Clinique is one of the world's largest suppliers of prestige makeup and fragrance products. It was launched by Estée Lauder Inc. and premiered to the public at Saks Fifth Avenue in August 1968.


In 1968, magazine editor Carol Phillips consulted with Park Avenue dermatologist Dr. Norman Orentreich for an article titled "Can Great Skin Be Created?". The doctor shared the products and procedures that he used in his own office. The article caught the attention of Estee Lauder and Dr. Orentreich was brought on board to help create the first Dermatologist developed skincare line.

Clinique was developed for people who have very sensitive skin, and prior to Clinique, could use very few cosmetic products. Clinique was at that time different from most cosmetic companies in that its goal was to meet individual skin care needs by categorizing skin types. Clinique products are Allergy Tested and 100% fragrance free.


Allergy Tested

Clinique tests its product for allergic reactions by applying it to 600 people 12 times, with a standard of zero reactions. This guideline was developed and controlled strictly by Clinique; there are no legal guidelines in any country that regulate the term "hypo-allergenic".


Both the US Food and Drug Administration and the Cosmetics, Fragrance and Toiletries Association classify the term 'fragrance' as being a function of, rather than type of ingredient. It is therefore up to the formulator to classify a fragrant component's purpose in the finished formula.
A way to understand this is to consider rose oil or other types of fragrant extracts. The inclusion of rose oil could result in a 'fragranced' product, but the purpose behind the inclusion of the rose oil is up to the company. If the company defends the position that rose oil was added as a skin-conditioning agent then legally the product could be called "fragrance-free" because no ingredient was added specifically for the purpose of creating a fragrance. Fragrances added "to mask or cover up the odor of other ingredients, it is not required [by the FDA] to be put on the label.


Although Clinique has never claimed to be the inventors of the core 3-step system, it bears more than a subtle resemblance to the late Dr. Erno Laszlo's concept of skin care. His philosophies are mirrored at Clinique: cleanse with soap, rinse very thorughly and then re-establish pH with skin toner. Dr Lazslo was a large critic of fragrance in skin-care products; he developed a set of guidelines to determine the client's exact skin type and needs (called "clocking"); he stressed the significance of thorough cleansing and removing makeup; and established a testing lab to evaluate the tolerance for his products before they were sent to market. All of these ideas have become Clinique signatures, much to Erno Lazslo's chagrin.


All skin types use soap for facial cleansing. Clinique's labelling falls under legal guidelines for soap, and thus contain tallow and lye as the bases. This is mandated by the US FDA and any product that does not list ingredients but merely says "soap" is based on this formula. There is much confusion about this within Clinique, as many staff either deny it or refuse to answer the question. In 2006, the consumer advocacy television show The Shopping Bags sent a bar of Clinique soap to the University of Vancouver lab for analysis (they also tested a Clinique soap purchased from the US). The lab revealed the soap did in fact contain beef, chicken and pork fat (tallow) as the base, with sodium hydroxide (lye) as the surfactant. (Clinique counters that soap is necessary to properly cleanse the skin and remove all dirt, debris and oil).

Clarifying Lotion

All numbered versions have been reformulated over the years, which each new formula eliminating a controversial ingredient; acetone, phenol, turpentine, thymol (Trachyspermum copticum), and methyleugenol have each disappeared from the formulas with time. However, all versions still contain denatured alcohol, which has been demonstrated to cause cellular death when applied topically. (Clinique argues that none of their Clarifying Lotions contain enough SD alcohol to adversely affect the skin, and that the studies demonstrating the necrotic properties of denatured alcohol were done using much higher concentrations than is used in modern cosmetic preparations).

Skin care

3-Step Skin Care system


After the classic 3 steps are established, new products are introduced to address further concerns and/or needs of the skin. Women who wear makeup, for example, are encouraged to use a specific eye makeup remover and another separate product in cream, lotion, foam or oil form to dissolve makeup on the rest of the face. The user then follows this by washing their face with the soap. Clinique asserts that soap cleans the skin thoroughly, but does not remove makeup, facilitating the need for additional products.

Another addition is a topical scrub product. The company recommends a mechanical exfoliator for use 1 to 3 times a week.

Clinique also recommends the daily use of an SPF15 product on the face; this is a separately purchased product, as the DDML (either version) does not contain any sun protection. Moisturizers, serums, masks, eye creams, and night creams addressing specific skin problems such as acne, enlarged pores, dullness, uneven skin tone, lines/wrinkles, excess oil, and dryness are all applied over the DDML lotion.

Clinique also has a facial care line called CX which contains products targeted towards specialized needs, such as stretch marks associated with pregnancy. These products are much more expensive than is typical for Clinique, and thus only sold in high-end department stores.

Hair Care

Clinique began selling a line of fragrance-free hair care products in the mid-1970s. This line included shampoos (including an anti-dandruff formula), conditioners, and fixatives. In 2001, Clinique reformulated and repackaged the entire hair care line. By 2006, the hair care products began to disappear from stores, and in 2007 Clinique confirmed it was discontinuing the hair products altogether.

General cosmetics

Although mostly known as a skincare line, 52% of revenue for Clinique is derived from their foundations. The brand is #1 in this category across global markets. Clinique makeup products are mostly known for being more sheer and subtle than traditional cosmetic lines, consistent with the tastes of the junior customers they target. However, in recent years Clinique has begun to offer a larger array of colour cosmetics. Clinique also offers a line of makeup brushes coated with an antibacterial solution.


Women's Fragrance

Clinique's original fragrance is Aromatics Elixir. Its ingredients include rose, jasmine, ylang ylang and vetiver. Nose behind Aromatics Elixir fragrance is Bernard Chant. Launched in 1971, Estee Lauder created Aromatics Elixir as to address a segment of the population that wanted to wear perfume, but had allergies and could not. Up until then, these women had to hunt for fragrances that, by word of mouth, were "known" to be suitable to more sensitive skins, or simply go without fragrance altogether. Estee Lauder was involved with the development of the fragrance and guided the formulation to use fragrant oils that were known to be well tolerated. The final version was tested extensively without reaction, thus, Estee Lauder created an oxymoron in developing the world's first hypo-allergenic fragrance.

Clinique's most famous fragrance, called Happy and promoted by pop singer Rihanna, is advertised as being "a hint of citrus, a wealth of flowers, a mix of emotions and a chic, modern, multi-layered sparkling floral." Happy is also available in other products. With the success of Happy, Clinique then went on to develop Happy into other sister fragrances, such as Happy To Be and Happy Heart. Clinique also introduced two Limited Edition Happy fragrances Happy Holiday and Happy In Bloom, the latter of which is currently available in shops.

Other Clinique women's fragrances include Wrappings (which only appears during the holiday season) and Simply (which has a licorice note and was sadly discontinued).

Happy to Be is also discontinued now. Happy In Bloom is coming back as a seasonal fragrance at the beginning of the summer.

Men's Fragrance

Men's Skin Care

The range targeted at men consists of products in three main categories: Skin Care, Shaving, and Grooming.

Basic Skin Care consists of the men's version of the Clinique 3-Step process: Facial Soap or Liquid Face Wash, a range of Scruffing Lotions in various strengths, and M-Lotion or M Gel-Lotion; specialist Skin Care is made up of things like Eye Hydrator, Lip Balm and M-Protect 21 (a daily moisturising sunscreen).

Clinique's shaving line includes pre-shave exfoliating scrubs, Electric Shave Primer, shaving creams, gels, and oils.

Clinique's grooming products include Hair Maximizing Shampoo and also a hair maximizing styling serum.

Clinique's M-Lotion, M Shave Aloe Gel, Post Shave Healer, and Clinique Happy For Men Cologne Spray, were all included in the FHM Grooming Awards 2005.


  • Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion had not changed in its formulation since its early beginnings; however in 2006, Clinique reformulated the original lotion and removed the lanolin.
  • Clinique's advertising has not changed since its inception. Ads feature extreme close-ups of individual products on a white background with no text.
  • Up until 2005/06 Clinique's packaging had not evolved from the original, but recently Clinique has begun to redesign some of the packaging.
  • Clinique does not test on animals.


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