Marilyn Monroe is undoubtedly one of the top beauty icons of the 20th century. Today marks her 85th birthday, but what exactly distinguished Marilyn as a bombshell beauty? She just had that persona, that style, and, most importantly, that look. One thing we can say about Norma Jean—she was an expert artist and knew how to accentuate her features. With her trusted makeup artist Allan Snyder at hand, Marilyn cultivated a signature beauty routine that solidified her status as the queen of '50s glamour. Most of her techniques work best for film and photography lighting, but we can still learn from her tips and tricks.
First, Marilyn took good care of her skin. She washed her face with Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil (popular then, and still popular now!), then slathered a couple of layers of Vaseline on as a moisturizing base. We don't advocate applying that much petroleum jelly, but it sure did give her a gorgeous glow in studio lighting. To shape and shorten her nose, she applied blush on the tip and layered with Vaseline for the right soft-focus texture. She also swept a pink or coral blush lightly across and underneath the cheekbones to brighten and lift her complexion.
To enhance her heart-shaped features, she visually widened the upper half of her face with highlighter, and contoured the bottom half. She blended a cream highlighter around the nose, above the cheekbones, across the eye lids and forehead, and in the space between her nose and eyes. Marilyn always pointed the arch in her eye brows, which widened her forehead. She gave the illusion of a narrow jaw line and chin by contouring with a deeper shade of powder. She shaded the hollows of cheeks, temples, bottom chin, and neck.
For her sultry down-turned eyes, she coated the lids with a creamy white shadow from lash line to brow bone. She then dramatically contoured the outer crease of with a smoky blue or soft brown shadow. This gave the illusion of incredibly deep-set eyes. She lined the upper lash line from inner to outer corner with a black or brown cream liner. She made sure to flick the line up and out for a visual lift.
Marilyn lined the lower lash line with a pencil. She drew a line from the middle of the lash line towards the outer corner, angling the line downward (just enough to look like the line was created by the shadow of her top lashes). She brightened the gap between her upper and lower lash line with a white pencil. She curled and applied false eye lashes to the outer corners of her eyes. A couple of coats of mascara later, and her eyes were good to go!
Marilyn used a multitude of techniques for the illusion of plumper and fuller lips—without the needle! To get her perfect red pout, Marilyn actually layered five different shades of lipstick and gloss. She first lined lips with a red lip liner and slightly over-drew the shape in the cupid's bow. Then, she precisely painted her lipstick on with a lip brush. She strategically placed the darker reds on the outer corners and the light reds in the middle of lips for dimension. She highlighted the cupid's bow and bottom lip with a cream highlighter for even more volume. While meticulous and product-heavy, Marilyn's rigorous beauty regimen certainly paid off. Will you be trying any of Marilyn's secret beauty tricks and techniques?