Elizabeth Taylor’s natural beauty was matched with a true love of make-up and cosmetics. Though her overall aesthetic was one of unbridled glamour, which is, granted, less popular today, her routine was packed with products and techniques that have since proved to be forward-thinking.
Here, British Vogue looks at Elizabeth Taylor’s beauty regime’s timeless guiding principles and one particularly surprising final step.
Elizabeth Taylor did her own make-up, on and off-screen
Taylor would often do her own make-up for movie roles and red-carpet appearances alike, including in her role as Cleopatra, which called for dramatic eyeshadow play. “When I was younger, for a long time I didn’t wear any make-up in films; when I did start to wear make-up, I always did it myself,” she once said.
Though she didn’t apply with haste
A make-up lover, she adored the process as much as the end result. Ahead of stepping out, she is said to have spent hours working on her face moving from feature to feature with careful precision. Her personal assistant Tim Mendelson recalls that Taylor would spend up to half an hour focusing on her lips before devoting one and a half hours on her eye make-up “just because she enjoyed it.”
She didn’t like conditioner
From her bouffants in the ’60s to the teased crown in the ’80s, Elizabeth Taylor’s hair was always certain to be voluminous. In an effort to ensure that her hair was as big as possible, she went without conditioning, believing it to make her hair too sleek. Today, advancements in products and sulphate-free options mean that you needn’t trade one in for the other, she had feared.
Elizabeth Taylor loved drugstore brands
In contrast with her taste in jewellery, Elizabeth was especially fond of affordable skincare brand Jergens and would often indulge in carefully applying the lotion to her skin. With time, she also introduced more premium brands like La Prairie, but continued to use Jergens with devotion.
When it came to eyeliner, Elizabeth Taylor was a traditionalist
A crucial part of her beauty look was the eyes, drawing attention to hers being a unique violet hue. Eyeliner was Taylor’s must-have and Clinique proved to be her preferred brand. “There was one eyeliner that she always used and it was a Clinique eyeliner,” Francesca Tolot, a make-up artist who worked with Taylor has said. She didn’t use the classic black option but instead worked with a buildable grey shade.
Elizabeth Taylor loved lip gloss
Of course she did! This is Elizabeth Taylor after all. No matter whether on trend or not, Taylor would always finish her look with a slick of shining gloss worn over a matching lipliner, with Chanel being amongst her go-to brands.
Elizabeth Taylor paid close care to her eyebrows
In a forward-looking move, Elizabeth played close attention to the shape and shade of her brows, filling them in with precision since she was a little girl. Her brows are what one of her granddaughters, Eliza Carson, remembers fondly: “I may be biased here, but my grandmother did have the greatest eyebrows. Beautiful, full eyebrows that accentuated her eyes and that were totally unique to her.”
She shaved her face to exfoliate her skin
Today, it’s known under the slightly more medicinal term ‘dermaplaning’, but Elizabeth would shave her face to exfoliate the skin and make for a clearer canvas to apply make-up on to. The technique slews away dead skin cells and the layer of soft peach fuzz hair for a brighter complexion and can be done by a professional, or cautiously at home.
Her routine ended with an unexpected step
Subverting the usual order of getting oneself ready, Taylor would take a quick bath after her make-up was done to set her face and bring a dewy finish to her complexion. Today, thankfully, a simple highlighter will offer the same effect.
She invented the celebrity fragrance
In 1987, Taylor launched a namesake fragrance becoming the first celebrity to do so and would eventually lead to a further ten iterations. Today, the scents prove a connection for fans and family alike to remember her by. “The one thing I am never without is my grandmother’s perfume,” Carson has said. “Whether it’s Gardenia or White Diamonds, I wear her perfume as a way of channeling an image of her strength, dedication, and compassion and simply as a reminder of her.”