Skin care

Gender transition often has an effect on someone’s skin. Trans people may experience changes in skin oiliness and thickness, pigment change, acne, unwanted hair, hair loss, and changes in fat distribution.

For medical issues related to skin, please see my section on dermatology for transgender people.

Daily skin care for trans women

If the canvas is bad, the paint doesn’t matter

Best things you can do for your beauty:

  • Stop smoking or vaping. Now.
  • Stop drinking or drastically cut back.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices
  • Use sunblock. Don’t forget your lips.
  • Have a skin care routine you can live with, and stick to it.
  • Skip brand loyalty. Every line has good and bad products.
  • Cheap products often work as well as expensive ones.
  • Keep an open mind about changing your skin care routine.
  • Be wary of ads, influencers, and celebrity spokespeople.
  • Healthy skin can’t be easily faked with makeup.
  • Use pore minimizing products.
  • If money is tight, use things that have stood the test of time.

What works for me

Here’s my twice a day routine.

  1. Wash face. I use Clean & Clear Sensitive Skin Foaming Facial Cleanser. Use tepid to warm water. Never ever hot (it can bring up broken capillaries). Never cold (closes pores when they need to be open). Rinse well. If I’ve been wearing makeup, I make sure it’s all off around the eyes. While it’s best to remove it all with soap and water, sometimes mascara can be a bit stubborn, so I run a little eye makeup remover under my eye. Then I rinse that remover off.
  2. Blot lightly with a towel- never scrub or wipe. Leave skin damp.
  3. Use a toner. I use Neutrogena Alcohol-Free Toner on a cotton square, which I brush on in upward strokes per instructions. Feels nice. You always want to clean by working in the opposite direction wrinkles form (usually upwards).
  4. Inspect. Look for ingrown hairs and try to help them out gently. Same with blackheads or blemishes.
  5. Put minoxidil on hairline.
  6. Moisturize. I use a moisturizer with SPF 15 in the morning, and a moisturizer with AHA in the evening.

Your skin and hair removal

Transgender facial hair removal can damage skin and collagen. Get it completed as soon as possible in your transition. The sooner you do not have to shave, the easier skin care and makeup becomes.


Alpha-hydroxy acids

OK, let’s talk about Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s). It comes in five “flavors”: glycolic, lactic, malic, citric, and tartaric, with the first two being most common. They essentially dissolve the bonds that hold the top layer of skin cells in place. These cells are what cause clogged pores, as well as dry skin, inhibiting moisturizer absorption etc.

By the way, AHA should not be confused with that 80’s one-hit wonder band, a-ha. AHA is much more useful and versatile.

Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHA) is almost always salicylic acid and unlike AHA, keeps on exfoliating even after it would be good for it to stop. Therefore you should avoid it and stick with AHAs.

Some people can’t use AHAs for long periods, and most skin care people would probably suggest using one for half a year to a year, then using it half as often.

How to use them:

  1. Read the instructions carefully.
  2. Don’t use them on your eyelids.
  3. Clean up.
  4. Wait 15 minutes. Why? Soaps tend to be alkaline which neutralizes acids. By waiting for your face’s acid balance to return to normal, your AHA will work better.
  5. Put on your AHA.
  6. Let it work 15 minutes.
  7. Apply your foundation, sunscreen, moisturizers, etc.

Don’t use other scrubs or washcloths in conjunction with AHAs

Concentrations: AHA’s have to be dissolved in water to make a cream, so Lots of AHA products are listed as percentage of a 70% solution. The rest is water and stuff used for dissolving the AHAs. So an 8% concentration is probably closer to 5.6% of the total.

Higher levels are used for skin peels you see offered at spas and salons (sometimes called “lunch peels”). These are done at concentrations higher than you can buy at the store, but be sure to find someone you trust to put one of these on your face. This is very different from a face peel you get from a dermatologist or plastic surgeon, which uses phenol acid or a laser and is a major procedure that leaves you scabbed over for quite a while.


SRecommendations

Facial cleanser

  • Clean and Clear Sensitive Skin Foaming Facial Cleanser

Scrub

  • Body Shop Foaming Gel Scrub for Normal to Oily and Oily Skin
  • Fashion Fair Gentle Facial Polisher for all skin types
  • Physician’s formula Beauty Buffers Exfoliating Scrub
  • Sea Breeze Exfoliating Facial Scrub

Alpha-hydroxy acid

Decent prices:

  • Artistry by Amway Moisture Essence Serum with AHA
  • Color Me Beautiful Refining Toner
  • Paula’s Choice 8% Alpha Hydroxy Acid Solution
  • Trish McEvoy Glycolic Lotion.
  • Alpha Hydrox Enhanced Creme All Skin Types

More expensive, but worth a look:

  • Elizabeth Arden Alpha-Ceramide (with this you get several bottles of increasing concentrations, so your skin gets used to AHAs.)
  • MD Formulations Facial Lotion with 12% Glycolic Compound
  • MD Formulations Forte I Facial Lotion with 15% Glycolic Compound
  • MD Formulations Smoothing Complex with 10% Glycolic Compound
  • MD Formulations Night Cream with 14% Glycolic Compound

You gotta be kidding prices:

  • La Prairie Age Management Line Inhibitor
  • La Prairie Age Management Serum
  • La Prairie Age Management Intensified Serum

Body Moisturizer

  • Lubriderm Moisture Recovery Creme (body)

Toner

  • Aveda Skin Firming/Toning Agent
  • Body Shop Honey Water and Tea Tree Oil Freshener
  • Clarins Toning Lotion for Dry to Normal Skin
  • Neutrogena Alcohol-Free Toner

Sunscreen

  • Almay Oil Control Lotion for Oily Skin SPF 15 $7.40/4
  • Clinique Zero-Alcohol Sun Block SPF 25 $15.00/4
  • Cover Girl Protective Skin Nourishing Moisturizer SPF 15 $5.35/4
  • Origins Silent Treatment SPF 15 $15.00/1.7
  • Paula’s Choice Essential Non-Greasy Sunscreen SPF 15 $10.00/6

Fade Cream

  • Black Opal Advanced Dual Complex Fade Gel $8.00/.75
  • Flori Roberts Chromatone Fade Creme Plus Gold $15.00/4
  • MD Formulations Forte Skin Bleaching Gel with 2% Hydroquinone in a Base Containing 10% Glycolic Compound $30.00/1.5
  • Murad Advance Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Gel $40.00/1.7
  • Neostrata Gel for Age Spots and Skin Lightening $11.00/1.6

From readers

  • Fade creams: Solaquin Forte 4% and Benoquin.
  • Acne: Cleocin is available in a lotion, which I like and a toner.
  • Prescription only Retin A is great for keeping skin smooth.
  • Collagen injections can do wonders for small depressions in the skin.