MAC Marilyn Monroe – review, photos & swatches

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MAC Marilyn Monroe lipsticksphotos: we heart this

We all know MAC limited edition collections go fast, but this one may have set a record. (Word is even MAC was surprised by how quickly it sold out. Though don’t despair, there are still pieces to be found.) It’s a testament to its namesake, arguably the biggest beauty icon of all time and undeniably the sexiest – Marilyn Monroe.

MAC Marilyn Monroe collection

Last week we had the pleasure of joining MAC on a tour of Marilyn’s Hollywood – from The Rainbow Room; where she first went on a blind date with Joe Dimaggio, to three of her homes, to her final resting place; a crypt in Westwood Village Memorial Cemetery. Our tour guide was none other than the uber-fabulous Gregory Arlt, MAC’s Director of Makeup Artistry.

Gregory, who designed the lipsticks and collaborated on the entire line, gave us tons of insider scoop on the both Marilyn and the collection. And now we’re going to give it to you!

Closer look of MAC Marilyn Monroe packagingSealed with a kiss!

MAC Marilyn Monroe collection

I love the packaging. It’s classic and striking; almost patent-leather looking shiny black with bright red accents and gorgeous black and white imagery. The images have never been seen before and are from a photo shoot by Marilyn’s favorite photographer Milton H. Greene.

Now let’s get to those delectable lipsticks, shall we? They really are the stars of the collection.

Four MAC Marilyn Monroe lipsticks with different shadesScarlet Ibis, Charmed I’m Sure, Pure Zen, Love Goddess

Gregory believes red lipstick is the LBD of makeup and that everyone should have a signature red. He told us that Marilyn’s signature red was not just one, but six! She used two very dark reds to outline lips, two bright reds mixed together to fill in lips and two pinks in the center to get a pout with depth.

These lipsticks were not only a tribute to Marilyn, but also to a few current icons that remind Gregory of Marilyn.

MAC Marilyn Monroe in a bright orange red shade with matte finishKid Orange, Flaming Rose, Rich Rich Rich, Stage Red

Scarlet Ibis is a repromote (Iris Apfel collection) that’s just as gorgeous this time around. It’s a bright orange red with MAC’s beautiful looking (and feeling) matte finish.

MAC Marilyn Monroe in a dark berry red with a matte finish lipstick

Charmed, I’m Sure is a blue-based, dark berry red with a matte finish. Gregory had Dita Von Teese in mind with this shade (who’s a huge fan of Russian Red, a similar shade).

MAC Marilyn Monroe in a warm peachy nude with a sheerish cremesheen finish lipstick

Pure Zen is the other repromote of the launch (from the very recent Cremesheen + Pearl). It’s a warm peachy nude in the sheerish cremesheen finish. It’s an interesting choice for this launch; maybe it’s for when you’re being shot in black and white!

MAC Marilyn Monroe in a beautiful pink-kissed red with a satin finish lipstick

Love Goddess is a beautiful pink-kissed red with a satin finish. This lipstick has a bright, shiny, retro look to it, which isn’t surprising since Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks was also in Gregory’s mind when developing it.

Not shown is Deeply Adored, an oxblood red who Gwen Stefani was the modern muse counterpart. (By the way Gwen’s favorite MAC lip look is the Cherry Lip Pencil worn all over with MAC Red Lipstick on top.)

MAC Marilyn Monroe swatchesScarlet Ibis, Charmed I’m Sure, Pure Zen, Love Goddess

Kid Orange, Flaming Rose, Rich Rich Rich, Stage RedKid Orange, Flaming Rose, Rich Rich Rich, Stage Red

I’m also really excited by the nail lacquers in the Marilyn collection, which mostly mimic the lipsticks for that retro, matching-but-not-quite, look.

A hand with an orange-red nail polish

MAC describes Kid Orange as coral, but it’s full on orange-red to me. It has a cream finish and would be lovely accompanying Scarlet Ibis lipstick.

A hand with a true medium red with a cream finish nail polish

Flaming Rose is a true medium red with a cream finish.

A hand in a warm gold base nail polish

Rich, Rich, Rich is the goldest, sparkliest gold you’ll ever see! It’s a warm gold base that is just FILLED with glitter. It’s an online exclusive for this launch.

A hand in a deep blue-based red cream nail polish

I see Stage Red as the Charmed, I’m Sure counterpart. It’s a similar deep blue-based red cream (it looks deeper in person than my photo).

And although we didn’t test it, Vintage Vamp looks to be the lacquer version of Deeply Adored lipstick.

Little Rock and Phiff! Dazzleglass Little Rock and Phiff! Dazzleglass

I’ve got a bit of a thing (i.e. obsession) for Dazzleglass, which Gregory calls “lipgloss with an attitude”. So that, paired with the fact that these have Marilyn emblazoned on them, makes them a must have for me. But, in all honesty, they’re not the most exciting Dazzleglasses I’ve ever seen. Very pretty, lots of expected sparkle, but not a ton of color. I think these function more to enhance the lipsticks.

Closer look of Little Rock and Phiff! DazzleglassLittle Rock and Phiff! Dazzleglass

Little Rock is a white-gold diamond with silver pearl and Phiff! is a warm peachy-gold diamond with gold and magenta pearl (I truly do love this shade!)

Little Rock and Phiff! Dazzleglass swatchesLittle Rock and Phiff! Dazzleglass

MAC eyeshadows

Sadly I have to say the large eye shadows fall a bit flat for me (though I do love the size, about twice as big). I see how MAC went the sparkling, “silver screen” direction, but wouldn’t it have been great to have a really great neutral, retro-looking quad? Something to do the natural but sexy heavy-lidded look that Marilyn was so often seen in? These were all very frosty and I was kind of underwhelmed with the pigment.

MAC eyeshadow in an icy yet warm ivory with both gold and silver sheen

Preferred Blonde is an icy yet warm ivory with both gold and silver sheen.

MAC eyeshadow in a light silver grey

Silver Screen is a light silver grey.

MAC eyeshadow in a blue steel grey

Showgirl is a blue steel gray.

Preferred Blonde, Silver Screen, Showgirl swatchesPreferred Blonde, Silver Screen, Showgirl

A note on the Penultimate eyeliner that is part of this collection. Back in high school, Gregory and his friends used to use Sharpies to highlight their eyes (!) And this product, with its inky felt tip, is homage to them. Though by the way, Marilyn NEVER wore black eyeliner. She only wore brown liner with white pencil to highlight and define.

Beauty PowderBeauty Powder, the prettiest packaging of the whole launch

Finally, there’s a lot to be said about Marilyn’s epic glow. Though black and white photography and general legend status add to the ethereal quality that photos of Monroe have, there was something more to it – an actual glow. Marilyn used a hormone cream on her face, and as a side result she grew a light peach fuzz all over. Movie directors always wanted her to shave it off, but the peach fuzz gave her face an artificial halo/glow in photographs, so she refused.

MAC beauty powder

The soft and natural face powders in this launch look to mimic that beautiful glow (and are best for light to medium skin tones.)

Forever Marilyn Beauty PowderForever Marilyn Beauty Powder

Forever Marilyn Beauty Powder is ideal for highlighting cheekbones (and it’s especially loved by Dita Von Teese, who wears it under her brow bone to highlight eyes). And like all Beauty Powders, it’s super smooth and finely milled.

Maybe if this didn’t arrive when I still had a bit of summer color it would have worked a bit better for me. But sadly, it didn’t. It’s almost white pink shade just didn’t work on my NC 30 skintone. I have word though that our zombie-toned tester Krista has officially flipped for this…

The Perfect Cheek blush

The Perfect Cheek blush, on the other hand, may be just that for me. It’s a light pink nude, that’s very similar to Blush All Day from the recent Office Hours launch. And it’s pretty much the baby bear of blush – just right!

The Perfect Cheek Blush, Forever Marilyn Beauty Powder swatchesThe Perfect Cheek Blush, Forever Marilyn Beauty Powder

we heartsters and testers, what are your thoughts on the launch? Do some think it’s hot?

Large Eyeshadow
How to Marry – Soft white (Veluxe Pearl)
Preferred Blonde – Pale champagne beige (Veluxe Pearl)
Silver Screen – True silver (Veluxe Pearl)
Showgirl – Dark blue grey (Veluxe Pearl)
$21 US / $25 CDN

Pure Zen – Frosted warm nude (Cremesheen)
Scarlet Ibis – Bright orange red (Matte)
Love Goddess – Mid-tone pink red (Satin)
Charmed I’m Sure – Dark true red (Matte)
Deeply Adored – Deep scarlet (Matte)
$16.50 US / $20 CDN

Phiff! – Sheer yellow peach (Frost) (Repromote)
Little Rock – Soft sheer white with pearl (Frost)
$21.50 US / $26 CDN

False Lashes Mascara
Extreme Black – Black
$20 US / $23.50 CDN

Brow Finisher
$15 US / $18 CDN

Eye Kohl
Fascinating – Intense matte white
Smolder – Intense black
$15 US / $18 CDN

Penultimate Eyeliner
Rapidblack True black
$18.50 US / $21.50 CDN

Penultimate Brow Marker
$18.50 US / $22 CDN

35 Lash
$16 US / $19 CDN

Powder Blush
Legendary Pale soft coral (Satin)
The Perfect Cheek Neutral pink beige (Matte)
$22 US / $26.50 CDN

Lip Pencil
Beet – Vivid reddish-pink
Redd Clearly- red
Cherry – Vivid bright bluish-red
$16.50 US / $20 CDN

Beauty Powder
Forever Marilyn – Sheer pale peach highlighter
$28 US / $34 CDN

Nail Lacquer
Rich, Rich, Rich – Glittery gold (Pearl) (Online Exclusive)
Vintage Vamp – Rich deep retro wine (Cream) (Permanent)
Stage Red – Dark berry red (Cream)
Flaming Rose – True red (Cream) (Permanent)
Kid Orange – Coral (Cream)
$17.50 US / $21 CDN

Disclosure: This review includes products that were provided by the manufacturer/PR firm for our consideration. For more info, or any questions, please see our disclosure policy.


  • Stef Andrews

    Stef is a plethora of things. Amongst them: co-founder of we heart this, photographer, condiment connoisseur, Philly girl in the California desert, borderline hoarder and a hardcore beauty junkie. She also has a touch of wanderlust and, arguably, the cutest dog in the whole world... skin tone: NC 25/30 skin type: oily with a fear of rosacea favorite beauty product: high end skincare and lip products

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  1. I got to try Flaming Rose Nail Polish and it’s a classic blue red and looks great on my nails. a perfect red nail! It’s also really creamy and opaque so I was very happy with that. It also lasted This particular shade is a permanent one but if you want the cute Marilyn packaging, you know what to do :)

    When I saw this collection come out, I was so overwhelmed with all the red lip and nail options! What’s great is that there is something for everyone in this line. I agree about the eyeshadows – clearly this collection wasn’t about the eyeshadows but they did want to make some to go along with it. Very nice review @stef!

  2. I tested Little Rock, the white-gold diamond Dazzleglass with silver pearl, which I’d be excited to have in my possession for the packaging alone (I’m even keeping the box from this one!). But I really like the product, too, especially its frosty sparkle. It has practically no real color, but still looks pretty over bare lips, and gorgeous over lipstick.

    @stef , you’ve given me all the information I’d need to go out and undoubtedly buy several things (from lips, nails, Beauty Powder, blush… I want them all!)– if only my local MAC stores had not been stripped bare of Marilyn. So I’m really grateful to have the one lipglass!

    I didn’t know these MM images were previously unseen. That’s extra cool, MAC!

  3. @stef – Great Review on this much talked about collection. I know may people who have desperately wanted to purchase items from this collection. I have heard there is nothing left at the department stores or online.

    Also, I would have loved to have gone one the tour. You are a lucky girl!!

  4. Excellent review @stef!! At least we can live vicariously through you. I am sure that i will never even see this collection in person. Too bad!!

    Lipsticks-I could totally go for Charmed I’m Sure or Love Goddess. I mean who wouldn’t want colors inspired by Dita or Christina Hendricks?

    Eyeshadow-I liked all three. I am a big fan of the icy look.

    The face powders are also gorgeous!!!!

  5. When I initially saw promo pictures of this collection, I was a little disappointed by the packaging. Actual product photos that came out later weren’t as bad, and I love the lipstick kiss on the inside of the box. Even though some of these items weren’t things Marilyn Monroe would wear (black liner, glittery eye shadow), this collection went out of stock incredibly fast. My friends and I went to our local MAC store to get makeovers based on this collection, and nearly every single product was out of stock. Other stores (Nordstrom, Macy’s, were also out of stock. I was lucky that I could get my hands on the Preferred Blonde eyeshadow, and that Stef and Tyna sent me Kid Orange nail polish and The Perfect Cheek blush!

    I like the larger size of the eyeshadow, but the colors are quite sheer. They work best when patted onto the lid with a good primer, so you can make it work with a teensy bit of extra effort. Using a brush kind of sweeps the shimmer around, so I wouldn’t recommend this. I really wanted a Marilyn Monroe item, and this was in stock, and it’s still a decent product, although not extraordinary. I’m satisfied with it :)

    Kid Orange is a fabulous orange-red (not coral at all). It matches my skinny jeans perfectly. Sadly, like most MAC nail polishes, the formula isn’t great. While it applies nicely and is opaque in two coats, it chipped the very next morning (I have no idea why!). Pass.

    Now… my favorite… The Perfect Cheek. This was the product I’d been dying to get my hands on, but it was out of stock. Fortunately, Stef and Tyna read my mind and sent me this blush to test and review! I LOVE it. I think it would look good on light or medium skin tones, cool or warm (I’m medium and warm). It’s subtle, with no sparkle, and just really a nice color. I’m obsessed with it.

    Also, I was kind of underwhelmed by the Dazzleglass lip glosses that I tried out in store. If you love clear gloss, and glitter, and Marilyn Monroe, go for it. But I like a little more color, less glitter.

    This collection sold fast, but honestly these weren’t MAC’s best products. Were they as bad as some of MAC’s recent flops? No, not by far. But the Marilyn Monroe collection isn’t one of their best either.

  6. I was trying not to get too excited at this new collection, since the stores have been wiped clean!
    The blush in Perfect Cheek looks to be right up my alley, as does the Charmed, I’m Sure Lipstick!
    Maybe I’ll get luck at my local MAC store!??
    Great review and manicures, @Stef!

  7. MAC always has such great packaging – and I think this collection is one of their best. I adore the little ‘kiss’ on the inside of the packages as well as the fab Marilyn image. And how cool that MAC got their hands on an exclusive photo, from one of Marilyn’s favorite photographers no less.

    I was thrilled to take part in MAC’s celebration of the collection by taking a trip around Hollywood to see a few of Marilyn’s haunts. And doubly thrilled to get the inside scoop on the line from the one and only Gregory Arlt. You could hear in his voice how much time and effort he put into this line and just how much he adores Marilyn. And to top it off, he is so nice and sweet and very funny.

    My favorite piece from this collection is The Perfect Cheek – it really is a perfect blush! A pretty light pink nude without any shimmer that gives a lifelike warmth and glow to my cheeks. It’s great for both day and evening wear. And of course, I love carrying this blush with me, just to show off the pretty packaging – and the fact that I was able to score one of these coveted pieces of makeup. I’m petty like that – heh.

    I’m hoping that with the crazy success of this line, that MAC will make other collections in honor of fabled beauty muses. How fab would an Audrey Hepburn line be? Or one for Elizabeth Taylor?

  8. Sorry for the late chime in.. It was cool to meet and see Gregory in action at South Coast Plaza when MAC had the launch party for his new Marilyn Monroe line just a couple weeks ago. The man has passion behind his creation, let me tell you. What I really liked seeing was the never before seen photos of Marilyn and they were something.. So much so, that I made sure to get pictures of the photographs.. Well, it’s better than nothing! Regarding the packaging, I love it! So unique with her face on them. Overall the colors were pretty but like Stef mentions.. a bit too frosty. But I did love the red lips they put on me in Deeply Adored – Deep scarlet :)

  9. @stef — “zombie-toned”–you wound me!!! lol

    It’s true, I’m pale. I’m so pale that bronzer doesn’t work on me. And I have to avoid direct sunlight and holy water. The Forever Marilyn Beauty Powder from MAC is for girls like me–it’s the ANTI-bronzer. I use this as a whole-face powder and the hint of pink warms and brightens my complexion, while still letting me maintain my pale. It was very subtle, but still a noticeable difference–it’s my new go-to product.
    I was lucky enough to find love with this beauty powder, but also with the Love Goddess lipstick—it’s a gorgeous deep pink with a hint of red–it’s face brightening and still deep enough for fall (I avoid brighter colors in favor of darker shades once the barometer drops). I feel like a retro sex kitten wearing these products, which is really what MAC intended…I really wish I could have gotten my hands on the Deeply Adored lipstick, which isn’t pictured. It looked like a gorgeously dark red that wanted to be mine *pouts*…

  10. There are so many of these that I love. Scarlet Ibis is gorgeous and I’m loving a hint of orange in my reds lately. Phiff! looks like it would be beautiful if layered over Zen or other slightly neutral lipsticks. And being fairly pale I can appreciate the Forever Marilyn Beauty Powder. I adore this whole collection!

  11. It was a sad, sad day indeed when I had to decline attending this particular launch. Truly, I cannot think of a makeup event of any kind more up my alley. Sad day aside, the Scarlet Ibis lipstick and How To Marry eye shadow did much to ease the pain. First up, that lipstick! Phenomenal smooth matte feel, extraordinarily long lasting and, of course, great looking! This is a true fifties-era red a la Lucy, a la Marilyn, a la a lot of movie matrons, madams and sex kittens. I feel like I’ve seen this color on every technicolor starlet from the mid-forties through the late fifties. No doubt MAC did some formula perfecting with the super-sexy orange-red and came up with a hands-down classic. This is a show-stopper that everyone will want to know “what is that color?” I know I’d want to know.
    Unlike Stef, I was thrilled with the eyeshadow as well. How To Marry reminds me of later, 30+ Marilyn…early 60’s Marilyn. I remember that famous close-up photo of her wearing a sweater, tousled hair and eyes seemingly caked in white pearl with super thick black liner on her half-closed eyes. She looked lipstickless (perhaps what inspired that nudish lipstick) and unadorned and simple as only Marilyn could while wearing so much eye makeup. I never thought it was the most flattering makeup face, but for me it was her most memorable and iconic. How To Marry on the lid and browbone with a swipe of a soft light brown in the crease along with a thickly lined top lash and tons of mascara make an eye that is all Marilyn. The formula isn’t extraordinarily pigmented, but for this one I’m glad. After all, who wants their eyes totally whited out? Nice retro shimmer with a new world, finely milled soft and silky application. I’ll go out on a limb saying that this white is THE only white for that truly iconic Marilyn look.

  12. Hi Stef,

    We can’t get enough Marilyn, and we loved how thoroughly you reviewed the collection that we included it in our “Best of the Beauty Blogs…” post on GlamBlus. Keep up the great work!


  13. I got the Silver Screen eye shadow, which has the great MAC quality, but as others have pointed out the pigment isn’t that strong, so I’ve been using it as a highlighter. It adds a lovely sparkle to my eyes. Subtle, but still a nice little oomph to my eye makeup. Love the Marilyn inspired aspect to this line and totally wish I could have gone to the awesome sounding shindig for this! :)

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