Marilyn's Skincare Secrets Revealed!

When we started looking into Marilyn Monroe’s beauty secrets here at BB HQ, we didn’t realise how much information we would find. Not that we believe in all of it, right enough.

Apparently her first husband, Jim Dougherty, recalled that she used to rinse her face fifteen times after every wash. Quite what this was meant to do we’re not entirely sure. Olive oil was another substance she was apparently prone to smearing over her face, and there may be some truth in that one. Long before we were sprinkling olive oil all over our salads, or using it to cook with, this expensive oil was a beauty and medicine cabinet staple for some people; good for using as a muscle rub and a cleansing agent.

It has been reported that Marilyn used ice baths to keep her skin tight and firm, an that we can believe, but the most unlikely skincare routine Marilyn was supposed to have practiced was layering Vaseline on her face, and then powder. We spoke to BB mums, who were around in the same era as the lovely Marilyn, and they don’t recall layering on the petroleum jelly to get a smooth face…

Powder, absolutely, but even back in the 1950s there were more sophisticated means of moisturising and cleansing the face.

Whether Marilyn was  fan of Pond’s cold cream (£3.99, www.superdrug.com) we don’t really know, but the fabulous cleanser, that this BB girl certainly recommends, is still available today in the same form as the bombshells would have used it in. A cold cream is an emulsion of water and fats, mainly beeswax, which has a deep cleansing effect, without drying the skin. Back in the 1950s, many women still used soap to cleanse, Camay and Lux being popular brands of the day.

Marilyn however, had another skincare secret, revealed after she died, thanks to products found in her apartment – you can see the tubs on the floor by her bed in the LAPD police photograph of her bedside after she died. (Sadly, also note the pill bottles on the bedside table.)

Erno Laszlo was a Hungarian born dermatologist, who moved to New York in 1939, and set up the Erno Laszlo Institute specialising in beauty treatments and cosmetics. Marilyn was a massive fan, and you can still buy some of the products she used today.

The Active pHelityl Cream was a favourite night-cream of hers – a rich cream, for dry to slightly dry skin, extremely emollient and perfect in the winter months. Certainly not as oily as Vaseline, but it seems clear that Marilyn’s skin erred on the dry side! The cream is still available today. ($60, www.ernolaszlo.com.)

During the day, it seems she used his Duo-pHase face powder ($38), again for dry skin, and again, still available to buy today. The powder is available in loose and compact form and features sodium hyaluronate and water to continually hydrate skin. It’s also triple-milled for a silky finish.

Marilyn’s blusher came from Erno’s range as well, but the pHelitone blush she used is long gone from the range. However, the Multi pHase blusher (pictured below right, $38) is a perfect modern alternative to leave a lovely glow on your face.

It’s a wheel of different complementary colours, and like all Erno Laszlo products, it is as much skincare as it is makeup.

Whatever Marilyn’s skincare secrets really were, one thing’s absolutely certain – they worked!

Later on this week, we’ll investigate what makeup Marilyn really used to get that signature Monroe look.



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About the Author
Freelance journalist, lover of Sindy dolls, red lipstick and cats!
  1. Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel

    Great article! Just a reminder…don’t forget to exfoliate.

    Tina :)

  2. Savannah

    Phenomenal article!
    I heard she was also a fan of Nivea Creme, and I gotta say, I just bought myself some and it’s pretty amazing! It’s like the original body butter, softening and soothing my dry sensitive skin. Perfect for the coming winter months!

  3. Ned

    The 15 rinse cleansing routine was also part of the Erno Lazlo ritual. It was a soap or solid cleansing bar you lathered up and massaged into wet skin, then rinsed of 15. I think you are suppose to fill a clean basin with water and rinse off 15 times, then use a toner. The ingredients in the Lazlo products were and are of high value in skin care. I’ve read he used all kinds of natural oils and resins in his products, even neem.

  4. beautybombshells

    I’ve never tried Erno Lazlo, I’m interested to at some point, it seems a pretty good brand with a great history!

  5. Eilla

    Kinda disappointed that the first ingredient of her night cream is petroleum. That is just like slathering Vaseline on. :(

  6. beautybombshells

    Many moistuisers contain petrolatum – or petroleum jelly as it is commonly known. Not my idea ingredient either, but obviously much more commonly used in Marilyn’s time as well. Glycerin is a more favoured moisturing ingredient now. Petrolatum is found in many beauty products, like chapsticks, etc. She did have dry skin, so was obviously a fan of anything that she felt hydrated her skin. Of course, petrolatum doesn’t really hydrate, it just gives the skin a smooth, hydrated feel. Am sure she would have used something else, had the technologies been around then. Thanks for commenting and stopping by.

  7. Michelle

    It was said that she did put on layers of Vaseline on her face to get that perfect glow

  8. beautybombshells

    I think this comes from the fact that creams containing petroleum jelly were more common back in the 1950s. I’ve heard of Vaseline on the lens for soft focus, but I’m not sure I believe those rumours about Marilyn covering her face in it!

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