It’s no secret that the art of drag has inspired a lot of makeup trends. Contouring, baking and over-lining your lips are just a few of the things that makeup artists (and the Kardashian-Jenners) have borrowed from drag queens. But, have you ever wondered how said queens get that gorgeous full-coverage mug off at the end of the night?
Just like with everyone else, there is a range of skincare routines in the drag world—some better than others. Drag Race alum Katya said that she uses Dawn dish soap in the shower to remove her makeup (and I thought my high school Axe body wash was harsh!). Miz Cracker starts off her makeup application by cleaning her brows using rubbing alcohol. And while we may be shocked at what some of these queens use to remove their gorge works of art, we shouldn’t be too surprised. Before having social media as we know it today, the “influencers” were the people around us. Drag queens often learn their beauty secrets from their drag mothers, not unlike the way people can learn from their biological mothers. (And let’s be real—that advice wasn’t always the greatest either.) Not to mention, drag is expensive enough without having to spend $50 on a moisturizer. But, having said that, for every queen that uses hand soap on their face, there are the skincare-obsessed queens like Shea Coulée, Aquaria and Miss Fame, whose routines are almost as flawless as their makeup looks.
Whether you do drag or not, skincare is personal and ever-changing and, now more than ever, an act of self-care. Here, six incredible Canadian drag performers share their skincare journeys, tips and tricks.
Aura Nova: “I thought just soap and water would work”
“When I first started makeup, I thought just soap and water would work, which resulted in more than a couple sinks becoming a murky, grey mess. Then I was using Sunlight dish soap. Don’t do that. It works wonders, but makes your skin sad. I spent a couple years working at The Body Shop, which taught me a lot about skin and the error of my ways…
“To prep my skin now, I just do a general wash and moisturize, with an aftershave balm if I’m shaving or painting a lot that week. It really makes a difference for my skin’s endurance to the daily razor burn.
“With stores being closed [due to COVID], I’ve had to use olive oil to take off my makeup. It does disintegrate eyebrow glue really fast, but micellar water is usually better. I always finish with an Oxy Pad, which cleans my pores so well and is the best tool for removing any vibrant makeup stains. And also stains from hair dye.
“Also, don’t fall asleep in your makeup. I’ve accidentally done this a number of times. There’s only one thing worse than taking off drag makeup—doing it hungover in daylight.”
Product I swear by: Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter Makeup Remover
“This takes off a full face of drag faster than anything I’ve ever seen—*and* it leaves my skin feeling more velvety smooth than on a normal good skin day. I actually prefer the way my skin feels after a night of drag and using that. I miss my employee discount.”
Aurora Matrix: “I’ve asked other performers their methods and tried them out”
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“With skincare, I always ask for recommendations from people with similar skin types and concerns. Now I follow a tight skin care routine to make sure that my skin stays hydrated and fresh, even when I don’t have makeup on. I make sure to use a thick creme moisturizer and a hydrating primer before any makeup. At the end of the night, I spray down my face with water, then go in with makeup wipes. Sometimes I use a moisturizing cold cream to melt away the makeup. Afterwards, I use a face towel for any stubborn makeup that I couldn’t get off with the wipes.
“Everyone’s process for taking off drag makeup is so different. I’ve asked other performers their methods and tried them out, and stuck with what worked for me.”
Product I swear by: Lush Cup O’Coffee Face and Body Mask
“I keep the face mask on for 30 minutes then scrub it off in the shower, [about] two to three times a week. This is the only exfoliating mask that has left my skin feeling super smooth and moisturized rather than dry and raw. Definitely a must have!”
Luna DuBois: “I never washed my face before going to bed”
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“I’ve always had a skincare routine throughout my teen years, [even] before doing drag, but it’s definitely changed over time. When I was younger though, I never washed my face before going to bed. [I’ve learned from] beauty gurus on YouTube, doing my own research and consulting skincare experts. To prep my face, I wash and exfoliate with Life Brand Tea Tree Oil facial cleanser. I then tone and exfoliate with apple cider vinegar. To moisturize, I use Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Moisture Cushion or Garnier SkinActive Daily Moisturizer with SPF15 (for outdoor drag). To take it all off, I use coconut oil and makeup wipes and repeat my pre-makeup skincare routine.”
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Product I Swear By: Tea Tree Oil
“Tea Tree Oil is great for treating my acne and blemishes!”
Miz Geisha: “Skincare is 80% of the work for a great makeup look”
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“My mother is a medical esthetician, so growing up she always made sure I was taking care of my skin. My knowledge for skincare and makeup products started when I began working at Sephora as a beauty advisor. I’ve been with the company so long that I’ve become a walking encyclopedia of Sephora products.
“I always say skincare is 80% of the work for a great makeup look. I love starting with the First Aid Beauty Radiance pads. They gently exfoliate and tone your skin, and can be used morning and night. I hydrate my skin right after with a hyaluronic acid serum, such as The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5. Next, I love to useDrunk Elephant C-Tango eye cream.
“My ride or die makeup remover is Farmacy’s Green Clean cleansing balm. The balm melts away extremely stubborn waterproof makeup and never irritates my fairly sensitive skin. I’ll follow with a good foaming cleanser afterwards. Finish with a toner, serum/treatment, moisturizer and eye cream.”
Product I swear by: COSRx Acne Pimple Master Patch
“My bad, bad habit is popping my pimples. I love these patches because they flatten the pimple and make it way easier to cover up with concealer. If that doesn’t work then I’ll just glue some glitter or rhinestones on it.”
Quanah Style: “Cleanse, tone, moisturize!”
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“I have to take better care of my skin when I’m wearing heavy makeup for extended periods of time. I learned skincare at makeup school, but I mainly learned from getting my makeup done a lot back in the day and watching other queens around me. To prep my skin for makeup, I simply cleanse and moisturize or prime, and I use coconut oil and wipes to get makeup off. Cleanse, tone, moisturize!
“I sometimes fall asleep in my makeup if I’m drunk or too lazy to take it off, but it’s bad for my skin *and* my pillow cases!”
Product I swear by: Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre
“I love it!”
Wendy Warhol: “These steps help create a good canvas for a makeup that will last hours”
“I have to pay more attention [to my skincare] as drag makeup is really heavy and can be hard on the skin! I’ve discovered products by looking at what my drag friends use and asking them questions. I make sure to hydrate with a good moisturizer first—any one will do! Once the moisturizer is fully absorbed, I apply a small amount of translucent powder (Marcelle is my brand of choice) and then I set it with M.A.C’s setting spray. Once dry, I prime my skin with Smashbox Face Primer. All of these steps help create a good canvas for a makeup that will last hours.
“To remove my makeup fast and efficiently, I always use Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser. This—with the help of one or two baby wipes (whichever packs are on sale)—can remove all my makeup in about two minutes. In the shower, I clean my face with the classic Noxzema. After showering, I use Nivea’s Micellar Water to really make sure I have removed every last bit of makeup. Then, I hydrate again.”
Product I swear by: Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser
“I wouldn’t live without it! Haha!”