Cosmetics and makeup

Our second instructional program, Becoming You: The Fast Track to Your Female Face, is a major expansion of the original materials below, with over 4 hours of makeup and skin care information specifically for our needs.

Tip #1: Skin care

If the canvas is bad, the paint doesn't matter. See the section on skin care first.

Tip #2: Less is more

Less is more with makeup. The trick is not to look like you're wearing makeup (usually).

Tip #3: Good brushes

Invest in really good makeup brushes. Even drugstore makeup will look better when applied with high-quality brushes. I have five brushes I use:

  • Prescriptives Powder Brush. A soft, full, sable brush. It feels like a squirrel's tail. I use it for powder after everything but mascara, and then I use it for blush. Anyone who's tried it says it's amazing.
  • Prescriptives Eyelining brush. A short, stiff square brush with white bristles. I use it for eyebrows, and I get a lot of compliments on my eyebrows.
  • MAC Brush #107. A stiff, rounded camel brush. I use this for undereye powder, for powder on blemishes, for upper lip and edging lips, and for applying light color underneath brows.
  • MAC Brush #36. A soft, tapered sable brush. I use this for eye shadow.
  • MAC Brush #22. A stiff, short, angled camel brush. I use it for applying powder eyeliner.

Oh, and don't forget to wash your brushes regularly. Use a little shampoo and conditioner.

Tip #4: Good foundation

The only item you really need to take time and invest in is a good foundation. If at all possible, try to go with a powder foundation. It's vital to try on a powder, then wear it around a while. Look at it outside. Look at it inside. Look at it under fluorescent lights. You have to get a good color match, and a good match for your skin. The Paula Begoun book has excellent suggestions for foundations. If you have to wear a liquid foundation, get the lightest-texture one you can find.

Tip #5: Powder, powder, powder

Using powders will make everything look softer and more natural. It also gives you more room for error and can be blended more easily. For instance, liquid eyeliner is extremely hard to apply and gives you a hard look you probably won't want most of the time.

The colors won't apply to you, but here's what I use:

  • MAC Studio Fix Foundation: NC 15. Awesome.
  • MAC Soft Brown matte eye shadow for blush. Just a little on the blush! And blend, blend, blend in upward strokes.
  • MAC Vanilla velvet for under eyebrow. Opens up the face.
  • MAC Cork satin eye shadow for lids
  • MAC Mystery satin eye shadow for eyeliner (and in evenings in eyelid crease)
  • Borghese Superiore Black-01 mascara (or Almay waterproof)
  • Vaseline lip therapy SPF 8 in a .35 oz tube (I almost never wear lipstick)
  • Borghese lipsticks and pencil (When I'm going glam... MAC irritates my lips for some reason)

While I love my MAC stuff, the only essential one is the Studio Fix powder. I could easily use drugstore brands for the other items.

Tip #6: Brow shaping

This is very hard, but very important. Eyebrows make a huge difference in your face shape, and the difference between just right and too much can be a hair or two. If you can swing the money, get your brows shaped professionally once, then maintain that shape. If you can't swing it, the Aucoin book has a great section on brow shaping.

Tip #7: Act your age.

Look at women your age at work. The ones who you think look good, especially those with your coloring. Take your cues from them.

A note on when start wearing makeup to work

This is simple. When you're full-time.

A lot of TSs start doing earrings, painted nails and light makeup before coming out at work. You do so at your own risk. Tipping your hand like that can give them more time to think of reasons to fire you. It can lead to being outed before you're ready. People will notice, but they may not react favorably. TGs who do this seem to want someone to say something. It's a type of affirmation that they're making progress in their minds. However, I think it's extremely dangerous career-wise unless you're prepared to come out that day and face the consequences.

A note on nails

A lot of TG women fetishize long brightly-painted nails. Again, I suggest taking cues from those at work. Long nails can be cool, or they can be very declasse. Plus, long nails can draw attention to your giant hands. Express yourself as you wish, but if your goal is to be accepted as female, ease up on the nail color and length.

Recommended resources

There are a kajillion women's magazines with makeup tips. I think Allure and Vogue lead the way as far as useful information.

The one book I cannot recommend highly enough is Paula Begoun's Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me (4th edition). If you buy only one book, buy this one. In it, she rates over 10,000 products, including a list of her picks for best foundations, mascaras, etc. Paula's even got her own website:

Another book I found useful and fascinating is Kevyn Aucoin's Making Faces (Little, Brown, 1997). Definitely check out pages 142-145-- he makes some nice-looking boy into a total hottie babe.

Heather Kleinman's Cosmetic Connection is a fantastic site with good information on most brands. Thanks to Robin for sending this along!

Gail writes:

I don't know a lot about makeup, so I bought a copy of Stephanie Seymour's Beauty Secrets for Dummies; it's one of the familiar "Dummies" series, with the yellow covers (like Windows 95 for Dummies (which is a redundancy, oh, sorry)). Three-hundred-plus pages of skin care, hair care & styling, and, most important for me, lots of info on makeup, including tips on developing your own style, what you need (tools and supplies), how to buy makeup, how to put it on, what order to put it on, how to correct your mistakes, etc. $15.99 from, but it's already been worth a whole lot more to me.

Stephanie writes in 2005:

Maybe you've already seen it, but I thought you'd like to know that on the newsstands (I got my copy at Basha's supermarket) there is a publication by the editors of In Style magazine entitled "Getting Gorgeous" which in my opinion is an excellent and detailed comprehensive beauty guide, well worth the price of $13.

Finally, you might want to check out our video program Becoming You: The Fast Track to Your Female Face.