Helen Mirren talks to PEOPLE from the Cannes Film Festival where she recently made her triumphant return to the red carpet

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Helen Mirren recently made her glamorous return to the red carpet at the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival after months of isolating at home with her husband, director Taylor Hackford, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. During that lockdown period, the Oscar winner, 75, maintained a daily beauty ritual to help pass the time and give her some sense of normalcy.

"Every day I put on makeup," she reveals to PEOPLE in this week's issue. "I didn't do it for Taylor because Taylor never notices. He asks if I've got makeup on or not and doesn't really care, but he certainly doesn't notice."

"He'll sometimes say in a rather puzzled way, 'Oh, you look really nice.' You just associate the fact that I look nice with the fact I've just spent an hour doing my makeup! But I would put my makeup on every day and get dressed every day because I enjoy it."

Mirren adds: "I felt like I was living my life properly. So, it was actually a good experience for me."

helen mirren
Credit: IAN LANGSDON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

For Mirren, who began her partnership with L'Oréal as one of the brand's ambassadors at 69, returning to Cannes' historic red carpet was a thrill. The F9 star's first appearance at the festival was in 1973 for the film O Lucky Man.

For more on Helen Mirren, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe now.

"I have to say, I love it," Mirren says of walking the carpet on la Croisette. "I love the opportunity to wear incredibly beautiful clothes. I appreciate the craft of couture. I'm a girl, I love, love dressing up. And then I'm perfectly happy to give it all away at the end of the night and go back to my scruffy, Bohemian outfits."

And as for what it felt like to be in front of the carpet's flashing lights after months away from the spotlight, Mirren sums the experience up as "extraordinary."

"Having spent a year and a half sort of behind closed doors, I've forgotten what this was like. So a little bit intimidating. But at the same time, it was such fun."

The 2021 Cannes Film Festival runs through July 17.

Listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.