In the summer of 1967, the beauty talk of New York wasn’t about a newfangled ingredient. It was about a Vogue feature: “Can Great Skin Be Created?” Though it’s now a given, the notion that women need not submit to DNA destiny and could, via products or treatments, achieve “dazzling potential” was radical thinking then. One reader was dazzled: Evelyn Lauder of Estée Lauder enlisted the author, Vogue beauty editor Carol Phillips, and her source, dermatologist Dr. Norman Orentreich, as founders of a whole new brand, Clinique.
Now—brace yourself—the butter-yellow bottle we grew up with, Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion, holds the first formula tweaks in its 45-year history. As New Coke demonstrated, tampering with a classic is treacherous terrain, so Clinique sweated the details—keeping the colour and silkiness identical while stealthily upgrading the basic recipe. To the signature sesame oil, they added hyaluronic acid, glycerin and urea, all moisture magnets. (Only a hushed “+” on the package signals the change.)
Despite sci-fi-level rivals flooding the market, Dramatically Different isn’t the only skin-care oldie that’s been secure on the bestseller list for generations. The early ’80s ushered in Estée Lauder Night Repair Cellular Recovery Complex; the iconic dropper-dispensed serum was one of the first skin-care products to feature hyaluronic acid and to understand that skin’s self-healing peaked at night. This fall, it’s topped up with algae and yeast extracts to encourage catabolysis (cells’ natural detox-like process).
And retinol, the ne plus ultra of derm-endorsed wrinkle smoothers, started as an older-than-disco acne fighter circa the early ’70s. It was then stabilized (so light, oxygen and heat wouldn’t spoil it) by RoC 25 years ago for use in cosmetics. The downside: The potent effect sometimes left delicate faces parched and peeling. Over the years, savvy tinkering has made retinol stronger—but don’t assume harsher. Products like the new Retin-Ox Correxion Instant Wrinkle Filler combine retinol with other ingredients to make it gentler while speeding up the effectiveness. For, now that we know our own new-and-improved skin is attainable, who has the patience to wait?