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The pressure to appear flawless as a drag queen can be immense, especially when the queens on a show like RuPaul’s Drag Race look absolutely immaculate. But, like with some drag race contestants, you don’t need to look perfect—in fact, embracing your mistakes can help you come up with a truly original makeup look.

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9 Tips for Your Drag Makeup Routine

Playing with makeup is a chance to experiment with all the colors in the crayon box. Your makeup routine is an opportunity for self-discovery, rebellion, and transformation. It’s okay to get messy. Just have fun with it!

  1. Shave it off. Shaving is important (unless you’re a gender-bending queen who wants a five, six, or seven o’clock shadow), so start with a clean face and don’t forget skincare: Moisturizer will help your makeup go on smoothly and protect your skin.
  2. Rub it out. Apply rubbing alcohol to the spots on your face where you’ll be applying tape, to take the oil out of your brow hairs, and to get rid of any excess sticky stuff.
  3. Lift it up. To get a more youthful appearance, try Mark Traynor’s Miracle Face and Neck Lift Kit. The kit uses string and invisible tape to lift the eyes while smoothing the jawline and neck areas. Professional makeup artists even use it to create dramatic looks for fashion shoots and runway shows.
  4. Best brushes only. Make good brushes a part of your makeup collection. Any drag queen worth her weight in wigs knows you need a quality brush set to put on your face. The five-brush Morphe X Jaclyn Hill Complexion Master Collection is a great starter pack.
  5. Foundation is fundamental. When it comes to foundation application, mixing and matching different colors can help you contour everything from the cheekbones to your eyes and chin. Look for a foundation that matches your skin tone and blends well. Learn how to select and apply foundation in our guide here.
  6. Contour for glamour. The magical makeup illusion known as contouring can, when used correctly, create an entirely different nose shape. Try applying a lighter concealer (or highlighter) in the shape of an exclamation mark down the bridge of the nose to give it a more sculpted look. Then use a darker shade of powder on the sides to fine-tune the shape. Find our guide to contouring here.
  7. Shape your eyes. Decorating and reshaping the eye can dramatically change the look of your entire face (if your brow is especially masculine, for example, you can make your eyes look softer by creating a rounder look). Try starting with potted gel eyeliner to outline the ideal eye shape. Then apply eye shadow, eye foundation, and false eyelashes for extra glam (falsies are far more dramatic than regular mascara!). Learn how to apply makeup for many different eye shapes here.
  8. Set that face. Use a setting powder such as Mally Beauty's Face Defender, which provides a finishing touch for makeup while reducing the appearance of fine lines, pores, and shine. You can also use it around the lip line to stop lipstick from smearing. You can also use a glue stick to set your eyebrows—really!
  9. Prime those lips. Before doing your lips, you can use a primer, like those made by MAC Cosmetics, to ensure the look doesn’t get “crinkly.” Then use an angled brush to draw the shape of the lip before filling it in with two other shades of lipstick.

Weird routine? Don’t worry too much about the order in which you make over your face. You can always go back and massage the makeup to soften, elongate, or otherwise change your face’s proportions.

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