She may have been one of the most beautiful women and famous sex symbols in the world, but Marilyn Monroe had a common complaint so many of us can relate to: dry skin.
Thanks to the Makeup Museum in New York, which shared Monroe’s routine, we now know the morning and night skincare regimens she followed to help combat her dry skin.
One of the artifacts in the Makeup Museum’s collection — the skin-care line of Erno Laszlo that’s still a cult favorite today — has been used since the 1920s by some of the biggest celebrities including Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Jackie and John F. Kennedy, Ava Gardner and Cary Grant.
Hungarian dermatologist Dr. Erno Laszlo treated some of the most famous faces of the last century with his signature products and personalized care, and none more famous than Monroe.
The actress was an avid devotee of his products — several were reportedly found on her nightstand at her untimely death in 1962, including the Active pHelityl Cream. A number of these products, as well as some of her other beauty must-haves, have sold at auction in recent years for thousands (see photo gallery below).
The museum’s copy of Dr. Lazlo’s skin prescription, dated March, 17, 1959, details precise instructions for Mrs. Marilyn Monroe Miller (as in playwright Arthur Miller, her husband from 1956 to 1961). It’s broken down by time of day, with further classification between an evening out for a “formal occasion” or an evening “before retiring” to bed. He also recommended dietary restrictions for optimal skin health; her off-limit foods included nuts, chocolate, olives, oysters and clams.
Monroe’s morning skin routine began with cleansing using Erno Lazlo Active Phelityl Soap and warm water. Next, she was instructed to apply the Erno Laszlo Normalizer Shake-It — a tinted mattifying toner that relaunched last year for a limited time, in honor of the brand’s partnership with the Makeup Museum — by shaking the bottle, saturating a piece of cotton “to the dripping point,” and applying it all over her face, except the delicate eye area, then blotting off immediately. For the eyes, she was to apply the Erno Laszlo pHelitone Eye Cream, which has been discontinued, followed by the likewise-discontinued Duo-Phase Face Powder over her entire face and neck.
For formal occasions, the actress was instructed to apply and blot her Shake-It toner before applying her eye cream over her entire face, including neck and décolleté. Then, she was to blot the cream with a tissue and apply the Duo-Phase Powder.
The evening routine before bed was a bit more involved. It started with an oil cleanse, applying Erno Laszlo Active Phelityl Oil to the skin, rinsing it off, then drying with a towel. Next, the rich Erno Laszlo Active Phelityl Cream was to be applied to the entire face, then washed off with a piece of cotton saturated (again, “to the dripping point”), this time with well-shaken Erno Laszlo Controlling Lotion toner. Her skin was to be again dried with a clean towel, with the Controlling Lotion reapplied only to the nose and chin areas and left to dry overnight.