Are you in the early stages of gender transition; a more masculine-looking non-binary person; or just want to know how to really let your feminine side shine for all to see, without looking like a pantomime dame or a drag queen?
It's a process, and it can be weird to navigate. I love pantomime dames and I love drag queens, and I've performed as both in the past - but sometimes we just want to make ourselves feel good, and walk around outside without everyone who looks at us immediately thinking "that's a man", don't we!
Make up has been a hugely helpful part of my journey as a genderfluid human, so if you're still exploring or experimenting with it, let me see if I can help! This is a simple, straightforward, and affordable way to get a classy, adorable look that gives your masculinity a day off and really lets you feel good about your femininity, walked through step by step in the painstaking detail that I always seem to write in, no matter how hard I try to be brief. Some of it is different from what beauty gurus will tell you in their online tutorials, and if they work for you, stick with them - but this is what works for me, and might just work for you. Let's go!
[Quick disclaimer: always test new products on your skin first to make sure you're not allergic or intolerant to anything, and always, always, wash your face and hands before and after. OK, now, really, let's go!]
Start with mascara.
Mascara is the most counter intuitive step in any make up routine. On the one hand, even if we're not really glamming ourselves up today, it's still one of the basic essential steps to add to our look every day; on the other hand, we can so often leave it to the end and add it to our look as an after thought. But it's a great place to start with instead. Really go to town on those lashes - ink them up, fluff them up, and - as long as we're careful not to hit or hurt our eyes - throw caution to the wind. Then, whatever marks, mistakes and messes we make, we can cover them up with our foundation and our eye shadow.
Brush outwards, always, both on the up-&-down and on the side-to-side. What I mean by that is, as well as brushing our top lashes upwards and our bottom lashes downwards, also brush slightly sideways, away from our nose and towards our temples. This will fan out and fluff up our lashes, and prevent clumps.
Speaking of clumps, you want to get as much mascara on your brush as possible without drying out what's left in the container. The natural move we're tempted to do is the up-&-down "dip-dip-dip" with the brush as we lift it out, but this will actually affect the way the air in the container reacts with the liquid, and we'll end up with dried out residue on the inside. Instead, twist and twizzle it a little to the left and right, in a quick screw-unscrew motion, to achieve maximum ink on the brush but minimum air in the container. This will help those of us who struggle with our beauty budget to make our mascara last longer.
Apply your base.
Whether it's concealer, followed by BB cream, a liquid foundation or a matte base powder, or something else of the same type, will depend entirely on our skin type, skin tone, how hot or cold it is in the room today and what's most comfortable. Unfortunately, this only comes with trial and error. If we hate this part, we're using the wrong thing. When we're using the right thing for our skin, we'll love this part, because we'll almost be able to feel our skin thanking us.
Most make up and beauty tutorials say to apply our eyeshadow before applying our base to our eyelids, so that the eyeshadow is going onto skin as it's intended, not a different smoothness of surface than it's designed for. This makes perfect sense, and by all means do it if it works for you, but I prefer it the other way around. To see my whole face lightened up and smoothed out, even before adding any other colour to it, really gives me the gender euphoria I'm aiming for, especially around my eyes. But you do you, and remember there are plenty of professionals who know more about this than me.
For the top half of our face, from cheek to brow, we want upwards and outwards motions with our fingers, brushes or sponges, whatever we're using to apply our product. This is trial and error for what suits you, but remember if we're using our fingers, we need to wash them before and after - before, because we want to make sure we're only rubbing clean fingers into our pores; and after, because no matter how much we think we've got it all off, and we definitely won't leave foundation-finger-marks on whatever we touch next... trust me, we haven't. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, applying it upwards and outwards. This lifts up and smooths out our skin. When we think we've pretty much covered everywhere, and we like how we look and feel, we can use a little swipe of the residue left on our fingers to lighten our eyebrows a little, too.
For the bottom half of our face - for cis men, amab individuals or anyone with stubble or troublesome facial hair - swipe downwards. Again, this is counter intuitive, as it goes against the uplifting and smoothening that our upwards motions gave the upper half of our face. But with stubble and facial hair, downwards strokes will smooth it out and lay it flat, while upwards strokes will accentuate it and make it stick out rather than hide it.
Two last things on this bit. Firstly: Blend. Look around the "edges" of where we've applied our base - our hairline, our neckline, our eyes and our ears. Stroke gently with fingers, brushes or sponges 'til we can't see any defined line between our foundation and our skin tone.
Lastly: Cover our lips too. This creates a "nude lip" effect, with our lips becoming the same shade as our skin so they almost look non existent. This will also create a "blank canvas" effect when it comes to colouring our cheeks and lip, rather than coming to it with a pre-defined shape. It also makes our lipstick colour really pop, as it is not faded into the natural colour of the skin on our lips. Think of a thin, pale t-shirt - are we going for a dark, or light, coloured bra/vest underneath? Same rule for our lips and lipsticks.
First thing to do with our eyes is what's known as cutting the crease. The crease is the "dip" line of our eye socket - where the inward curve of the bone beneath our eyebrow meets the outward curve of the skin of our eyelid. This is our dividing line between our two complementary colours of eyeshadow. Go for bright, bold colours up to the crease, on the soft skin of your eyelid itself, and a softer, more subtle colour down from your brow bone. This will make it look as if our really attention-grabbing shade of eyeshadow is blending nicely into our natural skin tone, without actually having to blend the edges too precisely - because firstly it's super fiddly to do that, and secondly no one will be able to see it most of the time we have our eyes wide open anyway.
What we do next depends on the kind of look we're going for (as obvious as that sounds!). If we're going bold and bright, we need to leave defined edges of eyeshadow colour with our brushes, from lash line to brow bone, and pick out the outline of our eyes with a thin line of darker coloured eye liner pencil to really make it pop. If we're going smooth and classy, we need to blend nicely at our tear ducts and temples, so the edge lines of our colour fade into our skin rather than stand out. This needs to be done gently and is only really perfected with practice. A nice final touch, in place of eye liner, is to dip one finger tip into a subtle shade of glitter, and give a gentle outward stroke along the bottom eyelid, in the line between your bottom lashes and the edge of your eye socket bone. And remember, just like the foundation - make sure we get all the glitter off our fingertips before we touch anything else!
The big thing for feminising our face, is contouring. This is something that is subtly different for every shape of face and can only really be perfected with practice, but the basic technique is simple. Find the apples of our cheeks - the prominent, rounded areas below the eyes, either side of the nose, where the rosy-red circles would be on an old-fashioned doll. This is the rounded end of our cheek bones. Following the shape of our face from there with our fingers, we should be able to trace a curved line of bone from here to our ears. Along the bottom edge of this, where the hard line of bone meets the soft flesh of cheek that plumps out when we eat, draw a line of a dark but subtle shade of brown or bronze - if you don't have a product specifically for contouring, you can use eyeliner or eyeshadow just as well. Then stroke with fingertips or brushes, outwards from nose to ear, so the edges of the line blend into our skin tone but the darker shade can still subtly be seen.
Go back to the apples of our cheeks, and depending on what look we're going for, either rouge them with a soft and subtle shade of pink, or highlight them with white - either way, just a small dab with the brush and then circular sweeping strokes for blending. What precise colours we choose for this, and our contour line, will depend on skin type, skin tone, and how much we feel is too much - it's trial and error, but practice makes perfect; and we may end up accidentally discovering a stunning look we didn't even know we were going for!
Pick a lip colour that goes nicely with our artificial colours - make up and clothes - as well as our natural ones - hair and eyes. Then we open our mouth into a nice wide "O"; lift up the corners of our mouth into a smile, pressing a finger into our dimples to hold the lips in that shape, with our non-dominant hand (the one we don't write with). Take the lipstick in the dominant hand (the other one, that we do write with). Lipsticks will be curved and pointed; think of a highlighter pen that has a pointed edge to draw thin or thick lines. Along the top lip, define it with a thin line along the edges, outwards to either side from our Cupid's bow (the pointy dip in the middle below our nose). Along our bottom lip, a nice thick stripe of colour, strong and broad. Then we close and rub our lips together, like we've got doughnut sugar on them but we can't lick them or touch them with our fingers; after a few moments the lipstick colour should be nicely spread where it needs to be. With the thin point of the lipstick go back and fill in anywhere that's been missed; fix any mistakes with a tissue, and then see if we've accidentally wiped off any of our foundation - if we have, we just fix it with a dab more, and blend it in.
We're ready to rock & roll!
One final word:
This is the big, big thing with make up, that should be in your mind all the way through:
No matter what the magazines tell you, make up does not make you beautiful. Know that you're already beautiful and take your make up and use it to show off everything about your face that's beautiful; take your natural shine and show it off with your make up so that everybody sees it. You are gorgeous!