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Does Clinique’s 3-Step Skin Care Hold up Against K-Beauty? Here’s the Low Down

Clinique 3 Step

Sometimes committing fully to more than 5 minutes in front of the mirror can be a drag. We get it. For those minimalists or for the go-go-goers – who needs a 10-step routine when a 3-step regimen fits as snug as a bug into your schedule?

That’s why we’ve done some research on the latest 3-step product launch from Clinique.

We want to know if Clinique’s 3-steps holds up against our beloved K-beauty 3 -step routine.

So, as your dedicated skin and beauty geeks, we’ve compared the both in search of answers. Call it an overview or even a K-beauty and Clinique 3-step review. 

Shall we begin?

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What’s the Clinique 3-Step and Korean 3-Step Routine?

Here’s a top-level look at both.

Clinique 3-Step routine:

If you fall into one of Clinique’s 4 skin types, they offer pre-packaged options for each. But overall, each product package follows 3 core steps every time:

Step 1: Cleanse

Step 2: Exfoliate

Step 3: Moisturize

Korean 3-Step routine:

Step 1: Double Cleanse (Oil-based plus a water-based cleanser)

Step 2: Toner

Step 3: Moisturize with SPF

Clinique explains on their website that their cleansers are aimed to be “non-drying formulas” that “leave all skins feeling fresh, clean and comfortable.”

For Step 2, the exfoliation helps “sweep away pollution, excess oil and dulling flakes to reveal fresher skin.”

In Step 3, moisturizing is recommended to help your skin “maintain optimal moisture balance.”

While Clinique recommends cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing, K-beauty’s 3-steps include a double-cleanse, a toner and a moisturizer for hydration. After all, hydration is the fundamental philosophy underpinning any K-beauty routine.

So, what are the differences in more detail?

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Clinique 3-Steps vs Korean 3-Steps: The Differences

Clinique Skincare Recommends Daily Exfoliation

Right of the bat, we can see the main difference is that Clinique recommends daily exfoliation.

This is not generally advised within K-beauty circles.

In fact, the Korean skincare routine generally suggests exfoliation only 2 or 3 times a week (max) to scrub off dead skin cells and bring new cells to the surface. And very gentle exfoliators are popular, like gentle chemical exfoliators with acids or peels.

Interestingly, a beauty blogger that attended Clinique’s skin seminar gave a thoughtful review of their products, explaining that the Clarifying Lotion was intended to promote skin cell renewal and increase cell turnover – and there’s a Clarifying Lotion for all four skin types.

This means the strength in exfoliating changes for each beauty set on offer so that dry skin, for example, won’t become irritated from over-exfoliation because of its own formula (we’ll explore skin type a bit later).

Clinique Skincare Begins With a Toner

Where Clinique recommends exfoliating daily, the Korean skincare routine recommends using a toner. Clinique actually combines the toner and cleanser into one single product for step 1. When you look closely at the Clinique cleansing product description, it’s said to both cleanse and tone the skin, so it’s working as two steps in one: It “protects the skin’s natural moisture balance so there’s no taut or dry feeling.”

In contrast, Korean skincare separates the toner into its own step. Toners were going out of trend in the Western world until K-beauty brought them back, mainly because toners typically had alcohol in their ingredient list which is just so drying.

Instead of using a product designed to both cleanse and tone simultaneously, the 3-step K-beauty routine begins with a double cleanse. It first recommends using an oil-based cleanser to remove things like makeup and sebum, followed by a water-based cleanser to get rid of dirt and sweat.

Clearly, both routines value toning and understand that once you cleanse your face, your skin is stripped of its protective barrier so it’s likely that it won’t be at its normal 5.5 pH level. A toner helps bring your skin’s pH levels back to normal so that its ready for the next step in your routine.

Clinique Skincare Doesn’t Specifically Recommend SPF

While both routines suggest moisturizing, Korean skincare emphasizes applying a layer of SPF every morning alongside a hydrating moisturizer to keeps sunburn, fine lines and sun spots away (and skin cancer!).

4 Clinique Skin Types

The final difference is that both routines alter a little depending on your skin type. Clinique breaks down skin into 4 skin types, while typically in K-beauty circles you can look at 5 types.

Clinique’s skin types are categorized into:

Type 1: Very dry/dry

Type 2: Dry combination

Type 3: Combination oily

Type 4: Oily

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3-step Korean skincare allows for your skincare products to be personalized (as long as they’re within the 3 steps of cleansing, toning and moisturizing) and typically outlines 5 different skin types:

Type 1: Normal

Type 2: Oily

Type 3: Dry

Type 4: Sensitive

Type 5: Combination

Clinique 3-Step or Korean 3-Step: Which is Right?

So, what’s the better 3-step routine?

The simple answer is: it depends.

Korean skincare is all about customization, yet it’s essential steps are moisturizing and applying SPF to keep your skin hydrated and protected. The Clinique skincare routine, on the other hand, is more like a one-size-fits-all approach, designed to be neatly packaged and convenient, while addressing only 4 skin types.

If time is scarce and you don’t have the nerve to play and test different solutions, then the Clinique skincare regimen could be a great place to start — but, if you’re ready to target your more stubborn and unique skin concerns, then, Korean skincare should be your go-to.

Either way, the rule of thumb for both routines regardless of your skin type or product you use is that you should be cleansing every day, morning and night!

Best of luck!

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