My Modern Marilyn Monroe Makeup


To quote Marilyn Monroe:

“Beauty and femininity are ageless and can’t be contrived, and glamour, although the manufacturers won’t like this, cannot be manufactured. Not real glamour; it’s based on femininity.”


There may not be a more iconic image of beauty than Marilyn Monroe. Her makeup style is one that appears highly sophisticated in its aesthetic, yet it is more simple to achieve than most of the makeup routines that dominate the world today. Marilyn did not wear layers of different shades of foundation, she applied color to her face in strategic ways. For example, the offset of the creamy white eyeshadow she was known for was dramatically offset by her black winged eyeliner. Much of her makeup aesthetic was based in dramatic offset. The same goes for her signature red lip. The red shade offset her black eyeliner. The 1950’s makeup looks were informed by a Vogue magazine cover which came out in January 1950.

Nowadays, there are ways to achieve this glamorous look in subtler ways. For example, I am not wearing heavy winged eyeliner. I prefer not to combine bright red lipstick and classic winged liner often. The makeup and style you have exists within a context. Achieving your most glamorous, confident look is realizing how you can style yourself best within the context you are in. There are three essential parts to the routine that helped me achieve the look I have done in the image above.

  • Skincare and the right concealer – the lighter your base is, the better. The skincare aesthetic you are working to achieve is a natural, clean shine. Marilyn was known for using Erno Laszlo’s skincare regimen which you can read about it here, Nivea creme, Pond’s cold cream, and Vaseline. She used Vaseline on her cheeks and on top of her eyeshadow sometimes to add additional shine. In the film studio, she also was known for wearing Vaseline under her foundation for adding moisture to her foundation look. This might be a bit too intense for everyday depending on your skin type, so I think opting for a subtle shine on cheeks or eyelids is a great option! Wearing Vaseline to highlight features is essentially the 1950’s version of a sparkly highlighter which I think is a very smart to wear today
  • Finding a light brown eyeshadow to use in the crease of your eyelid for contouring the eyelid and adding dimension to your eyes. Marilyn was known for her dramatic eyeliner which I am not wearing here, but she did have the eyeliner applied over a cream or white eyeshadow base and a light brown eyeshadow or bronzer to contour the eyelid crease. I think the dramatic eyeliner is optional
  • Finding the right shade of red lipstick to compliment your skin tone and applying it well. Finding the right shade of “Parisian red” for you and applying red lipstick can be an art. The texture of the lipstick formula is important, too. I generally prefer creme textured lipsticks compared to matte lipsticks. The creme texture keeps your lips moisturized and maintains natural shine without having lip gloss on over it. Though, Marilyn was known for using lip gloss over her lipstick as well. One of my favorites is an authentic reproduction of the red that Marilyn wore by Besame Cosmetics. Besame Cosmetics is one of my favorite makeup brands.

Whether you are dressing up for a night out or dressing for the day you have ahead of you, you can style yourself glamorously. As Marilyn said, glamour cannot be manufactured.

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