When it comes to defining the eternal allure of Old Hollywood bombshell glamour, no woman has made more of an impact than Marilyn Monroe. She is the icon of hollywood, beauty, glamour, fashion and sensuality. As proof, look no further than Lifetime’s The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, which has been nominated for three Emmys—including, of course, best hair and makeup.
Monroe’s own beauty routine is the stuff of legend, scoured over by countless women who remain captivated by her fresh yet sultry look. Of course, few people have shared her beauty philosophies more than Monroe herself, so we have done our research, and it turns out, that more than tips: Monroe actually revealed her beauty secrets. Furthermore, We will break down Marilyn Monroe’s five best secrets, in her own words:
Skip the Sun, Try Cold Cream Instead
“Despite its great vogue in California, I don’t think suntanned skin is any more attractive . . . or any healthier, for that matter. I’m personally opposed to a deep tan because I like to feel blond all over.”
To get her signature on-camera glow, Monroe would apply thick layers of Vaseline or white Nivea Creme under her makeup, while dermatologist Erno Laszlo kept her well stocked in his Phormula 3-9—a reparative botanical balm, specially created to heal a scar of hers—and Active Phelityl Cream, an all-purpose moisturizer. Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, Pond’s, lanolin, and olive oil were also purportedly slathered over her skin, which she deliberately kept out of the sun.
Embrace Your Inner Blonde (and Dry Shampoo)
“In Hollywood, a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hairdo.”
“Pillow case white” was what Monroe dubbed her signature shade of platinum. A rotating team of hairstylists like Kenneth Battelle, Gladys Rasmussen, and Pearl Porterfield—the Hollywood hairdresser responsible for Jean Harlow’s own pale blonde—applied peroxide and bleach highlights every three weeks, according to author Pamela Keogh, and Monroe was said to have minimized washes by dabbing sifted Johnson’s Baby Powder on the roots.
Count Out Exactly Five Drops of Chanel No. 5
“You know, they ask me questions. Just an example: What do I wear to bed? . . . So I said, ‘Chanel No. 5,’ because it’s the truth!”
Famously, Monroe wore five drops of Chanel No. 5 to sleep, but she was said to love the heady jasmine and Bulgarian rose perfume so much that she added pours of the fragrance to her ice baths, too. To wit, an iconic black-and-white photo by Ed Feingersh shows her clutching a crystal bottle and applying No. 5 with a smile.
Take Your Beauty Sleep to the Next Level
“I have never been able to wear pajamas or creepy nightgowns; they disturb my sleep.”
After plunging her face in a bowl of hot water each night, according to Keogh, Monroe would grab anywhere from five to 10 hours of sleep in an extra-wide single bed, huddled beneath a heavy down comforter. “On Sunday, which is my one day of total leisure, I sometimes take two hours to wake up, luxuriating in every last moment of drowsiness,” she told Pageant magazine of savoring her restorative weekend rest.
Work Out Strategically—But Not Too Much
“I don’t count rhythmically like the exercise people on the radio; I couldn’t stand exercise if I had to feel regimented about it.”
Far from being a gym freak, low-key Monroe stuck to a “simple bust-firming routine,” as she also told Pageant: Two 5-pound weights, lifted above her head 15 times from a “spread-eagle arm position,” then a second set repeated with her arms above the head, and again at a 45-degree angle—all performed bedside every morning, “until I’m tired.”