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November 14, 2011

An Ode to Clinique

Evelyn Lauder, the senior vice president of the Estèe Lauder Companies and wife of its heir, Leonard Lauder, passed away this weekend after battling ovarian cancer. This spring she was profiled in Harper’s Bazaar, and photographed at her manse looking more regal than Jackie O. Best known for founding the Breast Cancer Resarch Fund and helping it raise $350 million to date, Evelyn Lauder also came up with the name Clinique and was the first to don the white lab coat when she became the training director in 1968.

While my mother and grandmother probably have more memories of Estee Lauder, it’s Clinique that makes me nostalgic. It was the first “fancy” department store brand I encountered up-close. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw it displayed on my aunt’s vanity (one of the early telltale signs of where my life was headed). She seemed to have the entire line, including the classic 3-Step. The giant yellow bar of soap, the pretty mint-green packaging, the important-looking bottle of toner that could probably strip off nail polish. I waited anxiously to grow up, then saved my babysitting money for a Clinique pressed powder compact. Upgrading from CoverGirl was almost as major as getting kissed by a boy. In class, all the popular girls would whip out long, slender tubes of Almost Lipstick in Black Honey, like a badge of honor. Later, I would be mesmerized when my perfect college roommate used the 7-Day Scrub, while I was stuck with Neutrogena. We graduated to more sophisticated brands like Kiehl’s and Bobbi Brown, until one day I spotted a lavendar bottle of Take the Day Off Makeup Remover on Carrie’s pedestal sink during an episode of Sex in the City and remember thinking that Clinique must be cool again. I still shudder at how many women use the Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion, famously yellow and infamously loaded with pore-clogging mineral oil. But another yellow cream, the Deep Comfort Body Butter, feels like pudding and smells like eggnog. It’s one of the reasons I still scan the GWPs in the Sunday circulars!

Everybody’s got a Clinique story—what’s yours?

  • Elizabeth Dehn
    Born and raised in Minnesota by surprisingly low-maintenance parents, beauty writer and lifestyle editor Elizabeth Dehn (aka Bets) spent her awkward years buying Mood lipstick and whipping up DIY face masks before founding Beauty Bets in 2009.
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