The beauty products Helen Mirren swears by

Helen Mirren, 76, on keeping make-up for 20 years and wearing lippy and mascara every day

Helen Mirren for L’oreal Paris true match nude plumping tinted serum

What’s your most nostalgic make-up product?

You won’t know what I’m talking about when I say ‘9’ and ‘5’ ‒ actors will. They were Max Factor’s two [theatrical make-up] stick colours: 9 was the beige and 5 was for shading. They might still be tucked away somewhere in my house. Elnett hairspray has also been with me my whole life and every hairdresser says they use it because it’s still the best. Even the can is rather old-fashioned with that 50s-style image of a woman.

L’Oreal Hairspray by Elnett for Normal Hold & Shine 400ml, £5, Boots

The first beauty item you bought?

When I was maybe 14, it was incredibly fashionable to have white lipstick. I bought my first from Woolworths and I must have looked horrible. Think of it!

How did you discover your favourite fragrance?

I love Hermès Un Jardin en Méditerranée. There’s a great book called The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr (former scent critic of The New York Times). I read about it being his favourite perfume so I went out and bought it ‒ and it is gorgeous! There’s also an Italian perfumery I love called Aquaflor. It makes gorgeous fresh and light perfumes.

Hermès Un Jardin sur le Nil Eau de Toilette 100ml, £77.52, Feel Unique

The Emperor Of Scent (Paperback), £10.99, Waterstones

Do you have a top make-up tip?

I love make-up and I’m probably at my happiest sitting putting it on. But one of my rules is: put it on, then take half of it off.

My mother always said to sleep in your eye make-up as it looks better the next day…

Oh, really? I like that. I’m going to try that one. OK, that’s my best advice: sleep in your eye make-up!

What’s your worst beauty habit?

I find it difficult to throw away make-up because I get attached to it. I’ve had some bits for 20 years – it’s embarrassing.

And you still wear it?

Oh, totally.

Any bugbears?

It’s heartbreaking when you find the perfect thing, then it’s discontinued. So my other tip is: if you find something you absolutely love, buy ten so you’ve got enough for a lifetime.

Any other tips?

A good one I was given is to open your refrigerator and pop your face in for 30 seconds after doing your make-up – to cool and set it.

Have you had a favourite hairstyle or colour over the years?

I’ve never been a big colourer of hair. And I’m going to sound like an ad now ‒ but this is genuine ‒ one of the few times I have it was with L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect. It was so good ‒ and I did it myself. If I work with a hairdresser I say, ‘do what you like’ because it’s interesting to have new ideas. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world, is it? We get stuck and I guess my beauty tip is: don’t get stuck – experiment.

SPF or sizzle?

I do love a suntan. My excuse is I’ve got to get my vitamin D. I try to be more careful now, because as you get older you start to see the effects, and you say: ‘I see, that’s what they were talking about.’

When you’re off duty, do you go bare-faced?

No I don’t! In days of Covid I put make-up on every day even though it was just me and my husband and he didn’t care about it. He absolutely didn’t care. But I did it for myself. So when I happened to be walking past a mirror I thought: ‘Oh yeah, you look OK.’ I’m not a big one for a lot of foundation but mascara and lipstick are great.

How do you feel about ageing?

Don’t worry about it. The reality is you die young or you get old. I’m eternally curious about life – and technology. It’s the saddest thing in the world that Kurt Cobain never knew what GPS was: that little blue dot moving along. How can that possibly exist? It’s so exciting. If the price you pay [for experiencing progress] is getting older, then I’m happy to pay the price.

Do you do DIY manicures and pedicures?

Yes, I do my nails at home. I go to nail bars occasionally, but I don’t like them – I am always suspicious that girls are trafficked and it makes me feel uncomfortable. When I go to the Cannes Film Festival we have a fantastic manicurist.

You were recently in Cannes for the L’Oréal Paris Lights On Women Award. How would you encourage women who are starting out in film careers?

They need role models. I was on a film set last week and it was 95 per cent men. Take the first AD [assistant director]. That role was traditionally a shouty man, then on one film I worked on it was a woman who quietly told people what she needed. I thought: ‘Oh, this can be completely different.’ So women ADs are important, as are women doing the camera work, lighting, sound and, of course, directing.

Helen is a L’Oréal Paris ambassador. To find out more about this year’s award, visit