— Brains on Beauty

9 beauty secrets from the most glamorous women in history

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When we think of history’s most glamorous women, we often see them lounging upon a chaise, eating grapes straight from the vine, or dousing themselves in the scent of rose and daylight. But like us, their natural beauty had to be tended to — they didn’t wake up like this. They had beautifying rituals of their own — rituals that pampered and softened and scented their skin and hair. 

Whether we’re after Marilyn Monroe’s dewy cheekbones (no more $42 highlighter needed after you read this) or Sophia Loren’s soft skin, their secrets are all here for us. 


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Cleopatra’s milk baths aren’t just a luxurious myth — scientists have proven that they were the ancient queen’s most beloved go-tos for beautification. Decadent, yes — but also fully proven to work.

With the lactic acid in milk, your skin will emerge rejuvenated and glowing, and all that dead skin will be exfoliated away. Fill a bath with milk, or (if that’s not something you’re bound to do) use milk on a cotton ball for your facial skin. Good riddance, peasant skin! You will have the skin of the royalty after this little trick.  

Marie Antoinette

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Marie Antoinette has gone down in the history books for dying rather unglamorously — by the guillotine. Still, we all seem to remember her for other things. Things like her adoration for muslin chemises and plumes (she had about $4 million to spend on clothing and accessories per year). She embodied such spoils, and perhaps that is why we are so enduringly interested in her legacy. She was far too young (and too careless?) to rule a nation in financial crisis, and yet, she has been looked upon as some sort of idol.

According to The Beauty Gypsy, who visited Versailles itself, Marie Antoinette concocted a lavish facial regimen that consisted of cognac, eggs, milk, and lemon. It’s easy to make and leaves your skin looking oh-so-magnifique

Marilyn Monroe

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One of Marilyn Monroe’s most well-known quotes is, “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” The starlet, for all her fame and sorrow, entranced a nation in her vulnerability and ultra-femme vibes. Why not take beauty advice from a woman so mesmerizing? Her love for Vaseline is well-documented— and it’s no surprise why. It was the pre-highlighter highlighter, while also being a useful moisturizer. See all those dewy shots of Ms. Monroe? You can thank Vaseline for her shiny, supple skin. Plus, it’s cheaper than anything you can pick up at Sephora.

Sophia Loren

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The Italian bombshell Sophia Loren has been quoted saying she takes the “odd bath in olive oil.” In Italy, olive oil is like water or air, and so it’s no wonder Loren (of Italian heritage) turned to it to keep her skin soft and moisturized.

Olive oil is an incredible source of moisture, and it’s brimming with antioxidants. For extra Mediterranean points, use it as a makeup remover, an under-eye moisturizer, and a hair mask. Be sure to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), preferably one from Italy or Spain.

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