For many people assigned male at birth skin care is something of a mystery, especially for people older than 35. You wash your face twice a day with whatever soap is on hand, you shave maybe once a day and if you are really concerned you use aftershave. Quick, simple and easy… This is probably ok for your average male but for those of us wanting to express our femininity, this simply will not do. All those harsh soaps, shaving creams and aftershaves will often dry you out and leave you feeling sore. It will also give your skin an unpleasantly red complexion and generally leave you feeling more manly and less feminine than is strictly speaking necessary. Sadly we have have not all had the extensive skincare training that some of our sisters have had and picking up knowledge can be hard to do. Hopefully this post will informs and give you some ideas…
Firstly a note about the test subject (me). I have relatively sensitive combination skin. I need to be careful what products I use as anything that is too harsh or that is heavily scented will cause me to have problems. I have to shave daily and if I want to do a day en femme (properly) I will need to shave three or four times to be sure to get a smooth finish. For the last few years I have been experimenting with different regimes and have been playing with different ideas and mixing and matching to get the best regime for me.
I had very bad acne as a teenager but this has settled down and I am much better now. In the recent past, I found that a day en femme carried a price as the next day my skin would be blistered with lots of little pimples, especially around my mouth, as a result of the close shave. These would last two or three days and this meant that I could never do two days en femme in a row. They were also sore and uncomfortable as well as unsightly. I also used to get very dry skin in winter, especially on my cheeks.
I have been looking for solutions to these issues and I believed I was getting very close to a good solution. Then I discovered a lovely range of products produced for Dischem Pharmacies here in South Africa. It is the ‘Natures Nourishment Earth Choice’ range of products. The ‘African Ginger and Wild Fig’ version is what I use as this has been formulated for normal to combination skin and it is therefore ideal for me. The range includes a cleanser, a toner, a scrub as well as day and night creams. I do not use the creams, but I do use the cleanser, scrub and toner.
I came across this range because I was looking for an environmentally friendly scrub. Many scrubs used to use plastic micro beads and these were terrible for the environment. The ‘Nature’s Nourishment’ range uses plant matter such as crushed apricot pips as the mechanical exfoliator. The ingredients across the range are all biodegradable and dissolve easily in water to reduce the impact on the environment. This makes me feel much better about using their products. Additionally the active ingredients are derived from plants that are grown in Africa so that means using this product supports African farmers and reduces your carbon footprint.
The first step in skin care relates to cleansing. I use the cleanser as directed, twice daily (in the morning and at night before going to bed). I rinse with warm water and then I rub small amount (about half a teaspoon) of cleanser onto my face. I wash thoroughly, even using it on my eyelids. I then rinse it completely off, again with warm water (cold is suggested but I hate cold water.
If I need to shave I then shave, otherwise I skip to the toner phase. When shaving, I always use a brand new blade when doing an en femme day. If it is an ordinary day I will replace the blades after 7 to 10 days depending on the condition of the blade. I use a Gilette Mach 3 razor. I always shave using hair conditioner, just ordinary hair conditioner (I use it for my face, my legs, my body etc) as a shaving ‘cream’. It gives a nice smooth lubricated shave and seems to leave the skin feeling nice and smooth as well. There is less clogging of the blades and this helps a smooth and close shave. It is also much cheaper (in my experience) than ‘proper’ shaving creams. On en homme days I will shave ‘with the grain’ only. For en femme days I shave ‘with the grain’ first, then ‘against the grain’ and finally I do ‘spot shaves’ on any areas that still feel even slightly prickly to my fingertips. I then rinse well.
I now apply the toner. This is done by squirting some of the liquid onto a piece of cotton wool and then rubbing this all over the face. I give special attention to my nose (especially where the nose meets the face, you need to get into the fold/crevice created here) and any problematic areas (in my case the forehead, around the mouth etc ). I then allow the toner to be absorbed (dry?) for a few minutes before doing anything else (I usually spend this time getting dressed, brushing hair etc). In the past I was deeply sceptical of toners until I started doing some research into toners. They are a wonder product. They really do help cleanse (you will sometimes see black or brown residue on the cotton wool when you have finished toning). Toner also helps by being a mild antiseptic and some toners contain a chemical exfoliator which can help women like me who have to shave their faces regularly.
If I have done a very close shave, once the toner has been absorbed and there is no longer any residue on my skin, I will then rub a light antispetic cream on my face. This helps deal with any small nicks or cuts and assists in moisturising. I then also moisturise with a simple unscented aqueous cream. I do this at least twice a day, whether or not I have shaved. As noted above I do not use the day or night creams in the range as I am very happy with the results I am getting thus far and ~125 ml of day or night cream can cost as much as 1 000 ml of aqueous cream. The cost benefit analysis is not helping the day/night cream.
I will then apply my makeup. I have recently gone from using a good middle of the range foundation (Yardley) to a more expensive product (Bodyography). I have found that the Bodyography foundation gives better coverage, meaning I need to cake less of it on (which just has to be better for the skin) and it also seems to actually moisturise my skin. The Yardley often stung my skin leaving me feeling uncomfortable and even sore whilst wearing it and even for a few hours after I had washed it of. The Bodyography is smooth and I sometimes forget I am wearing makeup when wearing it.
Once or twice a week I will also exfoliate. I may do this in addition to or instead of the cleansing routine, depending on how my skin is feeling. The exfoliator is gentle enough to not hurt but strong enough to significantly reduce ingrown hairs and pimples that are associated with them.
Since adopting this regime I have had very few pimples on my face. I felt one developing on my forehead a few days ago but it never actually appeared. It seems the toner ‘zapped’ it before it even properly manifested. My skin is also reacting much better to en femme days. I have now been able to do multiple en femme days in a row. It is true that my skin can sometime feel a little tight if I do two or more days in a row but the blisters are a thing of the past, I have not had one for quite a while now. I have had the opportunity for a number of en femme days over the last week and despite many close shaves (sometimes twice in one day) my skin is feeling smooth and relaxed. No pimples, no blisters.
I feel confident in recommending this range of products to you based on my experiences so far. They can be found at most Dischem stores with the skin care products (they are merchandised together), or you could look for them online (see the above link). The cleanser, toner and scrub cost me about R40 (about US$3) each. I bought my first batch in March and as of today (23 July) I still have approximately one or two weeks worth of cleanser and toner left. The exfoliator is still nearly full as I use it much less often. This is great value for money to my mind.
I would love to hear your experiences with skincare. Please feel free to make any comments or suggestions in the comments below.