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Marilyn Monroe Swore by This Contouring Trick To Create Her Signature Lips — You Can Do It for Less Than $15 Today!

Celebrity makeup artists reveal the layering technique Marilyn used to make her lips look polished and plump - without injections.

Which was more iconic — Marilyn Monroe’s movie career or her signature red lips? While that’s up for debate, women still covet her perfectly pigmented pout more than 60 years later. 

Crimson lips are timeless, but they don’t always come easy. First, you need to get the right shade to match your skin coloring (Oh, and the wrong one can make your teeth look yellow — eek). And there’s a sea of red hues to choose from. Some can be more pinkish, some have purpl-ey undertones, others can border on coral, and of course, there’s the most vibrant, fire-engine red that not everyone can pull off. Once you decide which shade, you also want to ensure it stays where you put it. 

How to get the exact color of Marilyn Monroe’s lips.

Milky-complexioned Marilyn wore the bolder of the reds, which was said to be an offering from drugstore brand Revlon called “Bachelor’s Carnation.” The Gentlemen Prefer Blondes actress was known to be a stickler for having just the right shade for her blonde tresses and red lips. 

Marilyn Monroe lips
Gene Kornman/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock

“Red lips are the perfect way to look polished in a cinch,” explains celebrity makeup artist Genn Shaugnessy, who has worked with Carrie Underwood, Judy Greer and Christina Hendricks. “You can literally roll out of bed, toss on some red lipstick, and instantly look pulled together.” 

But with more than 400 shades of red in existence and endless choices from makeup brands, it can be challenging to choose which one is right for you. “Fairer skin tones should look for cool red or berry shades with blue undertones, while medium or olive-skinned should opt for orange or coral. Darker skin tones can rock either cool or warm reds, from true cherry to berry,” she explains. 

Bésame Cosmetics has replicated Marilyn’s color in its Red Hot 1959 (Buy from Bésame Cosmetics, $28) to give you that glamorous pout that pops. The best part about this warm red is it flatters almost every complexion. We also found this Max Factor dark-red dupe (Buy from Amazon) for just $14.

How to replicate Marilyn Monroe’s lip contouring.

To make thin lips appear fuller, celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg, who has worked with Chelsea Handler and Jennifer Lawrence advises “overdrawing” lips using a matching pencil, as Marilyn did, then filling it in with lipstick to keep it from smudging. You can also apply a dusting of translucent powder along the edges of your lips with a powder brush to lock in color and keep it from smudging. 

Frank Powolny/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock

While neat borders are essential when it comes to perfectly drawn red lips, another trick that Ms. Monroe reportedly used was a method of contouring in which she layered five different shades of red lipstick and gloss to create dimension and make her lips appear more voluminous (way before Restylane lip injections were a thing). 

Shaughnessy breaks it down for us in five simple steps with just one shade of red lipstick so you can quickly achieve this at home without the help of a Hollywood professional. 

  1. Prep is key: Lips must be completely dry with no balm or concealer. 
  2. A clean line: Opt for a dark red lip lining pencil and line as described above, lining just above and below the edges of your lips, following their natural shape. Blot with a tissue when finished. 
  3. Apply the red: Apply the color you want (Shaughnessy opts for matte and long-lasting), filling in between the lines. 
  4. Add an accent: Put a brighter pink or red in the center of the lip, and blot (this helps to create dimension). 
  5. Top it off: Put a matching red or clear gloss over the entire lip for a shiny, plumping effect. 

Now that you’ve got the expert advice, it’s time to start playing with fire-red lips and rock them at your next big night out (or maybe just to the grocery store), your choice! 

Click here to learn more about recreating Marilyn Monroe makeup.

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