Clinique Cult

3-Step Skin Care System

Ask anyone if they know Clinique, and they’ll probably smile big and talk about their first ever skin care regimen, “3-Step.” It was the first 100% fragrance free, dermatologist-developed and customizable skin care system that was designed to create great skin safely, effectively and without irritation. It revolutionized the beauty industry, and it continues to be passed down through generations as the family secret to having great skin.

Launched: 1968

Beauty breakthrough: “At the time, the world was on fire—there was the Vietnam War, and it was the beginning of the Women’s Liberation Era. Women started to fight for education, equal pay, and the right to choose. Women wanted to be treated as independent individuals,” says Janet Pardo, Senior Vice President of Product Development. “Clinique was the first skin care brand that actually listened to women. We didn’t offer an impersonal one-size-fits-all answer to everyone. A Consultant would ask her detailed questions about her specific needs, her unique concerns, and then recommended a simple, yet effective customized regimen,” she says.

3-Step took off like lightening not only because it struck such an emotional chord with women, but also because it worked. It consists of 3 simple steps—Facial Soap, Clarifying Lotion, Dramatically Different Moisturizer—scientifically developed to work together and with the pH of your skin. Each step came in different formula strengths specifically created to treat different skin types, from very dry to oily. It was quick, easy, and clinically proven. It was also safe and gentle for even the most delicate skin types. “We were pioneers in Allergy Science. In the ‘60s, skin care ingredients weren’t as regulated as they are now, so there were lots of ingredients that were causing women to have reactions. It was important to us to make sure that our formulas were free of anything even slightly irritating. We tested every single ingredient and formula, and if there were any reactions at all, it was back to the drawing board to reformulate. We still do that today,” says Janet.

The science of skin typing: In order to customize your regimen, it was important to accurately determine your skin type first. To help customers at the counter: Clinique introduced the industry’s first skin diagnostic, the Clinique Computer. It couldn’t have been more effective—or more revolutionary. Inspired by the same questions that Clinique Guiding Dermatologist Dr. Norman Orentreich would ask his patients during an office visit to uncover their skin’s needs, the computer asked customers to answer eight questions about their skin by sliding a sleek lever. How the levers lined up instantly revealed their skin type. Today, all Clinique skin care is still categorized for the same skin types—Type 1: Very Dry/Dry; Type 2: Dry Combination; Type 3: Combination Oily; Type 4: Oily.

The Difference Maker: Also new to the beauty scene was the concept of daily exfoliation with Clarifying Lotion, the second step of the regimen a.k.a. “the difference maker.” To help customers understand the importance of using Clarifying Lotion, Clinique counter visitors were (and still are) introduced to the “tape test”: First, wipe the back of one hand with Clarifying Lotion, and leave the back of the other hand as is. Then press a piece of clear tape against the back of each hand. When you gently peel the tape off, you’ll see more white flakes (dead skin cells) on the tape from the untreated hand, while the tape from the exfoliated hand will look more clear of debris. By gently sweeping away dead skin cells, not only does it make your skin look instantly brighter and keep pores clear to help prevent breakouts, but it also allows for your moisturizer to penetrate deeper into your skin.

What’s the “Magic Moment”? It’s that moment when you look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Wow. 3-Step really works.” And it doesn’t take months to see results—only 10 days. That’s why we ask newcomers to take the 10-day challenge. A great example: Hilary Presley, Associate Editor of The Wink, wrote all about her discovery, and now obsession, with 3-Step.

Rave review: We hear all the time that “it changed my life.” (Truth.) Here’s just one of the many five star reviews: “As I am writing this today, I can honestly say that my skin is the best it’s ever been after being fully committed to the simple 3-Step routine.” - Nina Wro You Rock My Life


Must-know application tips: The products in 3-Step Skin Care System were formulated to work together, but they are great on their own as well.
3-Step is as relevant today as it was 10, 30, 50 years ago because it is based on science. It’s the belief that with consistency and customization, great skin can be created. It empowers women to look and feel their best and revolutionized the beauty industry forever.

Words: Alix Light Perez | Photos from top to bottom: erin & erica, advertising photography courtesy of the Irving Penn Foundation, Matthew Chaves, Saria Atiye, Christine Hahn

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