I came to the make-up party later in life for transition-based reasons, but make-up strikes me – despite arguments to the contrary – to be a hugely feminist domain. The art of make-up is passed from generation to generation; from mothers to daughters; between friends, between women. Sure, there are make-up counters and YouTube tutorials galore, but when product placement is sponsored, it’s hard to spot a genuine recommendation.
In the same way that our ancestors swapped stories around open fires to keep children in line, women share stories – both positive and negative – about make-up to steer each other right. As soon as I started wearing make-up last year, I was included in a sisterly dialogue, both asking me what I was wearing and others offering tips and advice.
With this in mind, here I share both the golden nuggets of advice I’ve been given about beauty and thank the women who passed on their wisdom.
1. Simple Kind To Skin Moisture Cream with SPF30, £4.99,
recommended by Carmen Sierra at Dermadoc Clinic, London
Carmen has been doing laser hair removal for me for a few months now and insists I wear sun protection in my moisturiser. She assures me moisturiser is also a good base before you start applying make-up and, more importantly, sun damage is both irreversible and ageing. I like Simple in particular, as it’s light and doesn’t leave my skin greasy.
2. MAC Studio Fix Powder Foundation, £22, as recommended by Kerry Turner, games programmer
Kerry is one of my oldest friends and one of the first I told about my transition. I called her, from Boots, to ask what I needed in Juno’s First Make-up Bag. Her sage advice was “spend money on foundation; everything else – go cheap”. She suggested powder foundation, as you get full coverage (and can really layer it on) without feeling oily. MAC has a huge range to match even my Winona-goth paleness.
3. Eyebrows by The Brow Studio, Brighton, as (inadvertAntly) recommended by my mother, Angela
When my mum was 15 in the 60s, she thought it was a good idea (it was all the rage, apparently) to pluck out all of her eyebrows. They never grew back properly and I have vowed that I’m leaving my brows – which are a global fetish at the moment – in the hands of professionals. I have mine threaded – I just think you achieve a sharper line. I then – on advice from Sali Hughes – only fill in with pencil where there are light patches, thus avoiding a too "drawn-on" look. I use Rimmel Professional brow pencil, £2.99 – inexpensive and doesn’t feel crayon-ish.
4. Smashbox Contour Palette, £35.50, as recommended by Rosie Robinson, PR executive
At the time, Rosie was working for a rival cosmetics company, so I just knew to trust her when she showed me how to "sculpt" my face with this kit. It’s dead easy to use and even comes with instructions. Used sparingly, the kit highlights all the right bones (I look like the Teletubbies sun-baby without bronzer), without making you look like you’re in the cast of Cats – the pitfall of over-contouring.
5. Juvederm Dermal Fillers as recommended Rachel, the barista at my local coffee shop
Not strictly make-up, but top and bottom lip works out at about £250 (I had mine done at Dermadoc in London by Dr Firhaas Tukmachi), so not insanely expensive and the filler lasts for about a year. I decided to have the procedure when I saw Rachel’s – they didn’t look "done". She didn’t look like Janice from The Muppet Show – she just had full, defined lips. I think they’ve made a world of difference, while still being subtle.
6. Clinique High Impact Extreme Volume Mascara, £19, as recommended by The Pool (sort of)
After The Pool’s Difference Maker event, Clinique very kindly sent me a goodie bag on the very same day I ran out of mascara. Coincidence? I don’t care – this stuff makes my lashes fake-lash long without the faff.
7. MAC Satin Lipstick in Brave, £15.50, as recommended by TV make-up artists
I wanted a lipstick that almost looked like I wasn’t wearing lipstick. Something subtle, so I could put it on in a rush, and, if I overstated my lip line, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I was using one that was a little too pale – the result a little corpsy, until I went on Channel 4 News, and the make-up artist – whose name I forget – told me about Brave. It’s a very subtle, matte fawn-pink and fits the bill exactly.
8. YSL Rouge Pour Couture 01, £26, as recommended by Katreena Dare, PR manager
My old friend, Kat, subscribes to old Hollywood glamour – black eyes and red lips. When I asked for a proper, proper red lipstick, she said there was only one way to go. Everyone always asks what I’m wearing when I wear it; just be sure to blot or you’ll make a mark in the wrong way.
9. YSL Touche Éclat, £25, as recommended by Dr Olivia Hewitt and every woman ever
To be fair, I was wearing this when I was living as a man and just didn’t want to look hungover at work. Sneaky tip: Boots No7 Instant Radiance is almost as good and less than half the price.
10. Simple Cleansing Wipes, £3.25, and Simple Toner, £1.59, as recommended by Samantha Powick
My dear friend, Sam, and I – despite being actual adults – both have spot-prone skin, so cleansing is super important. I like Simple because I feels like it’s lifting everything off without burning off the top layer of skin. For many years now, Sam I have debated what toner is actually meant to do, but we both firmly believe it’s doing something good. It makes your skin feel tingly, taut and fresh.