If you don’t care about the explanations and just want the tips, skip below!
This won’t keep with the tone of what I write in general, but I think it’s useful. At least, it is for me, since I often end up giving these tips online, and now I can just copy paste them from here or give the link. There are some good resources online as well (one, two, three, and tons more on Youtube and elsewhere), so I advise you check them out too.
I’m not a professional myself, but I’ve experimented a lot with makeup as a trans woman, with the help of the above resources and of my friends and with some professional advice. I assure you that all of this is achievable to learn for a clumsy trans girl who never had any art talent since that “art” thing was gender-policed out of her in elementary school, nor any knowledge of makeup or female stuff at all, ever, like I was about a year ago.
These tips are obviously not for everyone. Take what you want, need or can do. I’ll just go through what I do myself. Therefore, you must understand who I am.
Style: I’m a very girly girl. I like looks that flash a bit. I tend to favour pin-up retro looks, so I like applying a fairly straight style of eyeliner to keep the focus on my flashy red lips.
Attitude: If you can pull it off (which depends makeup skill and anatomy — that is, luck, which I am glad to have), I think wearing a good amount of makeup is a great way to get called “Miss” and “Ma’am”. My attitude is that even if your beard shadow sort of shows or your face is a bit square or whatever, you can subtly put so much feminine clues that they won’t notice the bad bits and focus and your gorgeous red lips or fancy eyeliner. Also, people conditioned me to feel bad without makeup — when I wear less, I tend to get more transphobic nonsense, whereas I’m getting more and more sexist nonsense now that I’ve improved and gotten better products. And since I can’t chose “None”, I still prefer sexist to transphobic nonsense.
Cost: By a combination of money (I don’t have a lot of money, being a student, but I’m doing okay, thanks to supportive parents and to scholarships) and personal choices (I’m sad to say I bought few books this year), I can afford what I want to look like. But understand that this makeup is costly. I spend 50 $ and more on makeup every month, a lot of which goes into the essentials (foundation, powder, concealer, etc.).
Body, or the paper I write on in the morning: I have a lot of fairly dark and visible beard, so I must absolutely put tons of makeup on to hide it. I have brown eyes and brown curly hair: I have a neutral everything, so I can put whatever colours I desire. Also, my skin is fairly pale, with a touch of pink, and it’s “medium” (not too oily or dry), or so said the makeup artist who matched my foundation to my skin, and it can take a lot of beating (i.e. foundation) without my feeling anything.
**NOW, ON WITH THE MAKEUP!**
(I will add pictures later.)
What you will need
- A good razor (with an actual blade, not an electric one)
- Shaving cream
- Exfoliating cream
- Foundation (liquid or cream)
- Foundation brush or other applicator
- Something to cancel the beard shadow (you want an apricot/orange coloured product)
- Pressed/compact powder
- Powder brush
- Makeup remover
What I recommend
Other fun products, as desired
- BB Creme (“BB” stands for Beauty Balm, apparently)
- Lip gloss
- Lip pencil
- Eye primer
- Eye shadow
- Lash curler
1) Getting ready
Because some of us must do that, and it’s sort of important.
First, shave shave shave. What I do is this: apply shaving creme, shave normally, clean, apply shaving creme again, shave against the grain, clean. “Against the grain” isn’t necessarily upwards, just experiment with it. The moustache area is tricky: I often try to shave it by going left to right/right to left, but it’s risky. If you don’t feel really sure of yourself, it’s often best to have a tiny bit of shadow than to cut yourself there. Before doing anything, let everything rest for a few minutes. Also, about once a week, I exfoliate, normally between the first and second shave, because… I don’t know, that’s when I do it. It gets rid of dead skin.
Then, moisturize. I use serum because I have a good one, but normal moisturizer should do. I don’t know, I’m not very good with skin tips, though, but it seems to work. You definitely want to put moisturizer, etc. Shaving so close can mean your skin will be very irritated if you don’t beware. Been there, done that.
2) Basic makeup
I start with an apricot-coloured primer over the beard area. Primer makes your makeup adhere better to your skin. The colour is important here: it cancels the blue-ish tint from the beard shadow. The cheap version of this is to use cheap orange lipstick after the concealer.
When that’s done, concealer. Dot it over the beard area, then smudge by hand. Concealer, well… conceals things — like facial hair! You can also use your concealer to hide any imperfection elsewhere on your face, especially dark circles underneath your eyes.
Now, the time is come for foundation over all the face. You want something with high coverage — cream foundation is best. You will probably need a good brush, too (mine, from CoverFX, comes with a sponge, which may be fine too). Apply it everywhere. Foundation is the most important product. If you can, go to a makeup shop and request someone’s help with choosing the right foundation for your skin tone and a good brush. It’s totally worth it, trust me.
Finally, apply powder. You may need another brush. Powder sets everything in place. You definitely want your foundation not to move. I prefer tinted powder to translucent powder, because any pigment is better than none when you have a beard to hide.
For lighter looks (for instance when you’re pre-transition but want to deal with dysphoria, or because you just like it with less stuff, or because it’s costly, or whatever) you can use lighter foundation. Before I went full-time, I used BB creme (basically, a moisturizer/sun creme/foundation/other things all in one) instead of actual foundation, and obviously didn’t apply anything other than basic makeup. It looked right, I hid the worst of the dysphoria-inducing beard, yet I didn’t attract attention as “OMG this dude is wearing makeup”.
3) Eye makeup
Eye makeup is probably the most important thing for feminization, in my opinion. There are thousands of ways to do it, but this is what I do.
Apply eye primer. It makes everything else stay in place.
Then, apply eye shadow. I want to emphasize what’s there already, not to make my eyes the focus of my overall look. What I do is this: 1) apply a shade that’s close to my skin tone basically everywhere 2) apply a gold, shiny colour in the inner eye — this makes my eyes stand out 3) apply a darker colour in the outer crease — this adds definition. When that’s done, blend a bit. I got this technique for this video, which I find funny.
After that, eyeliner. I go for eyeliner-heavy looks in general. Do a line on top of the eye (I start in the middle, then go both ways). Near the inner eye, make your line thinner and thinner. In the outer side, there are a lot of possibilities, but you definitely want some sort of wing. It takes a lot of practice to get right. Try starting with a felt-tip eyeliner, and certainly NOT liquid eyeliner. Expect to fail patheticly the first few times (I had more product inside my eye than out). If it doesn’t look quite right, put makeup remover on a Q-tip and take off what doesn’t work, and start again.
Generally, I take a pause or do something else to allow the eyeliner to dry out, then I curl my lashes and apply mascara. It’s relatively straight-forward, just experiment. Be careful, though. I often put two coats. Wait after the first to let it dry correctly.
4) Other makeup
You can do everything here whenever you desire after the basic makeup is done, or find another routine. Personally, after I apply eyeliner, I let it dry and put on blush, put on a first layer of mascara, apply lipstick while it dries, and finally apply my second layer when that’s done. But there are no rules here — I don’t even follow that all the time.
Blush is very useful because after foundation and powder, you may have little colour left. Blush will make you look a bit less weird. There are many ways to do this. I recommend following roughly your cheekbones with your brush, as it will help feminize your face. In the same area, you can apply cream blush by slabbing it on the cheekbone and blending it out with a sponge. Try to find something that’s not too far from your lips, for instance more of a coral blush with bright red lips, or pink blush with pink lips (of course). Ask for advice, actually. I’m still figuring this out myself.
Lips are fun. If you have one, start with your lip pencil. It will stay forever and help everything else stay in place. Colour the outside of your lips, then fill in. It will act as a sort of base. To emphasizes your Cupid’s bow, do an X in this area. Then, put on lipstick. It takes some practice, but it’s relatively straight-forward. To finish, as desired, you may add some gloss (either clear or of roughly the same colour), which will make your lips super shiny and beautiful. Lips may lose the colour as the day wears on, so I tend to carry my lipstick and lip gloss with me at all times.
My routine seems long, and it is at first, but after a year of doing this every morning, I get amazing results in less than 30 minutes. What I suggest if you’re just starting is to slowly add little elements from time to time, so that it always takes about the same time. Early on, I only hid the beard and put lipstick. After a time, I curled my lashes and put mascara. Then I added blush. Then I added gloss on my lipstick, then eyeliner, and so on. After about six months of practice, I do everything here in 30 minutes or less.