Merle Norman Review



Merle Norman Cosmetics is a Los Angeles-based company that sells a line of skin care products, makeup, and fragrances. The company has been in business since 1931. Merle Norman focuses on American-made cosmetics and fragrances that are distributed from two major warehouses in L.A. and in Memphis to over 2,000 retail franchises throughout the country.


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-Merle Norman

The company now uses its own research and development team to create new cosmetic and fragrances. The main focus of Merle Norman Cosmetics is two pronged; with one aspect being the development of products for consumers and at the same time to develop franchise opportunities for small business owners.


Is Merle Skincare Worth The Money?

A common question about this brand is if the products are worth the cost.

In our opinion, Merle Skincare products deliver value for money, but take a look at other brands that don’t require you to sacrifice your precious money.

We recommend brands that are committed to developing clean yet effective products.

One brand is Carrot & Stick, a clean skincare brand that perfectly balances the gentle nurturing of plants with the powerful results of innovative science.


What’s Inside Merle Norman Skin Care?

Here’s a closer look at the active ingredients commonly used in Merle Norman skin care products. Vitamin C, peptides, and retinol make up the core ingredients for the Merle Norman skin care line. These ingredients should all be part of your skincare routine.

Vitamin C
We’ve been hearing for years that Vitamin C is the best anti-aging ingredient. It’s a potent antioxidant that protects the skin from free radicals, the unstable molecules that contribute to the formation of premature wrinkles and fine lines on the skin.

Vitamin C also helps fade dark spots, evens out skin tone, and increases radiance. As if that wasn’t enough, research suggests that when vitamin C is applied to the skin, it significantly reverses aging-related structural changes by influencing collagen and elastin synthesis.

It’s in the Merle Norman Brilliant-C Brightening Serum. 

But our favorite antioxidant serum is Carrot & Stick The Concentrate. It contains a multitude of plant and marine antioxidants to help defend against visible aging and free radical damage. Use it every morning.

As you age, your body’s production of collagen and elastin slows down. These two proteins are responsible for your skin’s structural support. As a result, the skin loses its natural plumpness and smoothness. 

While collagen is necessary for maintaining youthful-looking skin, the collagen protein is too large to absorb into the skin topically. That’s why applying skin care products that contain collagen won’t provide the anti-aging benefits you’re looking for.

This is where peptides come into action. Peptides are the building blocks of protein, and they are easily absorbed into the deeper layers of skin due to their smaller size. 

Merle Norman Anti-Aging Complex Night Cream contains a Triple Peptide Complex to help reduce the signs of premature aging. 

If you’re looking for a peptide serum, we recommend Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum. It contains 7 plant-based peptides to promote plumper and smoother-looking skin. It also has skin-loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide.

Retinol is the go-to anti-aging ingredient recommended by dermatologists and skin experts. It’s clinically proven to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores.

The only downside? Retinol can often lead to side effects like skin dryness, peeling, and irritation. 

It’s in the Merle Norman Retinol Night Complex.  

Use retinoids at night. We recommend this retinoid oil serum.  It contains Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, an ingredient that provides similar benefits with less irritation.

Merle Norman Company History

Merle Norman launched her first cosmetics studio in Santa Monica, CA, after creating and demonstrating her own homemade products to friends and family. She was one of the first cosmetics specialists to allow her customers to try on her products before making a purchase.

After she opened her first studio with the assistance of her nephew, J.B. Nethercutt, she began to perform before-and-after makeovers to further market her cosmetics. Once her studio became successful, she gave other women the opportunity to open their own Merle Norman studios through a franchising program.

Merle Norman Product Information

Merle Norman carries a wide variety of skin care products as well as cosmetics. Items include serums that get rid of wrinkles and fine lines, exfoliating masks, facial creams that are designed to get rid of acne, as well as several items for men.

The company does not allow its franchisees to sell products out of their homes or online, so any products that you may find online are likely not authorized for sale by the company.

Cosmetic product prices range from $8.00-$16.00 and include foundation, eye shadow, mascara, lip liner, eye liner, and blush. Prices may vary from studio to studio, and customers should call their local Merle Norman studio for exact prices and availability while they are comparison shopping for cosmetics.

Purchasing Merle Norman Products

While there are no Merle Norman cosmetics available on the website, there is a studio locator available, along with franchise information and detailed information about the products. Customers can browse for products via a drop-down menu and read more about how each one might benefit their skin. Merle Norman reviews from customers are not offered on the site, and there is no other supporting information except what the company provides.

Customers can also purchase gift certificates at any Merle Norman studio. Customers who shop at the studios can take advantage of a number of other services there, such as express makeovers, skin assessments, consultations for brides-to-be who want to coordinate their dress and their cosmetics, and a number of spa treatments.

Merle Norman studios will also often let customers try on products first, which can make it helpful when making a purchasing decision. However, as with any retailer that allows you to try products first, keep in mind that the person behind the counter is likely not a skin care specialist and is there to make a sale – not necessarily to help you find the best product. Therefore, it is important to stay objective when trying on any new product, and first ensure that it truly is right for your skin.

Merle Norman Returns

Return policies for each Merle Norman studio may vary from state to state. Most studios offer their customers up to thirty days to return any purchase, but franchise owners may set their own policies and rules. Because no franchise owner is permitted to sell any cosmetics or fragrances online, items purchased at online auctions or retail websites cannot be returned to any franchise location.

Merle Norman Franchise Information

The website also offers advice and franchise information for those who want to open their own Merle Norman studio. There is an extensive FAQ section that covers how to find an available location, how to get financing, and how the Merle Norman Company will assist you should you decide to own and run a location.

What Are Alternatives to Merle Norman?

If you’re looking for skincare products to address the signs of aging, we recommend Carrot & Stick. Carrot & Stick maximizes the use of powerful ingredients and minimizes the use of superficial ones, resulting in advanced skincare solutions that help promote healthy, more youthful-looking skin. We recommend The Repair Serum, followed by The Moisturizer.



Carrot & Stick

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The philosophy of Formulyst is long-term and effective skincare, rather than covering up any imperfections. The comprehensive line of products tackles everything from wrinkles to dark spots and dry skin. While some brands rely on unnecessary fillers and scents, Formulyst focuses on ingredients that help create results, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Read More
  • Amy Townsend Original review: Jan 03, 2022. Reply

    From the age of 9 until I was 29 my face had breakouts off and on. It wasn’t until I walked into a Merle Norman skincare and cosmetics store where someone introduced me to their Miracol Mask. I was hesitant at first to try it because I had tried so many other products “to clear up my skin.”

    It was explained to me that my skin may break out into a barely visible rash but not to be concerned about it because that meant it was working. Merle Norman’s Miracol mask brings out anything that’s clogging your pores up to the surface by clearing out those pores naturally. It worked for me and had I not stopped in I would never have known what a wonderful product it was. If you have breakouts or don’t have exceptionally smooth skin, I highly recommend you start using the Miracol mask. Run. Don’t walk to your closest Merle Norman store. If you don’t try it, you will never know if it’s something that will work for you and change your life too!!

  • Alicia Original review: Mar 02, 2021. Reply

    normally i never liked getting my eyebrows or make up done because of past disappointments. However, when Alicia did her magic on my eyebrow everything change. now i regularly get my eyes brow done only at Merle Norman Cosmetics by Alicia. She is the best and she know it.

  • Judy Johnson Original review: Sep 12, 2019. Reply

    My Merle Norman owner, Pam, has always been exceptional when it comes to knowing her products and I always feel comfortable with her advice. I simply love the Lasting foundation. This product goes on so smoothly and actually stays in place in our humidity prone weather.

  • Noelle J Niedermeier Original review: Jun 19, 2019. Reply

    I was 12 when my mom, who religiously used Merle Norman, took me for my first skin and makeup consultation at our local studio. I’m still using it at age 41. Ive tried many other products ranging from drug store to high end products but rarely have found anything that equals the quality of MN for the price. My mother passed away at age 60 after an 18 month battle with cancer and even after several rounds of chemo and radiation her skin looked better than any of the other women i knew her age. My skin is finally starting to show some age after many years of smoking and I had some health issues that I am sure have attributed to it as well. I have not always been good about washing my face off every night by any means either. Even so, I still occasionally get asked for ID when out for drinks with some of my 20 something coworkers. I usually get guesses about 10 years younger than my true age too. I wish that MN would do something more to give them more exposure in this modern age. I have seen many studios close over the past 10-15 years and have had to drive a lot further to get products than i used to. I’m sure if more people knew about the quality of this line and the integrity of the way the products are made it would probably be a top contender in the modern skincare business.

  • Dottie Original review: Mar 28, 2018. Reply

    At the age of 13 and living in Houston at the time, my mother took me to the local MN location to help me find the right skin line…I am now weeks from turning 73 and my family and friends have always told me I look 10-15 years younger than most women my age. My mother used Merle Norman until she passed away at 86…her skin was beautiful. I grew up in Southern California, South Florida and Texas with lots of sun and caring for my skin was important. . .even as a teenager I took care, and I am so glad I did. When I lived in Switzerland and France in the early 70s and didn’t have my Merle Norman, I used some of the world’s “most exclusive make-up lines” and not one of them equaled to or exceeded my Merle Norman products.

    One negative only… I am not pleased with two franchise Merle Norman owners, however; as I feel they have been in the business so long and only desire to “maintain” their client base and are not interested in helping me with updated product lines best suited for my aging skin, even when I ask. If it were not for your web page, there are products I would not have even know about. Also, I spend a lot of money at each quarterly visit and have not received a free gift in over a year. I don’t demand a gift to make me feel good, but it is nice to get one.

    Anyway, thank you for amazing products and success in the years ahead.

  • Laura Original review: Mar 06, 2017. Reply

    When I was 18 years old I started to break out. My skin then was oily. My mother took me to Merle Norman and I started with the original powder base and my skin began to clear. My mother, maternal-grandmother, aunts, cousins all have used Merle Norman throughout their lives. A few times I tried other products and always return to Merle Norman. I am now 72 and still receive compliments on my skin. Wrinkles didn’t start to appear until I turned 70 and I’ve been mistaken to look 15 to 20 years younger than my age. I felt it was about time that I praised Merle Norman for their quality and consistent products.

  • L Original review: Jan 17, 2017. Reply

    Started using their products in the early 80s, their basics and a few skin care products. Excellent advice on product and color choices, and daily work makeup routine as well as more glam look for special occasions. Their representatives understood that makeup colors can look great in a store but hideous under office lighting, and helped me make appropriate choices. The only product line I ever used that seemed to reduce breakouts and not aggravate existing breakouts. (Even the pro-active I tried later, briefly, made breakouts worse, yikes.) Noticed at work especially, my coworkers were constantly reapplying their cosmetics, but my merle norman held up all day, no fading, no breakthrough oily issues, no fading of blush, no little pieces of mascara falling off, etc. (And I have oily dry skin.) I would reapply lipstick after lunch, that was all. Easy to remove their water based products, so less wear and tear on ones’s face, and hopefully less wrinkles as an added benefit. Although am diligent about replacing products frequently, noticed their products seem to maintain quality longer. A big plus, they have individual fresh samples at their stores, so you are not trying a sample that has been sitting open for days, dabbled in by multiple customers. Although occasionally try individual products from other lines, have never found any other line that I like better, except Chanel’s cake mascara, which you apply with a tiny comb after wetting it. (And which Chanel stopped selling in the U.S. many years ago.) For a few years I had skipped makeup routine while pregnant, nursing, out of workforce, but always keep their basics on hand for events and special occasions. A excellent value for your budget, only wish my local store didn’t run out of basics items so often.

  • Adri Golden Original review: Dec 04, 2016. Reply

    I went off to college in 1967 with a “starter kit” of Merle Norman makeup and Miracol mask. I stopped using it after my Freshman year – can’t remember why. Fast forward to present day. I stopped in our local MN studio to see if SOMEONE could help me choose a foundation that was the right shade for me. I love wearing makeup, but never seemed to be able to choose a shade that didn’t look orange on me. The MN Girl (woman my age actually) pegged me immediately as IVORY. She applied some and it was PERFECT! I purchased the Timeless Foundation, and have since purchased a lovely blush, Mauve Magic, ivory face powder and even the original Powder Base. I plan to make MN my go to for makeup. I try to use botanically based skincare, but maybe I’ll try MN. I love their GWPs!

  • Lorri Original review: Nov 09, 2016. Reply

    I am all about Merle Norman! I’m a walking advertisement for them, lol. I started using the makeup and skin care at 20. I am 42 now and people always guess me 10 years younger than I am, I can’t hear it too often! My sister is 13 months older than me and you can see her eye wrinkles, and she pretty much looks her age. After seeing the difference between our skin about 3 years ago, she now uses Merle Norman. And note to the younger ladies reading this, just because you can’t see the wrinkles doesn’t mean you should not be using skin care. I strayed from Merle Norman skin care once about 10 years ago to try Cindy Crawford’s meaningful beauty. My skin went to sh*t, broke out unbelievably! Never strayed again, lesson learned. The only product they have changed that I will not buy anymore because I don’t like it, is the make up brush cleaner spray. It is extremely time-consuming to clean the brushes and they just don’t feel clean, and the brushes are not as soft as the original Merle Norman brush cleaner. It would be awesome if they could bring that product back . Other ways congratulations Merle Norman, you rock !

  • Kathy W. Original review: Sep 30, 2016. Reply

    I have used Merle Norman since I was 16 years old. I strayed away a few years ago and tried Mary Kay because I had friends who sold it and I even wasted several months using Bare Minerals. If you like mineral makeup you are way better off wearing Merle Norman mineral powder. It only has 4 ingredients and you get about 5 times the amount you get with Bare Minerals for the same price. However, I found that mineral makeup just was not for me. I have oily/combo skin (I’m 64) and I use some of the MN skin care. I try to keep it simple. Love the oil free matte moisturizer and the Brilliant C Serum. I also love the makeup. The CC Cream is the best ever and the Ultra Powder foundation powder is phenomenal. The blushes are so pretty as well as eyeshadows. The double sided lip pencils and lip glaze cannot be beat. I can’t say enough about MN products. I always get compliments on my skin and my makeup.

  • Jan Alos Original review: Jan 31, 2016. Reply

    I have used ALL and ONLY Kerle Norman products since I was 18. Great skin. Everyone complemented me.
    NOW since I have had to stop my hormones my face is NOW in dire need of everything.
    I have wrinkles and lines wear I never did before AND my sagging chin skin is embarrassing becUse it is all people see and make notice of. I use the neck creme and this is what I get. Any suggestions? Can’t go back on hormones. Any good suggestions!!!

  • Cammy Original review: Sep 03, 2015. Reply

    I’m 72 and started using MN 3 Steps to Beauty (Miracol, powder base, cold cream) when I was 12. Without exception when people learn my age, their jaws drop open, and I mean literally. Bar none, this is the best skin care line on the market. It is still the original formula as at inception in 1931. They have added products beyond the Miracol, powder base and cold cream so if your shtick is whatever type of product every other bunch sells, you can get similar ones from MN. For my sensitive skin, the 3 basic items mentioned above are perfect, along with their Gentle Moisturizer. The powder base has zinc oxide so you are totally protected from the sun as long as it is on your skin, with the added bonus of not having the extra step of putting on a chemical sunscreen.. The base is waterproof so it won’t degrade during the day and the loose face powder is the silkiest gossamer imaginable. I never get compliments on my makeup—instead people tell me they wish they were lucky enough to have skin as perfect as mine so they could go without makeup too, and the jaws drop again when I tell them I am wearing makeup. FWIW, if you look up reviews of MN on you’ll get a broader sample of users’ opinions (and a higher overall rating!) I am not afflliated in any way with the MN company, just a very happy user.

  • Debbie Original review: Mar 29, 2015. Reply

    Recently purchased the creamy eyeliner in the pot with a brush! When I opened the product it was already drying out. It was deprecated from the edge of the pot and difficult to apply!

  • Alicia Original review: Jul 21, 2014. Reply

    I have tried other make-up:Loreal, MAC, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, etc…but I am a Merle Norman girl-I use their skin care line too. I have oily combination skin and not only have I saved money (a little goes a long way) my skin hasn’t looked better. I think it is huge that the studio has samples and they do listen to your needs-I sound like an ad, but I really am passionate about their products and it is made in USA 🙂

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