April 18, 2024 | Sarah Ng

Old Hollywood's Bizarre Beauty Secrets

Behind Those Perfect Headshots

Old Hollywood certainly produced some of the most stunning stars. However, these actress's beauty hacks might surprise you...


Audrey Hepburn's Perfect Lashes

Known for her big, brown eyes, Audrey Hepburn would apply mascara to her lashes and then use a pin to painstakingly separate every individual lash. To achieve a similar effect today, we thankfully only need to use a spoolie brush.

Image of Audrey Hepburn - 1959MGM, Wikimedia Commons

The Secret Behind Her Flawless Face 

Hepburn also had smooth, porcelain-like skin, but reportedly, she didn't use makeup to fake it. Peter Lamas—a celebrity makeup artist—revealed that the actress used a steam facial a few times a week to achieve her flawless complexion.

Cropped screenshot of Audrey Hepburn from the trailer for the film Breakfast at Tiffany's - 1961Trailer screenshot, Wikimedia Commons

Brigitte Bardot's Hair Hack

Brigitte Bardot's big, blonde updo was part of her appeal—but her beauty hack is a little... repulsive. Reportedly, she used her saliva. To achieve the subtle curl at the ends of her locks, she'd soak them in her saliva. Then she'd twist the hair pieces and tuck them behind her ear.

Brigitte Bardot looking at camera.e r j k . a m e r j k a, Flickr

Gloria Graham Stuffed Her Upper Lip

Gloria Graham was very critical of her upper lip. She thought it was too thin. To make it seem more luscious she'd actually shove tissue or cotton under her lip, which sounds extremely uncomfortable.

Portrait of Gloria Grahame  looking at side - (1947)eBayFront and back, Wikimedia Commons

Ida Lupino Kept Her Jawline Tight

Ida Lupino was a brilliant director and actress, but one of her beauty tips is a real head-scratcher. She claimed that using the back of her hand to smack her jawline helped keep it taut and defined.

A promotional colorized shot of actress Ida Lupino - circa 1940sEverett, Wikimedia Commons

Marlene Dietrich's Hollow Cheeks

Marlene Dietrich often took her beauty hacks too far—even to the point of physical pain. For instance, to make her cheeks more hollow, she extracted her back molarsBut this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Portrait of Marlene Dietrich looking at camera.oneredsf1, Flickr

She Forced A Facelift

Dietrich also had a facelift hack. She'd use a thread to draw back her hairline. Sometimes, she was so forceful with this method that she'd even bleed. However, not all of her beauty secrets were terrifying.

Screenshot of Marlene Dietrich from the trailer for the Alfred Hitchcock film Stage Fright, looking at a mirrorTrailer screenshot, Wikimedia Commons

She Always Had Perfect Nails

To make sure her manicure always looked nice, Marlene Dietrich refrained from painting her nails' half moons. Therefore, as her manicure grew out, her nails would still look pleasing.

Portrait of Marlene Dietrich looking at camera.oneredsf1, Flickr

Elizabeth Taylor's Luscious Skin

Elizabeth Taylor undoubtedly had one of the most striking looks in Old Hollywood, but there was a reason her skin was so perfect—a beauty secret that's had a recent comeback in modern times.

Portrait of Elizabeth TaylorJames Vaughan, Flickr

She Shaved Her Face

Taylor actually had a condition where her face was naturally covered in peach fuzz. To remain fuzz-free, she frequently shaved her visage. This practice was actually an excellent form of exfoliation which benefited her skin.

Portrait of Elizabeth Taylor - 1952Philippe Halsman, Wikimedia Commons

Ginger Rogers' Skincare Step

Reportedly, Ginger Rogers had a step in her skincare regime that rings true to this day. For a toner, she used witch hazel on a cotton pad.

Witch hazel is known for having antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Portrait of Ginger Rogers from - Tender Comrade (1943)Studio publicity still, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Kelly's Use Of Blush

Grace Kelly had magnificent cheekbones. To accentuate one of her best feature, she focused on her blush. Unlike today's contouring practices, Kelly used blush in two separate shades to sculpt her gorgeous cheeks.

Portrait of Grace Kelly looking at side.oneredsf1, Flickr

Carole Lombard Hid Her Insecurity

Carole Lombard's mesmerizing gaze jumps out of every photograph, but she did have one insecurity—her nose. Though it may difficult to spot, the actress's nose was actually crooked. Of course, she had a way to hide this.

Portrait of Carole Lombard looking at side.oneredsf1, Flickr

She Used Highlighter to Her Advantage

In order to make her nose look straight, Carole Lombarde would draw a line along the bridge, highlighting it. As for spotlighting her most prominent feature—her eyes—she liked to use blue mascara.

Portrait of Carole Lombard looking at camera - 1930Wikimedia Commons, Picryl

Sophia Loren's Simple Instructions

Sophia Loren has always chased her pleasures, living her life to the fullest. When she was 81, she shared her greatest beauty secret: "a love of life, spaghetti, and the odd bath in olive oil." 

Portrait of Sophia Loren looking at camera.oneredsf1, Flickr

Greta Garbo's Glossy Eyes

Recently, we've seen a comeback of the glossy eye trend—but this isn't some new idea. In fact, Greta Garbo was at it decades ago. Before applying her eyeshadow, she swipe on some petroleum jelly.

Greta Garbo oneredsf1, Flickr

Jean Harlow Had To Do Something About Her Hair

The film studio's powerful lights did a number on Jean Harlow's hair, drying out her lovely locks. In 1937, the actress shared with a newspaper, "I know I devote a terrible amount of time to this hair of mine." To combat the damage, she came up with a solution.

Jean Harlow, star of the MGM musical comedy 'Reckless' - 1934oneredsf1, Flickr

She Massaged Her Scalp Every Week

Harlow kept her hair luscious and shiny by massaging her scalp every week. The secret ingredient? Castor oil.

Portrait of American actress Jean Harlow - 1932oneredsf1, Flickr

Joan Crawford Used Cold Water

Joan Crawford truly believed in the power of cold water. After washing her faced, she'd splash ice water on her face a whopping 25 times. This would not only increase circulation, but decrease the size of her pores. To finish up, she'd slather her face in a heavy cream. But this wasn't her only bizarre beauty hack.

Joan Crawford smiling and looking at camera on black background - 1936George Hurrell, Wikimedia Commons

She Had Bizarre Methods

Joan Crawford also chewed a lot of gum, believing it would keep her jaw looking nice. To tone her legs, she took up the practice of pointing her toes inward while walking. Obviously, this is not recommended.

Joan Crawford in Rain (1932) publicity still.Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Mae West Used Coconut Oil

There's been a lot of discussion around using coconut oil in one's beauty routine—some are believers and other are naysayers. However, Mae West was reportedly a believer. She claimed that coconut oil kept her skin looking young.

Image of Mae West In Court - 1940Los Angeles Daily News, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Marilyn Monroe Used Multiple Shades

Quite famously, Marilyn Monroe had a pretty intense beauty routine. Her makeup artist Whitey Snyder had a unique way of applying products. Monroe's eyeliner was actually comprised of four different shades of Elizabeth Arden's Beautiful Smoky Eyes Pencil. 

Marilyn Monroe putting handprints in wet concrete at Chinese Theater in Los Angeles - 1953Los Angeles Times, CC BY 4.0 , Wikimedia Commons

She Used Red Eyeliner

Marilyn Monoe's makeup artist, Whitey Snyder, used the black and brown eyeliner on her waterlines and for her wings. However, he'd use white eyeliner on her outer corners to make her eyes look bigger. But the best part?

He'd apply red eyeliner to her inner corners. This actually made the whites of her eyes even whiter.

Marilyn Monroe, Photoplay - 1953Studio publicity still, Wikimedia Commons

Her Lipstick Was Actually Five Different Shades

For her glorious red lips, Marilyn Monroe employed a similar strategy, using five shades of lipstick and lipgloss. This created a very pleasing gradient, with the dark reds on the outside of the lips and the light reds in the middle.

Marilyn Monroe in a red dress, taken for publicity purposes for 1953Sam Shaw, Wikimedia Commons

Rita Hayworth Oiled Her Hair

Rita Hawyorth had to keep her moneymaker in check: her bouncy auburn hair. As part of her haircare routine, she'd soak her locks in oil after washing it. Then she'd wrap it all up in a towel and wait for 15 minutes before rinsing it out with lemon juice and hot water.

Portrait of Rita Hayworth - 1940SeBayarchive, Wikimedia Commons

Katharine Hepburn Was A Minimalist

Katharine Hepburn was famous for being very down to earth and natural-looking. If anything, her makeup was usually quite minimal. However, this also meant that she took great care of her skin.

Timothy Dalton FactsFlickr, oneredsf1

She Used A Lemon And Sugar Scrub

To keep her skin glowing and healthy, Hepburn had a singular exfoliating method. She'd removed dead skin cells with her own sugar scrub made with lemon.

Katharine Hepburn Woman Of The YearMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer ,Wikimedia Commons

Rita Moreno's Struggle With Breakouts

During her early days in Hollywood, Rita Moreno faced countless hardships—but on the superficial side of things, this was her skin. Her acne breakouts led her down a difficult path.

Portrait of Rita Moreno - 1950sBJ Alias, Flickr

Her Doctors Led Her Down A Dangerous Path

When Moreno sought her doctors' recommendations for her breakouts, they came up with an extreme solution—one that Moreno does not recommend. They told her to use an acetone alcohol rub and ultraviolet light. NOPE. Moreno knew she had to come up with her own skincare routine.

Portrait of Rita Moreno -  C. 1954John Irving, Flickr

She Came Up With Her Own Beauty Trick

To tackle her breakouts, Rita Moreno soon discovered that exfoliation worked the best: "I used to use one of those rough, nasty brushes to scrub my face every day. It was very harsh, but exfoliating every day helped a lot. I would definitely say that exfoliating was really my main beauty trick."

Portrait of Rita Moreno - 1963Jack de Nijs for Anefo, Wikimedia Commons

Dorothy Dandridge's Coral Lips

Dorothy Dandridge had a signature lip color that was all her own. It wasn't just a classic red lip. Instead, she mixed red lipstick and orange lipstick to create a unique coral color—one that complimented her complexion perfectly.

Publicity photo of Dorothy Dandridge - Circa 1950sStudio Publicity, Wikimedia Commons

Gloria Swanson Was All About Raw Veggies

Gloria Swanson certainly went back to basics with her skincare routine. She informed Weekly World News, "My best beauty secret is raw vegetables. I apply them on my face and make sure I eat them regularly. As far as I'm concerned, there is no beauty product better than raw vegetables."

Portrait of Gloria Swanson laying.oneredsf1, Flickr

Anna May Wong's Smokey Eye

Anna May Wong was a Chinese-American actress who used makeup to cement her signature look. She used dark eyeliner to creat a smokey cat eye, smudging it over her lower lash line and accentuating her eyes.

Portrait of Anna May Wong by Eugene Robert Richee - 1937Wikimedia Commons, Picryl

Ingrid Bergman Made Her Forehead Larger

Ingrid Bergman was another actress known for her minimal makeup looks. She kept things quite natural, but she did have one beauty hack. To make her forehead look bigger, she shaved her hairline back a full centimeter. 

Keep in mind that at the time this was actually a popular practice.

Studio Portrait of Ingrid Bergman - 1939László Josef Willinger, Wikimedia Commons

Bette Davis's Eyecare Routine

Bette Davis's eyes are so famous, there's even a song written about them. Turns out, she paid special attention to keeping them in good shape. In the evening, she'd place cucumbers on her closed eyes—and to remedy dark circles, she'd use petroleum jelly.

Bette Davis looking at camera - Portrait In 1940Alexander Kahle (1886–1968) for RKO Radio, Wikimedia Commons

Josephine Baker's Personal Pomade

Josephine Baker was a 1920s performer with the most stunning lacquered hairstyle. Baker even began selling the product Le Bakerfix, which was a pomade of her own creation.

Portrait of  Joséphine Baker - 1940Studio Harcourt, Wikimedia Commons

Vivien Leigh Was A Fan Of Lip Liner

Even the most beautiful celebrities have deep insecurities. In Vivien Leigh's case, she was unhappy with her lower lip. To make her lips seem more plump, she'd draw outside her natural lip line.

Portrait of Vivien Leigh looking at side.oneredsf1, Flickr


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