17 Marilyn Monroe Makeup Secrets

Marilyn Monroe was one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the silver screen. And she worked hard for that bombshell look! Though graced with natural gorgeousness, Marilyn meticulously worked to educate herself, become a better actor, and create the bombshell character everyone came to love.

Working with her favorite makeup artist Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, Marilyn learned how to accetuate her features for the camera. From using lots of white highlight to keeping her peach fuzz, here are Marilyn Monroe’s biggest beauty secrets she used to become an iconic woman.

1. Love the Little Things

Photo by Milton H. Greene © 2018 Joshua Greene

As a child, Marilyn grew up in an array of foster homes and orphanages. She never had any money and few possessions to her name. So, she cherished the little things, including makeup. In her autobiography, Marilyn said:

“I stood in front of the mirror one morning and put lipstick on my lips. I darkened my blond eyebrows. I had no money for clothes and I had no clothes except my orphan rig and the lone sweater. The lipstick and mascara were like my clothes, however. I saw that they improved my looks as much as if I had put on a real gown.”

With just a few products, at the age of 14, Marilyn realized the power of makeup. It didn’t simply make her prettier, it made her feel like a star. That confidence carried her through many hard years until she finally became the biggest star in Hollywood.

2. Don’t Rush

Marilyn enjoyed the process of getting ready. So much so, it made her chronically late! Still, taking a bit of time to luxuriate in the makeup process helped Marilyn craft her memorable performances.

Time asked about Marilyn’s process for getting ready and she said, “I don’t like to rush this process….I love to dress leisurely. I think we’re rushing too much nowadays.” 

3. Put Away the Razor

Like many of us, Marilyn had lots of peach fuzz hairs on her cheeks and face. Instead of shaving it away, Marilyn kept it — on purpose! She knew the tiny hairs gave a blurring and glowing effect to her look under the studio lights. Marilyn took what could be considered an imperfection and made it a plus! 

4. Keep Out of the Sun

Though tanning was all the rage, Marilyn avoided the sun. “I like to be blonde all over” she famously quipped. To keep Marilyn’s pristine skin, you don’t have to avoid the sunshine, just be sure to wear SPF everyday. 

5. Moisturize Moisturize Moisturize

Skincare has become increasingly popular in the last few years, but Marilyn knew the importance of moisturizer almost 80 years ago! She used Nivea Cream or Vaseline under her makeup to keep her skin soft, supple, and healthy. 

Vaseline as primer might be a bit much nowadays. Instead, be sure to moisturize every night and morning. For a vintage primer with modern ingredients, try our Vanishing Cream. With lily extract, Meadowfoam seed oil, and Vitamin A, the cream nourishes and moisturizes skin while providing a perfect base for makeup.

6. Highlight the Cheeks (But Maybe Not With Vaseline)

Vaseline was a big part of Marilyn’s makeup routine. She not only used it as a primer, but as highlighter, too! She put a small amount on her cheekbones and that shiny surface perfectly caught the lights and made her look even more lovely on camera.

Thankfully, you don’t have to rely on Vaseline as a highlighter anymore. Try a dot of White Cream Highlighter from our Marilyn Monroe Collection and blend thoroughly into makeup. Or, use a shimmering or glossy highlighter of your choice to replicate the look (without the sticky mess of Vaseline).

7. Let Your Eyes Shine (Literally)

Guess what Marilyn used on her eyelids? Vaseline! After applying eyeshadow, liner, and lashes, Marilyn would add a tiny touch of Vaseline or oil to the eyelids to give them a glossy look. Marilyn loved how gloss gave added dimension to any look under the camera. 

Again, you don’t need to use Vaseline to get a similar look. Instead, use a tiny amount of coconut oil or any gloss that’s formulated to be eye safe.

8. Five Shades of Lipstick

Marilyn famously used five lip products to create her signature pout. Using darker colors towards the edges of the lips and lighter colors in the middle created a contoured effect. Then, she’d finish with a bit of white highlight in the middle of the lower lip and a coat of gloss. All together, this clever use of lipstick made her lips look fuller and made her overall makeup even more glamorous.

Check out our article on How to Create the Marilyn Look to find out how to do this technique yourself!

9. Use A Lip Brush

Getting all the details right for Marilyn’s layered lip look would be nearly impossible without a brush. She always used a lip brush to get the precision she needed. Make sure your brush has a pointed tip so you can create the shape you want and blend the colors together seamlessly. 

10. Prime the Eyelids

Marilyn used a base of white cream on her eyelids for every look. She’d blend it all the way up to the brow bone, then apply the rest of her makeup. This left a bit of white in the corners and underneath the brow to act as highlight, while the rest of the white worked as a primer for eyeshadow. This both opens up the eyes and helps the look last longer!

11.Use Three Kinds of Eyeliner

Photo by Milton H. Greene © 2018 Joshua Greene

Creating a perfect on camera look takes a lot of detail. So, Marilyn used three different colors of eyeliner to get it just right. For the upper lid and wing, she used black liner. For the lower lash line, she used brown, and in the water line, she used white to make the eyes look even bigger. 

It sounds a little complicated, but this technique is worth a try! The mix of colors gives added dimension and though white might seem harsh, it opens the eye and gives you a real old Hollywood feel.

12. Add Red to the Eyes 

This one sounds a bit nutty — but it works! Marilyn would add a dot of red liner to the inner corner of her eyes. This highlights the eyes and actually makes them look whiter! Use our Berry Pencil from the Marilyn Collection to give this unique trick a try.

13. Cut Lashes in Half

To create the perfect eye shape, Marilyn cut her lashes in half. Then, she placed these half lashes towards the outer corners of the eye. This gives the eyes some extra glamour, but looks surprisingly natural. 

This is a great trick if you don’t love the look of false lashes, but you’d like a little extra volume. Luckily, you don’t have to cut your lashes in half, you can use the Half Lash set in our Marilyn Collection!

14. Arch the Brows

Photo by Milton H. Greene © 2018 Joshua Greene

In the 1920s and 1930s, brows were thin, long, and very round. By the 1940s, a more natural, arched look became popular and in the 1950s, Marilyn took it one step further. Her brows were kept brown (several shades darker than her hair color) and very arched. It might feel a bit dramatic to give your brows the same pointed look as Marilyn, but experiment with a more angular brow to emulate her look. 

15. Add a Touch of Blush to the Nose

Contour did not start with the Kardashians! Marilyn used blush to contour her face shape since the 1950s. In addition to sculpting the cheeks, Marilyn would add a touch of blush to the tip of her nose. This added warmth to the face and slightly slimmed the nose.

16. Powder Carefully

Marilyn loved her glow, so she used as little finishing powder as possible. Use a light touch of Silver Screen Powder to set makeup. Or, to really maintain your natural dewiness, only use powder where you get a little shiny, like the sides of the nose and forehead. 

17.Plan Your Disguise

At the height of Marilyn’s career, she was the most famous person in America. So, she and her makeup artist devised a simple disguise so she could go out in public without hassle. Makeup artist Snyder said:

“It was a simple thing to disguise Marilyn. I put a turban on her and we used a red bang under the turban and a pair of dark glasses. We’d gone many places and nobody ever looked around. No one had any idea that was Marilyn Monroe.”

After using all the makeup tips, you’re likely to turn heads whenever you go out! So don’t discount the power of a pair of fake red bangs and some sunglasses to keep you anonymous. 

Try all these beauty secrets yourself with the new Marilyn Monroe Collection. Bésame has recreated Marilyn’s makeup. Based on actual items from her vanity and preferred colors, this collection truly brings the beauty of an icon to life.


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