Tools of the crossdressing trade

Every job has its tools. Things can get complicated in a kitchen without the right pots and pans. The same is true for applying makeup. Cosmetic companies love to give away brush sets as free gifts and stores are filled with brush sets in every shape and size, “Just in time for Christmas.” And like much of what we buy at the cosmetics counter, they end up in a drawer, never to come out of their pretty packaging, usually because we have no idea what to do with them. What I found to be the problem with most brush sets, it that, even if they are good quality, many of the brushes serve no useful purpose. Below, I’ve listed the four brushes and other tools you absolutely need and a few others that are nice to have.


Makeup application begins with concealer, foundation, and powder. Unless you are using a mineral powder foundation, the concealer and foundation can be applied with your finger-not your hand. Use the middle or ring finger to gently smooth on concealer or foundation. The index finger pulls too much on the skin.

Sponge applicators are okay, but they tend to absorb more foundation than you need. Dampen the sponge first to eliminate that problem. Sponges also breed bacteria, so either use a new sponge with each application, or wash it with soap and water after each use.

Foundation brushes are nice for smoothing out foundation and concealer around the eyes. For the full face, they can be time consuming. Foundation brushes are flat with a curved top and wedged bristles.

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For applying powder, big, fluffy brushes are fun, but they can waste product. I recommend a cosmetic foam pad. Press pad lightly into powder, tap off excess, and then press powder onto face. I usually start under the eyes to keep concealer from creasing, and then work my way around the face until powder disappears. Use that big, fluffy brush to dust away any excess. The pads are large enough to use a different half and/or side with each application. Once both sides have been used, wash with soap and water. They last for ages, but it doesn’t hurt to toss them out after six months.


Most of us think of blush brushes as smaller versions of a powder brush. Like a powder brush, I find they waste too much product and you end up with apple cheeks. The brush I use is a larger, fluffier version of the foundation brush. Instead of rubbing the top of the brush into your blush, place the side of the brush on the blush palate and give it a little wiggle. The wedged bristles pick up just enough blush. With a light touch, brush over the cheekbone in a comma stroke from the corner of the eyes towards the nose.

For a more dramatic look, use the same technique layering color on. It is easier to add color than trying to take it off. In case, you do apply too much, no worries. Simply take your big, fluffy powder brush and make large circles over the blush. This will soften the color and eliminate any lines of demarcation.

Eye Shadow

Next, the eyes. Find a small version of the foundation brush-flat, with curved top and wedged bristles. With this brush, apply a light-colored shadow from the lashes all the way up to the brow. Next find a small round brush that is cut in such a way that the top comes to a point. That point should fit into the eye crease. Apply a darker shade in the crease. (I’ll have a whole article on eye makeup at a later date.)

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Must haves: powder pad, powder brush, blush brush, and two eye shadow brushes. Also needed in your makeup bag: cotton pads (100% cotton), Q-tips, sponge applicators (usually come with eye shadows), and an oil-free eye makeup remover. NEVER use Vaseline or baby oil on eyes.

Nice to haves: foundation brush, brow brush or comb, eyelash curler (if you have the patience), and a small angled brush for detail work around the eyes. I rarely, if ever use a lip brush, but they are useful for dabbing on a touch of gloss.

Hope this helps. Thanks for all the great questions.

Christina Evans, Makeup Artist, Phoenix, AZ
Email with your beauty questions or to book an appointment

Christina, these are great tips! When starting out I made the mistake of applying blush with the a large fluffy brush. As light as I would apply the makeup I couldn’t figure out why I always looked like a clown. Now I use four types of brushes every day. The Flawless Application Face Brush for foundation and bronzer; the Soft Focus Shadow Brush for blush (much better control when applying blush! No more clown cheeks); the Concealer Brush for applying concealer; and the Double Ended Shaping Brush for applying eye shadow. I’m eagerly looking forward to your series on eye makeup. I’m reasonably adept at applying mineral eye shadow, but completely flummoxed as to use the sponge applicators that come with other eye shadows.

Thanks for sharing your tips with us. Dear readers, please send Christina your questions, or better yet – book an appointment with her if you’re near Phoenix!

En Femme Style

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I’m passionate about creating a safe space for everyone in the transgender community to find laughter and friendship on their journey. I completed my physical transition in 2011 and through it I lost everything, and gained everything. I am blessed that I was forced to gaze inward and embark on the journey to discover and live my authentic self. My deepest wish is that all who wander here may find peace, happiness and freedom.

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paddle hair brush
paddle hair brush
13 years ago

Excellent! Great article, I already saved it to my favourite,

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