It can be difficult to convey how important appearance can be as a queer person. There’s nothing wrong with vanity, especially when a good manicure, makeup, fillers, or the right haircut helps you feel like who you truly are. Aesthetic can go a long way for anyone when it comes to signaling your identity and honoring who you are, including queer people.
As a high-femme bisexual woman, while staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been missing all the people who help me keep up my beauty routine. I miss my nail salon, the plastic surgeon who does my injectables, and my quality wigs hairdresser. However, I have found my own ways to express myself through beauty, and I’m not alone. In fact, a lot of other queer folks use their beauty and personal care routines to express — and explore — their identities.
“In terms of self-expression, I believe that the most important part of being queer is living it, and so I really like to use fashion to signal it,” says Ana Valens, a queer sex writer and adult content reporter living in Brooklyn, New York.
“I am a trans woman, a lesbian, and a sex worker,” she says. “I realized I didn’t need to grow my hair out long — it wasn’t the right fit for me anyway. Literally right before COVID hit I decided to get a mullet, so I got my hair cut short and I’m growing out the back right now. Technically, I’m overdue for a clean-up cut, but I’ll get to that.”
For some folks, the time at home during the pandemic has offered a chance to practice self-care that life’s demands previously made difficult. “I’ve been transitioning for a few years now and I’ve still never taken the time to be like, what is healthy for my body? How can I take care of my physical form?” says musical theater writer Preston Max Allen.
Self-care rituals are important to develop; everyone deserves to take the time to figure out what makes them feel good in their bodies. “I’m on [testosterone] and I break out,” says Allen. “I’m trying to manage that myself instead of just getting frustrated. I’m asking myself, how can I stop being frustrated and take care of myself instead of getting angry?”
It’s a question many queer folks have been asking themselves as the pandemic has continued into Pride month. There is great strength in community and the way we’ve managed to stay connected, but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. While salons have been closed since the beginning of the pandemic, the LGBTQIA+ community has found ways to make it work. (Note: Salons and barbershops are starting to open in some states, but appointments may be hard to get, and some folks are still self-isolating for health reasons.)
Through a process of trial and error, queer folks all over the place are learning to upkeep their own routines and feeling empowered throughout the process. “I’ve been able to maintain my undercut with a set of clippers and that has been a game-changer! I love having the back of my head shaved and being able to touch it and scratch makes me feel connected with my queer self,” says Cory B, a bisexual femme sex educator. She is even waxing her own vagina. “I ordered a waxing pot and wax beads and have become my own waxer. There was a little learning curve at first but I eventually got the hang of it, and I honestly don’t see myself ever going back to a waxing spa even after all of this is over because I’m saving so much money,” she says.
Many LGBTQIA+ people (our trans siblings, in particular) are already at risk for higher unemployment rates, and COVID-19 has increased this crisis. Saving money through DIY beauty routines is a pandemic trend that may continue even after salons re-open. “I would seriously say that I’ve been saving around $400 a month on beauty-related hair pieces online purchases and I’m not mad about it,” estimates Cory B.
While for some people, such as myself, doing a good eye makeup tutorial can mean the difference between a good day and a bad day, other members of the queer community are currently celebrating themselves by taking a break from makeup. Before COVID-19, publicist Melissa Vitale says, “Makeup was not an afterthought, it was an essential piece of my outfit.” But now? “I tried to allow myself to do my makeup once, and it didn’t feel right just to sit in front of the Zoom call so I decided to table my makeup routine until I see people again and keep it as a treat for myself. I’ve found other creative expressions. I’ve gotten back into doing nail art on my toes and using cooling eye patches.”
For others, according to New York City-based makeup artist Tianna, a stay-at-home order is the perfect time to practice your makeup skills and learn new looks. “Now is everyone’s chance to try. Don’t be scared; makeup can be washed off and now is the best time to get your practice in. YouTube, Tiktok, and Instagram are your best friends for any tips and tricks for you to explore,” she says.
Exploring doesn’t have to involve spending money or leaving the house, it can mean using what you already have in new ways. “COVID-19 has forced me to adapt by being more creative with my beauty routine, as I’ve started to use a singular product in multiple ways. I have begun using more lipstick as blush, brown liquid eyeliner to add dimension to my eyebrows, and eyelash glue as adhesive for rhinestones,” says makeup artist Sydney Noel. “I have also begun using nail art brushes as detailed eye brushes. I’ve even experimented with using concealer and eyeshadow to fake bleached brows.”
While makeup routines vary, everyone seems to be leaning into skin care. “Having a skin-care routine plays a major role in my life, especially as a gay man,” says Jordan Samuel Pacitti, founder of Jordan Samuel Skin. “Your routine is very personal. It’s something that I’ve always taken as the finishing step in my identity, and I never feel completely ready without doing my skin-care routine.”
In addition to keeping your skin feeling healthy, maintaining a skin-care routine can help you keep a regular schedule, which can be helpful during such a disruptive time. But what’s most important? Don’t feel bad about taking time for yourself to do wig your self-care and beauty routines — not now, not ever. “It’s not fluff or extra. It’s really good for your psyche, for your health, and for your well-being,” says Pacitti.
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Originally Appeared on Allure