The Product That Gave Marilyn Monroe Her Intoxicating Signature Scent

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Screen siren and overall icon Marilyn Monroe died more than 60 years ago, yet her legacy endures — right down to the signature fragrance that drove people wild when she passed by. The good news is that you can achieve a similar effect, as the product she used to smell so magnificent is still around.


Born Norma Jean Mortenson, Monroe ultimately appeared in 33 films; however, long before her untimely death, she was cemented as a sex symbol in the public's psyche. In particular, she was known for her platinum blond hair, ultra-curvy body, and bright red lips. In fact, she was so appealing that author Truman Capote wrote the novel "Breakfast at Tiffany's" with her in mind for the lead role in the film adaptation, which famously went to Audrey Hepburn instead. 

While you can always imitate Monroe's blond hair, the less permanent way to engender some of her classic appeal is to simply use some of her favored Lifebuoy soap to get the job done. 

All about Marilyn Monroe's favorite soap

According to Mordor Intelligence, the fragrance industry is worth nearly $62 billion at the time of writing, so it's sort of hilarious that Marilyn Monroe's intoxicating signature scent was thanks to plain old soap. In fact, the New York Post reported that actor Lou Gossett Jr. was "undone" by her scent, saying, "I've never been affected so much by a woman in all my life." 


Produced by Unilever, which claims that "Lifebuoy is the world's number one hygiene soap brand," this brand of soap harkens back to the late 1800s when James and William Lever developed the product to bolster personal hygiene among the general public. It went by other names, too, as it was first marketed in the United Kingdom as Royal Disinfectant Soap, according to Lifebuoy India. This wide reach was only made possible, though, because William realized that carbolic acid could help soap achieve a dual function of affordability and germ-fighting potential. Thus, Lifebuoy soap was spread far and wide and continues to be manufactured today. 

This is what Lifebuoy soap smells like

Naturally, everyone wants to know what Marilyn Monroe smelled like, and this includes TikToker Erin Parsons, who tracked down some old bars of Lifebuoy to smell them for herself. Unfortunately, they'd long since passed their prime — specifically, they were about 70 years old and smelled "mildewy" — so Parsons turned to a carbolic soap from fellow hygiene brand Blue Power as a close second. Parsons described it as smelling "antibacterial" and "medicinal," with a "clean, soapy fragrance" that has a "musky" touch. In other words, she says it smells like her "grandparent's house."


Although this might not seem appealing to some, there's little denying the potential impact of certain scents. It's well established that smells can cause memories — and their accompanying emotions — to resurface, as explained in The Harvard Gazette. So, for people who associate the smell of soap with grandparents and/or soap with positive memories, this simple fragrance can make them feel all warm and fuzzy. 

Are you intrigued by this soapy potential and possibly longing to smell a bit like Monroe? Lifebuoy soap can be purchased on Amazon for less than the typical perfume bottle ($32 for 12 bars). It's not exactly the same as the formulation she used decades ago, but it's pretty close if the product's reviews are any indication.