Why Princess Diana Always Looked So Damn Good

How to look like a royal, courtesy of Lady Di's makeup artist.

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(Image credit: Bettmann)

We might not be able to mingle at Buckingham Palace or afford a tiara, but if there’s one way we can be just like the royals, it’s in our hair and makeup choices. Re-creating the picture-perfect princess look is surprisingly doable and doesn’t require a trip across the pond.

The insider info come courtesy of makeup artist Mary Greenwell. In addition to being the only makeup artist to have worked with both Princess Diana and Meghan Markle, she’s also done makeup for OG supermodels like Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford. “Princess Diana was a timeless beauty,” says Greenwell, “so I used makeup to enhance—focusing on a beautiful complexion as the base is the most important step, and creating a soft eye look.” Don’t be worried if you’re not a makeup savant—the royal look is known for its light makeup hand; you’re not going to be doing a whole face beat here. “Our approach to beauty wasn’t about trends, it was all about creating a classic look,” Greenwell adds. Here, Greenwell’s top tips for looking as effortlessly beautiful as Lady Di always did.

1. Stick to pink or nude lip shades.

We all love a good vampy lip, but for the royal look, best to go neutral. While occasionally Princess Diana and Meghan Markle have worn darker shades for nighttime events (like at the Cirque Du Soleil premiere last year or Princess Di's Met Gala appearance in 1996, more on that below), daytime functions call for something subtler. “Use a nude or rose color. The formula should be something sheer and satin, nothing too glossy or matte,” she says.

Shop the best nude lipsticks here

2. Keep the foundation light.

Greenwell explains the royal take on complexion makeup as such: “To create makeup that’s both seamless in person and on camera, I work with buildable cream and liquid products that I can layer and melt into the skin. For the complexion, use buildable and flexible formulas to create custom coverage. For the most natural finish, I prefer using satin formulas over anything matte to create a second skin effect. Use a buildable concealer only where needed. I like to use one shade matched specifically for blemishes, and another slightly lighter shade to brighten under the eyes.”

3. Use liquid and cream formulas.

To add color and create a healthy, natural radiance, use a cream or liquid blush that you can pat and diffuse into the skin with your fingers. “I’ve always liked to work product in with my hands instead of brushes to create a second-skin effect,” says Greenwell. She adds, “One of the most memorable [times] was [Princess Diana’s] iconic Met Gala look. I created a soft look by building sheer formulas on the skin for a flush of color. Use a liquid or cream blush to create a softer, veil effect on the skin. The key is to let the skin have a healthy, natural radiance.”

4. Keep the eyes smoky, but natural.

Graphic eyes may be a trend, but there’s no Euphoria makeup inside palace walls. Greenwell advises using browns and taupe hues for the eyes to create a very soft, smoky effect, and always topping things off with mascara (good lashes are universal).

5. It’s all about the glow.

The trick here is to apply highlighter without actually looking like you applied highlighter–you have to make the common folk believe it’s a naturally God-given glow. That means glitter-free formulas—and certainly no strobing. “You don’t want anything that’s too obvious, so you only need a small amount of highlighter across the high points of the cheek and on the brow bone. The ICONIC London Illuminator has a beautiful pearlescent finish that’s very easy to blend so you never get a chunky or glittery finish. I avoid highlighting down the nose or anywhere else on the face as again, it can move away from looking subtle or natural looking.”

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Hana Hong

Hana Hong is the beauty assistant at Marie Claire, where she covers skincare, makeup, and haircare, and is identifiable by her signature cateye.