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Makeup: What You Need, What you Don’t




A good, unscented moisturiser is an absolute essential. Plan to make it part of your daily skin care regimen, whether you’re going out or not. Your skin will love it and will become smoother and firmer. You may find your shaves are closer and you will certainly find your makeup goes a LOT further. Before starting your makeup, cleanse your face and apply a small amount of moisturiser. Work it in well and pat off the excess. Your foundation will go on smoother and you’ll need less.

Beard Cover

FoundationMost crossdressers need help concealing even the closest shave. Good beard cover is simply not found at most cosmetics counters! Two popular brands are Ben Nye Beard Cover and Joe Blasco Blue Neutralizer. They come in several colours for different skin tones and are available at most theatrical makeup stores. The best shade will be close to or slightly yellower than your natural skin tone to counteract the blue tone that most closely-shaved beards have. Expensive but effective; a tiny bit goes a very long way.

Tattoo cover in a colour matching your skin works exceptionally well. Widely used in the film industry, it’s available at theatrical supply stores.


ConcealerVery light in colour and very opaque, this is used to touch up small blemishes and discolourations before applying foundation. Get one that’s a shade lighter than your skin tone.


Most faces require some smoothing out of overall colour and texture so that makeup can be applied to its best effect. Foundation comes in many different types and densities and a full range of skin colours.

  • Liquid foundation is quick and easy to use, but provides light coverage.
  • Cream foundation gives more coverage but takes practice to avoid the plaster-statue look.
  • One-step foundations, combining foundation and powder in a single product, are convenient and effective for medium coverage.
  • Oil-free products help minimize the shiny, greasy look if your skin is oily.

Match your skin tone as closely as possible. Test it on your cheek or neck, not on your hand; the skin colour’s too different. If you can’t find an exact match, go lighter rather than darker; it’s easier to blend in with your skin tone.


Powder “sets” your foundation and leaves a smooth surface for blush or contouring. Powder should add no colour of its own, although a light bronzing powder can add colour to a wan face. Look for translucent face powder, generally sold with a powder puff for applying. A small compact of pressed powder in a shade that matches your foundation is handy for touch-ups.

Blush and Contouring

Blush puts colour and roundness in your cheeks. Contouring adds shading to downplay or enhance the shape of your face or certain features. Both these products are simply coloured compressed powder.

  • CompactBlush is sold in small compacts of one to three shades, usually with a little brush. Invest in a large blush brush; blending is much easier with it. Look for shades that will complement your face colour: warmer reds and oranges for reddish or yellowish skin, cooler pinks for fairer skin, darker shades for drama.
  • Contouring is simply blush in a much darker shade. Pick one that’s the same tone as your foundation but several shades darker; it must work with it and blend in with it, not stand out against it.

Eye Shadow, Eye Liner and Mascara

eyeshadowThese products work together to enhance the shape, size and depth of your eyes.

  • Eye shadow is compressed coloured powder. It usually comes in small compacts with two or three harmonising shades but is also available in singles or in larger kits containing ten or fifteen shades (perfect for experimenting). It usually comes with small foam-tipped applicators. Colour selection is subject to taste and current fashion, but you’ll be fairly safe starting with a neutral brown, grey or even navy selection for general wear, with perhaps a black or blue for a dramatic evening look.
  • Eye liner comes in pencil or liquid form. Use it to enhance the outline of the eye by drawing a fine line at the base of the eyelashes. Liquid eyeliner is applied with a fine brush and allows you to draw a very fine line. Pencil eyeliner is easier to master and can be blended with a Q-tip to soften the effect. Black or dark brown are good initial choices; brighter colours can be used for a dramatic effect.
  • MascaraMascara is a liquid product brushed onto your eyelashes to lengthen and thicken them. Brands vary in the amount of pigment they contain and the consequent effect they produce. Brushes are curved, straight or tapered to suit your preference. To begin with, select a curved brush. Black goes with anything; dark brown works well with warm neutrals. Waterproof mascara is rain- and tear-resistant but is more expensive and requires eye makeup remover.
  • Artificial lashes are fun but are not essential unless your own lashes are extremely thin or nonexistent, or you’re striving for the Drag Queen look.

Lip Liner and Lipstick

LipstickThese enhance the shape and colour of your mouth.

  • Lip liner outlines and defines the lips with a sharp edge, and prevents lipstick from “bleeding,” or running along the tiny cracks around your lips. It usually comes in pen form, but some types brush on.
  • Lipstick draws attention to your lips by adding colour and lustre. Brands vary in the density of pigment, the range of colours available and moisturiser content. Some are smear-proof, but some people find these have a drying effect on the lips. Lipstick can be applied either directly for speed and convenience or with a small brush for greater control and economy.

Pick your lipstick shade first, then select a lip liner in the same colour but a shade darker. Bright shades demand attention but can be too garish for everyday wear. Subtler shades may make it easier to pass. Try the colour on the back of your hand before buying; it always looks different from the package label!

Nail Supplies

nailenamelA whole range of products are available for nail care and appearance: artificial nails that stick on and peel off for occasional use; silk nails applied by a salon that will last up to a week or more; or nail polish for your own nails. If you use your own nails, you’ll need to take better care of them than most men do.

  • bufferblockA small manicure kit with scissors or clippers, cuticle pusher and emery board is inexpensive. A foam buffer block is excellent for smoothing the surface of your nails.
  • Cuticle oil softens the cuticle and makes it easier to push back. Properly cared-for cuticles leave a smooth, attractive edge at the back of your nails.
  • Base coat is a clear lacquer that gives a smooth surface for the polish coat. It also prevents darker polishes from staining your nails avoiding those embarrassing questions the next morning!
  • Nail polish is available in hundreds of colours and finishes. Bright or very dark colours attract attention to your hands. Subtler colours work well too, and are worth experimenting with. Some formulas dry very quickly; others take much longer. Most polishes require more than one coat. In the store, test the colours on small pieces of transparent tape stuck to your hand.
  • Top coat is a clear, fast-drying, high-gloss lacquer that protects and adds gloss to your polished nails.


Sooner or later, you’re going to have to remove your makeup. Even the healthiest skin will suffer from having makeup left on it too long. Sleeping with eye makeup on is an absolute no-no.

  • Makeup remover: the cheapest and most effective is plain cold cream, sold in jars. It also removes lipstick. It is available unscented, if you must leave no tell-tale traces whatever.Massage it liberally into your face, then wash off with a face cloth and water. Repeat until your face is completely clean. Follow with a thorough wiping with a baby wipe (see below). Finish off with moisturiser to counteract the drying effect ofthe cleanser.
  • Baby wipes: these large moist towelettes are mild and highly effective in removing the last traces of makeup from your face. Buy a box in the baby department of your grocery store or pharmacy. They’re usually available unscented. You can usually get economical refill packs.
  • Eye makeup remover: Ordinary baby oil is effective and economical. Moisten a cotton ball or wad of facial tissue and wipe across the lids and lashes from nose to temple until the tissue comes clean. Cold cream works too but is tricky to keep out of the eyes.
  • Nail polish remover is essential. One of the quickest and most convenient forms is a jar containing foam saturated with remover; insert your nail into the foam, twist a couple of times and the polish is gone! Acetone-free remover will not harm artificial nails.
  • Nail remover is the safest way to remove artificial nails. Buy the type recommended by the nail manufacturer. Hint: it’s usually acetone, which is cheapest at an automotive parts store!