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Marilyn Monroe's Skincare Routine Included a Crucial Step That Most People Skip

September 04, 2020

Marilyn Monroe's Skincare Routine Included a Crucial Step That Most People Skip

It's no secret that we really love digging into celebrity skincare routines here at Who What Wear Beauty. From mining Instagram posts to reading countless interviews and asking the burning questions ourselves, we've pieced together the beauty secrets of everyone from January Jones to Drew Barrymore. If a star has shared a skincare product or practice they love, we've noted it—even stars from past generations, such as Marilyn Monroe.  Old Hollywood beauty secrets are tricky because they're just that—secrets. The Marilyns, Gretas, and Audreys of yesteryear were a lot more precious with their rituals than the Gwyneths, Tracees, and Jennifers of today. But recently, the forthcoming destination dedicated to the history of makeup, the Makeup Museum, shared an official document via Instagram outlining Monroe's exact skincare routine, as prescribed by her trusted dermatologist and skincare trailblazer, Erno Laszlo.  Pinterest In a framed document dated March 17, 1959, type-written on personalized stationery from The Erno Laszlo Institute of Scientific Cosmetology and addressed to one Marilyn Monroe Miller, Laszlo laid out a detailed regimen of skincare rituals to be carried out in the morning and evening. The note also includes special instructions for evening outings and formal occasions so Monroe's skin would be on point for all those star-studded Hollywood fêtes. The vestige is part of the NYC museum's Pink Jungle: 1950s Makeup in America exhibit.   Ahead, we break down Monroe's prescribed skincare routine, updated with our current favorites to help you crack the code to that A-list glow. Keep scrolling for more.  A.M. Routine  Step 1: Cleansing Bar  Erno Laszlo Phelityl Cleansing BarPinterest SHOP Favorite Erno Laszlo Phelityl Cleansing Bar ($38) It's no surprise that facial cleanser circa 1959 was largely in bar form. Though many folks prefer liquid washing solutions nowadays, they simply didn't exist back then. "Wash face and neck in warm water with [Active Phelityl Soap]," the prescription starts. Laszlo instructs the actress to first rub the bar directly against her skin before creating a lather in her hands and working it into her skin.  Our favorite cleansing bars: Drunk Elephant Pekee Cleansing BarPinterest SHOP Favorite Drunk Elephant Pekee Cleansing Bar ($28) Just because liquid cleansers are more popular these days doesn't mean bar soaps should be disregarded. This bar by Drunk Elephant is proof that formulas have evolved past their reputation as ultra drying or irritating. This one is infused with blueberry extract, marula oil, and honey to at once tone and promote moisture retention in the skin.   Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar (3 Count)Pinterest SHOP Favorite Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar (3 Count) ($9) For a gentle, dermatologist-approved cleanse for dry or sensitive skin, this Cetaphil bar checks all the boxes. It's a soap-free bar and leaves out harsh detergents that can dry or irritate your skin.  Step 2: Gentle Exfoliating Toner  Erno Laszlo Limited Edition Shake-It Tinted TreatmentPinterest SHOP Favorite Erno Laszlo Limited Edition Shake-It Tinted Treatment ($49) Anyone committed to smooth skin with minimized pores knows that toner is the ticket. Still, so many people write this step off as unnecessary. If you won't listen to us, then take it from Monroe and her skin guru and get yourself a toner. Following cleanser, Laszlo's instructions say to "apply well-shaken [Normalizer Shake-It] on entire face—except around the eyes." The eponymous brand recently released an improved, limited-edition version of the original that helped to keep Monroe's skin glowing. It has glycerin, citric acid, and non-drying cosmetic alcohol to even skin tone, controls surface oils, and helps lock in moisture. Though most toners now don't need to be removed at all, Laszlo advised Monroe to blot off any excess with a tissue.   Our favorite gentle exfoliating toners: Glossier SolutionPinterest SHOP Favorite Glossier Solution ($24) Typically, exfoliating is reserved for nighttime since it can make the skin much more prone to sunburn, but there are definitely gentle formulas that can be used in the morning. This one from Glossier is one such option. It contains AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs along with soothing aloe, hydrating glycerin, and calming niacinamide to protect and nurture the freshly exfoliated skin. Be sure to follow up with an SPF if you're using it during the day.  Pixi Glow TonicPinterest SHOP Favorite Pixi Glow Tonic ($18) The Pixi Glow Tonic is another ultra-gentle exfoliating toner that's safe to use in the mornings, as long as you're diligent about applying SPF before heading outside. Glycolic acid exfoliates and smooths the skin, while aloe vera, ginseng, and other botanical extracts treat it. The result is an instant glow.  Step 3: Eye Cream  Erno Laszlo Phormula 3-9 Eye RepairPinterest SHOP Favorite Erno Laszlo Phormula 3-9 Eye Repair ($198) As eye cream aficionados, we're not at all surprised by this one. We're all about waking up sleepy eyes with a little cream in the mornings and, according to the shared document, so was Monroe. "Apply [Phelitone] under eyes only in tiny dots, spreading it gently over the surface," the instructions read. "Blot off with tissues."  Our favorite eye creams: Origins Ginzing Ultra Hydrating, Energy-Boosting CreamPinterest SHOP Favorite Origins Ginzing Ultra Hydrating, Energy-Boosting Cream ($30) On mornings when restless nights or that third glass of wine during a Zoom happy hour leave your eyes looking puffy, dull, or sunken, this energizing eye cream acts like a cup of coffee for your skin—almost literally. It uses caffeine from coffee and ginseng to visibly invigorate the delicate skin around the eyes.  LilyAna Naturals Eye CreamPinterest SHOP Favorite LilyAna Naturals Eye Cream ($20) Brightening, firming, hydrating, lifting, and tightening are all the effects you can expect from this affordable option from LilyAna Naturals. It uses vitamin C, vitamin E, rose-hip seed oil, and organic hibiscus flower extract to leave the skin looking glowy and elastic.  Step 4: Hydrating Face Powder  Koh Gen Do Limited Edition Maifanshi Sheer Moist PowderPinterest SHOP Favorite Koh Gen Do Limited Edition Maifanshi Sheer Moist Powder ($62) Now, this is a step we're on the fence about. Instead of following up with a moisturizer or SPF, the next step in Monroe's prescribed regimen is a face powder (oh, the 50s!). "Dab Duo-Phase Face Powder amply on entire face and neck," the document reads. "After one minute, brush off superfluous powder with a large piece of cotton." Although the exact product recommended by Laszlo doesn't appear to be available any longer, it used to be sold at Nordstrom, and the vacant product page on its website describes it as "an emollient, feather-soft loose powder that seals in moisture and provides a sheer, dewy matte finish," a lot like this makeup-artist favorite by Koh Gen Do.  Our favorite hydrating face powders: Be Terry Hyaluronic Hydra-PowderPinterest SHOP Favorite Be Terry Hyaluronic Hydra-Powder ($60) Speaking of powders that actually help to hydrate the skin, this one from French makeup brand By Terry uses whipped hyaluronic acid microspheres to plump the skin.  Becca Cosmetics Hydra-Mist Set & Refresh PowderPinterest SHOP Favorite Becca Cosmetics Hydra-Mist Set & Refresh Powder ($39) Water is the ultimate hydrator, which is why Becca uses it in its loose powder to cool and refresh the skin. Instead of drawing moisture out of the skin, this expertly crafted powder helps attract water to the skin to keep it looking soft and plump.  P.M. Routine  Step 1: Double-Cleanse  Erno Laszlo Phelityl Pre-Cleansing OilPinterest SHOP Favorite Erno Laszlo Phelityl Pre-Cleansing Oil ($58) If you thought Monroe's prescribed daytime regimen was luxe, just wait until you hear about the steps her trusted derm laid out for the evenings "before retiring." (That's chic speak for going to bed.)  "Apply [Active Phelityl Oil] on entire face, lips, and neck with a large piece of cotton saturated to the dripping point," the note reads. After that, Monroe was told to continue on with cleansing as instructed in her morning routine. That's right—it looks like Monroe was on board with the ever-popular double-cleansing method.  Our favorite cleansing oils: Tata Harper Nourishing Makeup Removing Oil CleanserPinterest SHOP Favorite Tata Harper Nourishing Makeup Removing Oil Cleanser ($82) This all-natural cleansing oil is perfect for removing makeup and getting a thorough cleanse without stripping the life out of your skin. It houses a whole host of skin-loving ingredients like nourishing alfalfa, protecting sacha inchi oil, and hydrating squalane. Plus, it's completely nontoxic, vegan, and cruelty-free.  DHC Deep Cleansing OilPinterest SHOP Favorite DHC Deep Cleansing Oil ($28) We've touted this cleansing oil over and over because it's just that good. It's both gentle and effective and provides a seriously deep clean. Word on the street is that it's also a great makeup-brush cleaner.  Step 2: Intensive Moisturizer  Erno Laszlo Active Phelityl Intensive CreamPinterest SHOP Favorite Erno Laszlo Active Phelityl Intensive Cream ($88) "After drying, apply [Active Phelityl Cream] on entire face, lips, neck and decollete," Laszlo writes. The intensive cream he prescribes, which is still available today, is super thick and ointment-like in texture.  Our favorite intensive moisturizers: Augustinus Bader The Rich CreamPinterest SHOP Favorite Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream ($265) Facialists, makeup artists, and celebrities such as Victoria Beckham agree: Augustinus Bader's The Rich Cream is one of the best moisturizers on the market. It's not all that thick, but as its name suggests, it's rich. Aside from its hero ingredient—the brand's proprietary stem cell–stimulating system, TFC8— the cream also has luxe, deeply moisturizing ingredients like Brazilian Candeia oil and shea butter.  Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich CreamPinterest SHOP Favorite Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream ($14) You won't see a professional makeup kit without a tube of this lotion-balm inside. Weleda's famous Skin Food isn't just known for its makeup-priming abilities, though; it's also an adept allover moisturizer for even the driest skin types. Plus, it's so cheap!  Step 3: Hydrating Toner  Erno Laszlo Light Controlling LotionPinterest SHOP Favorite Erno Laszlo Light Controlling Lotion ($68) For most, moisturizer is the last step in the evening skincare ritual. But of course, Monroe's ritual called for an extra step. "Wash off cream immediately with a large piece of cotton saturated to the dripping point with well-shaken [Controlling Lotion]," the prescription reads. It might seem strange to wipe your moisturizer off before bed, but the key here seems to be that the toner used is a moisturizing one that will add even more skin-loving ingredients. The modern iteration of the one Laszlo prescribes has glycerin and clove oil to moisturize and improve blood circulation. Laszlo also mentions in his note to not wipe away cream from the lip and eye areas but rather to blot any excess away with a tissue. He then instructs to reapply moisturizer to the nose and chin—presumably the drier areas of the face. Now it makes a bit more sense.  Caudalie Moisturizing TonerPinterest SHOP Favorite Caudalie Moisturizing Toner ($28) Of all the toners out there, this one from French skincare favorite Caudalie is one of the best. It's deeply hydrating, employing the brand's hero grape extract to protect and strengthen the skin barrier.  Versed Baby Cheeks All-in-One Hydrating MilkPinterest SHOP Favorite Versed Baby Cheeks All-in-One Hydrating Milk ($18) This coconut water–based toner is a three-in-one cleansing milk that removes makeup and impurities but also hydrates and soothes. It also has a