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Top 5 MtF Makeup Mistakes

Makeup is hard, especially for the trans woman who is just starting out on her journey. Cis women have the benefit of years of experience putting on makeup, and make it look easy, but turns out its not.

Unfortunately, the only thing worse than wearing no makeup is wearing bad makeup; it can emphasize all the wrong things and make you look more like a man that without any makeup at all.

These were probably the biggest mistakes I made early on; certainly not an exhaustive list, but the biggest and easiest to avoid for sure 🙄

Mistake 1: Not matching foundation shade to skin tone

When I first started buying makeup, I had no idea what shade to buy for anything, so I got what I thought would look good on my face. Unfortunately, I bought a bunch of foundation which was way, way too light.

The key to a good makeup job is to use the least amount possible while achieving the look you want. When you get a foundation that is too far from your natural skin shade, you end up having to use a ton to get a consistent color across your face. This means that you have that ‘overdone’ drag queen look, rather than the subtle accents you are going for.

Maybelline has a good online tool you can use to figure out a starting place for your foundation shade (just make sure to take the photo indoors under soft light).

Mistake 2: Not using a color corrector

Until you figure out how you want to remove your facial hair, you’ll need to figure out how to hide the discoloration that beard hairs cause on your skin. Foundation or concealer alone isn’t enough; you need a color corrector. The problem is that our eyes pick up subtle shading in skin tones amazingly well, and the darker color under the nose and on the cheeks is a super strong ‘male’ cue.

A good color corrector will make sure your skin is an even color across the bottom part of your face, and more importantly will ensure that color stays consistent throughout the day.

Mistake 3: Not applying foundation correctly

I think there are as many methods for applying foundation as there are YouTube videos on the subject. Though there is no ‘right’ way to do it, there are a bunch of wrong ways. Depending on your age or skin type foundation can either be invisible or it can highlight all the imperfections, wrinkles and big pores on your face (think bad icing on a cake).

I have the best luck using a big blending brush to rub foundation into my skin – this seems to be best at getting into the wrinkles, pores and blemishes. Avoid smearing foundation on with a sponge – that seems to only work for the small subset of women blessed with perfect skin.

Mistake 4: Too much contouring

Despite what the Instagram set says, contouring can’t magically change your facial structure. In many cases, too much contouring actually has the opposite effect, especially when trying to create fuller cheeks by drawing under the apple; this has the opposite effect of accentuating the angular cheeks most men have. Don’t forget, contouring can only highlight what’s already there, not create what doesn’t exist.

Generally, I avoid contouring on my face except for a bit at the back of the jawline to make it fade into my hair a bit more easily.

Mistake 5: Not enough lip size

This is a big one that I did for a while, with very mannish results. The trick to lips, especially for trans women, is to focus on the upper lip. This tends be thinner, especially when smiling, than on cis women, and nothing is a strong gender cue than a thin lip.

At first, I got some bad advice against overdrawing; but don’t be afraid, overdrawing can have dramatic impacts on your perceived femininity if it gives you a visible upper lip when smiling. This works best when you use a concealer or foundation on your lips to blur the color between your skin and your lip.

Just don’t go too far with the big lips, or you’ll look unrealistic.

So those are my top 5. What mistakes did you make with your makeup when first getting started?

By Abbey

Investor, technologist, coach.

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