal with busy, stressful lives is shown in the continuing popularity of Aromatherapy, which uses scents to trigger pleasant emotional responses.

Arpel, for instance, has introduced "Aromafleur," a softly scented skin-care line containing tiny flower petals, designed to spruce up the skin and soothe the user simultaneously. "I relate to the woman who doesn't have a great deal of time," she said.

Certainly the fact that many women work and travel and generally have little time for real care-taking has dictated many of the year's marketing ploys.

Skin care products that perform so-called multiple benefits are apparently another idea whose time has come. The French firm Clarins, for instance, is introducing moisturizers that are meant also to firm up the skin, said spokeswoman Carol Schuler. Several companies now offer moisturizers with sunscreens.

Indeed, the toxins and pollutants as well as the sun take their toll on today's skin. Lauder's new product line includes "Skin Defenders," creams that Lauder says provide a barrier to damaging ultraviolet sun rays as well as to pollutants, Osborne said.

In the same vein, Clarins foresees a higher incidence of sensitive skin due to the environment and is introducing products designed to calm that skin, Schuler said.

The fragrance industry is also taking new directions. After the overwhelming successes of strong perfumes, the word is out to lighten up.

Upcoming launches are expected to be gentle, romantic twists of classic scents, according to a trend report from the Fragrance Foundation.

This spring, for example, Christian Dior will introduce a soft version of Poison cologne, and in the fall, Fahrenheit, a soft, warmer fragrance for men, will be launched in this country, said Susan Biehn, public relations director.

Dior is using the soft theme for its cosmetics and skin care treatments as well. "Everything is getting lighter and softer: architecture and even food," Biehn said.