One Small Thing: The Cheap Lipstick That Also Makes Great Blush

One Small Thing: The Cheap Lipstick That Also Makes Great Blush
Image:P. Shirley (Getty Images)

In the early years of my transition, my trans mother taught me many things: Which Fresh Choice buffet coupons went the farthest when you were out of money, how to jury-rig tucking panties, and the correct way to steal makeup from a certain big-box retailer. Nowadays, the store has completely revamped its security system, and I cannot in good faith recommend that anyone follow my example. But in those fateful trips to and from the cosmetics aisle, I learned something even more life-changing than the art of thievery: Cheap lipstick makes for great cream blush.

Proper cream blushes are few and far between. Brands like NARS have their mainstay, The Multiple, which is $40 and only in a very limited set of nudes and glittery pinks. Fenty launched a teeny-tiny range of .1 oz cream compacts for $20. They’re fine, but last a few days for bitches like me, who want their blush piled up to the hairline. ELF also has a The Multiple dupe for $4, but it’s stuffed with glitter and cakes up—at least in my experience—after a little sweat and powder.

That’s why, sitting cross-legged in my very first apartment, stuffed up in the attic of a converted Victorian mansion, my trans mom handed me a bright red tube of NYX lipstick and instructed me to smear it all over my face. Here’s what she used to tell me: “If makeup companies say it’s OK to put on your lips, why wouldn’t it be OK on your face.” While I don’t think the science is technically true, my cheeks have yet to burn away, or fall off, or even break out. Take that, cosmetics industry!

I like the NYX “extra creamy round lipstick” best for blush, as it is in the shape of a stick, and easy to smear up to my temples. (Blush to the temples was very big on the Italian runways just a few seasons ago, if anyone needs the trendiness factor on my own personal preference.) I find its look and feel is most similar to Fenty’s own cream blush line, except NYX has a much wider range of shades, lasts longer, and is $16+ cheaper, depending on where you buy it. That’s five NYX lipsticks for the price of one measly Fenty compact.

My favorite shade is Snow White, which gives me the rosy-cheeked no-makeup look I most desire.

I learned another trick from famous drag queen Willam: sometimes it’s OK to put a little cream over powder, so I always dabble on my rosiness last, as the finishing touch. I don’t wear foundation on my cheeks anyway, and the only other makeup in that region besides the blush is the powder left over from setting the concealer under my eyes, and perhaps a little bronzer. (If this is somehow backward or a totally ridiculous order to put on my makeup—I don’t care!)

Sentimentality is also the primary motivator in these cosmetics choices. When my trans mother first transitioned in the ’90s, the dolls couldn’t just walk into a Sephora and ask for tips on long-wear blushes that give a radiant complexion. We didn’t even feel very comfortable doing that in 2014, when I was still a clockable mess. And so our makeup excursions to the cosmetics aisle at that still-unnamed retail chain had to suffice, where we scratched the bar codes off with our new sets of acrylics and stuffed Maybelline liquid foundation into the hole at the bottom of my purse, where it all sat safe and sound beneath the fabric liner.

She picked this shade of red out for me specifically, because I looked like the kind of girl who wanted to “stand out” in a crowd. She was right.

One Small Thing only features products we paid for ourselves. We have not been sent samples or otherwise bribed.

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