Monica Prata is an New York City–based feminine image consultant and makeup artist for people who are transgender, transitioning, or exploring gender fluidity.
Prata has a wealth of knowledge, so we asked if she'd share some of the most helpful, amazing makeup tips she's learned over the years.
We asked four trans women — Kacey, Diana, Kara, and Lea — to tell us a little bit about the makeup styles they each preferred. Then Monica created each of their ideal looks, teaching us everything along the way so we could share with our readers.
The sheer volume of makeup available on the market can be daunting to anyone. And while no one needs to wear makeup or not wear makeup, we hope these tips will help trans women who want to explore their relationship with makeup to do just that.
1. To help the makeup sit flat on top of your face instead of sinking into your skin, apply a makeup primer before foundation.
A primer will essentially fill in fine lines and pores to give the skin an even, smooth finish. Smooth a pea-sized amount of the primer onto the area of skin where you need it. It will dry to a matte finish, on top of which you can then apply foundation Apply it all the way down the neck for complete coverage.
Products Used: On Kara, Prata applied Urban Decay Pore Perfecting Complexion Primer Potion with a MAC Cosmetics 193 Angled Foundation Brush.
Drugstore Option: Revlon PhotoReady Perfecting Primer, $10.39.
2. For coverage of areas where facial hair grows, apply a cream full-coverage foundation with a brush and "stipple" it into the area.
Permanent hair removal is expensive so a lot of trans women struggle with concealing facial hair. This technique will help to conceal any facial hair and pores that may have become larger over time because of shaving.
"Pressing foundation into the skin rather than wiping helps to really hide the pores, and the makeup can sit on top of the skin. Whenever you’re covering hair, you want to change the tone (color) and use something that has an orange or red undertone for better concealing," Prata explained.
Here's even more information on what the stippling technique actually does.
Drugstore Option: Maybelline Fit Me! Matte + Poreless Foundation, $5.99
3. To make the face appear slimmer, use a foundation one or two shades darker than your skin tone and blend it onto the outer edges of your face.
4. To help your makeup stay on much longer without "melting" off, use a fluffy brush to stipple powder all over your face after you're done applying foundation.
"Don't use a sweeping motion. Gently pressing the brush with powder into your face will help to give a smooth finish. You can apply the powder to your ears, too, so that all of your skin has a similar texture. "Even if the powder appears thick at first, it will settle in about 30 minutes," Prata said. The powder will absorb any oils from your skin that could otherwise make the makeup slip off.
Drugstore Option: Rimmel Stay Matte Pressed Powder in the shade Transparent, $3.99.
5. To make your cheeks rosy, use a fluffy brush to sweep powder blush from the apple of your cheek toward the outer edge of your face.
When picking a blush color, keep in mind that the lighter the color, the less dramatic the look. If you choose to use a liquid blush instead, the easiest way to apply it is with your fingers, blending until there aren't any fine lines or spots.
Drugstore Option: E.l.f. High Definition Powder in the shade Translucent, $3
6. To keep your makeup intact all day and night, spritz your entire face with a makeup-setting spray.
Think of it like hairspray for your face: It keeps things in place. It's not something that you need to use every day, but it's especially helpful on hot days (when you could sweat off your makeup) and long nights (when you've got somewhere to be and you don't want to be doing a lot of touch-ups).
Product Used: On Kacey, Prata used Urban Decay All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray.
Drugstore Option: L'Oreal Paris Infallible Pro Spray & Set Makeup Extender Setting Spray, $13.79.
7. To cover dark circles under your eyes, apply a cream concealer with your fingertips to get as close to the eyelash line as possible.
8. Use a textured makeup wipe to clean off your brushes when you're done with an application.
9. Use tweezers to remove any stray hairs around your eyebrow area.
10. To create a filled-in, natural eyebrow shape, use a brow pencil to fill in sparse areas and create an arch with short, hairlike strokes.
"Don’t add pigment to the areas that are already full. Instead, just focus on the areas that need filling in instead of looking at the whole eyebrow at once. No eyebrows are identical, so don’t try to do the same thing on one brow that you did on the other," Prata explained. You can use a spoolie eyebrow brush to brush through your brows and smooth everything out once you're done.
For more information on how to tweeze, trim, fill in, and transform your eyebrows, read this post.
Product Used: Prata used MAC Cosmetics Retractable Eyebrow Pencil in the shade Stud.
Drugstore Option: Almay Brow Defining Pencil, $5.99.
11. To create an even, smooth base for eyeshadow, use a cream-based shadow all over the lid from the eyelash line to brow bone.
Use the pads of your finger to apply the product. Using a long-wearing base color like this will help other eyeshadows adhere to the eye for a longer period of time. Another option is to use an eyeshadow primer first, like the Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion.
Products Used: On Kara, Prata used MAC Cosmetics Pro Longwear Paint Pot in the shade Painterly.
Drugstore Options: Maybelline Eye Studio Color Tattoo in the shade Creamy Beige, $6.99
12. For a natural-looking but defined eye look, use a light eyeshadow shade on the lid and a soft brown eyeshadow as eyeliner on your lower eyelash line.
For the eyeshadow, "Use a light, shimmery color [like Urban Decay's eyeshadow in Strange] right on the eyelid and pack onto the ball of the eye for highlighting," Prata says. But if you want your eyes to appear just a little bit larger, use a fluffy eyeshadow brush to sweep a very soft brown eyeshadow [like Urban Decay's eyeshadow in the shade Limit] in the crease of your eyelid. The crease is the line between the top of your eyeball and the brow bone.
Then, use a small flat brush to apply a brown eyeshadow shade [like Urban Decay eyeshadow in the shade Nooner] along the lower lash line. "Keep it really subtle. Less is more. For a natural look, pull colors that would appear on your skin naturally," Prata explained.
Drugstore Option:Maybelline The Blushed Nudes eyeshadow palette, $9.99.
13. To get a dramatic smokey-eye look, use deeper eyeshadow shades on the outer corners of your eyes and blend.
"Place the deeper eyeshadow color [Prata used Urban Decay eyeshadow in the shade Black Heart] just outside of the ball of the eye. Make a 'sideways V' shape on the outer edge of the eye and blend with the brush," Prata explained. Finish the smokey eye with a shimmery color [like Urban Decay Strange] in the center of the lid over the ball of your eye. Highlight the inner corner of the eye and the brow bone with the same color. Blend it all together with a medium shade [Prata used the shade Limit] on the crease, using the eyeshadow brush to blend all of the eyeshadows to make it look seamless.
Product Used: On Lea, Prata used the Urban Decay Naked3 eyeshadow palette and brush.
Drugstore Option: Maybelline The Blushed Nudes eyeshadow palette, $9.99.
For more information on exactly what to do with eyeshadow, read this post.
14. To clean up any eyeshadow that may have fallen beneath your eye, wrap your finger in a makeup remover wipe and gently wipe the area with it.
If you need to, you can reapply concealer under the eye to even out any makeup that may have been removed. Another option is to use a product called Shadow Shields — cotton pads that adhere under your eye to collect all of the fallout eyeshadow instead of having it land on your face.
15. For the "doe-eyed" look that makes your eyes appear larger, use liquid liner along your top lash line and extend the line just past the corner of your eye.
"Keep the line thin and go half way, then dip the brush back into the liquid for the second half. Use the side of the brush and keep the line nice and tight. Use pointed Q-tips to clean off any smudges. If you have trouble using liquid eyeliner, doing your mascara first may help, since it provides somewhat of a 'shelf' for application.
Product Used: On Kacey, Prata used MAC Cosmetics Super Slick Liquid Eyeliner in the shade On the Hunt (black).
Drugstore Option: L'Oreal Telescopic Precision Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner, $9.99.
For more information on exactly what to do with eyeliner, read this post.
16. Once you're finished with the rest of your eye makeup, coat your eyelashes with mascara to make your eyes look bigger and more awake.
And you can clean up any stray black marks of mascara with a damp, pointed Q-tip.
17. You can apply lipstick directly from the tube, but for even more control of the product, use a lipstick brush instead.
Dab the lipstick brush onto the lipstick itself, then swipe the brush onto your lips. "Start in center of the lip and bring out towards the outer corners of the lip. To make the bottom lip appear a bit fuller, extend the color just below the natural lip line," Prata explained.
Drugstore Options: Wet n Wild Mega Last Lipstick in the shade Sugar Plum Fairy, $4.41