This is How Beauty Products Have Helped These Trans Women Express Their True Selves

Love In Color is a weekly series that celebrates Pride Month by showcasing the beauty of self-expression through makeup and fashion. We’re highlighting style’s importance to the LGBTQ community, from the outfits that made queer youth feel seen for the first time to the stories of drag queens who use makeup to express their identities. 

Beauty products can have a lot of power: A swipe of lipstick can help you feel ready to take on a big meeting, applying a sheet mask after a long day can feel like the ultimate form of self-care, and a spritz of perfume can make you feel confident before a first date. For those who love beauty products, whether that means rocking a glam look to the gym or splurging on a luxury moisturizer, the power these products have is not only acknowledged but embraced. Beauty products can serve as a medium for outward expression—a method to shape and play with identity that can be erased at the end of the day and revamped the next. For many transgender women, beauty products have become an extension of selfhood. As some transgender women transition and embrace what aspects of femininity feel right to them, beauty products can be the bridge between what is felt on the inside and shown on the outside.

Jeffrey English, a Sephora beauty director, has worked with the trans community through Sephora’s Classes for Confidence, the free, hands-on instructional beauty classes for people facing transitions in their lives. “Makeup is not only a tool for expression, but it can also be an integral step in feeling like a fully realized person. Makeup allows [my trans clients] to be seen and heard,” he tells HelloGiggles. “People take for granted the power that a little mascara and red lipstick can hold, but it can completely change how you’re perceived by the world and, more importantly, how you see yourself.”

HelloGiggles talked to four trans women about the significance of beauty products in their lives, and this is what they had to say.

Holly, she/her/hers, 22, Georgia 

“It does help to have something that makes you feel like you, even if it’s something small that not many people notice.”

“One thing that has really helped me in being my true self is being able to paint my nails. I would like to do it more, but going to college in a small town where Confederate flags are more common than Pride flags and having unsupportive parents at home makes [painting my nails] a lot riskier. It does help, though, to have something that helps you feel like you, even if it’s a small something that not many people notice. Being able to paint my nails in bright colors has helped me to feel beautiful and strong when everything around me makes me feel ugly, small, and trapped. It’s not something I’ve done recently since I had to move back home, but it’s something that means the world to me when I am able to do it.”

Alexis F. Abarca, she/her/hers, 30, Illinois

Photo of Alexis Abarca. Photo Credit: Alina Gofman

“Long hair does not always equate to womanhood—what makes a woman beautiful is her confidence to be unapologetically HER.”

“Growing up, I always knew who I was. Even though I didn’t have the proper language to articulate what I was feeling, I knew who I was deep inside. I grew up around strong women, like my mother, who showed me that being feminine did not always fall into the status quo. For years I would envy her long, wavy mane that she used to protect her children whenever it unexpectedly rained.

“It’s no secret, then, that when I was able to fully embrace my womanhood, my way of being able to express it was through that long mane that I dreamed of one day having. Growing my hair was like fighting for my independence—it was my way of challenging the gender roles that were placed on me. My mother always gets compliments on her hair because it’s naturally thick and wavy, so to be able to carry on her genetics has been a blessing!” 

Jay Knowles, she/her/hers, 31, California

“As soon as makeup goes on my skin, I feel like I’m transforming myself into this undefeated goddess.”

“Makeup makes me feel alive. As soon as makeup goes on my skin, I feel like I’m transforming myself into this undefeated goddess. It’s like my armor. There is a power that comes with wearing makeup because not only does it show that you have the skills to be able to properly apply it, but it also shows people that you care about your presentation. There’s a level of respect that comes with that, and that’s where the power comes in. When you have respect, you have power.”

Angelina Vail-Bouros, she/her/hers, 59, New York  

“Makeup has become a lifetime ally and friend.”

“Makeup was one of the first steps I took in embracing my female gender identity. It is one traditional aspect of modern femininity for trans women such as myself. It is relatively cheap, very accessible, and easily removable. A little foundation, mascara, and lipstick can have a huge impact. Makeup does so much with so little. It helps me to see the real ‘me’ in the mirror. It has a tremendous impact on our attitudes, self-esteem, and desire to look and feel as feminine as possible. I love not only how makeup makes me feel but also how I look and present myself when blending into society. Makeup has become a lifetime ally and friend.”