Saturday, October 07, 2006

Drag Queenery For Smarties 1: Exfoliation

I've wanted to write a "Drag Queenery For Smarties" book for an awful long time, partly because it would make me rich but also because I wish *I* had one when I started out. I would have saved a lot of missteps.

But sadly I lack the motivation and the interest to pitch my idea to a publisher, write the book, and become wildly famous. So instead I'll just post entries -- willy-nilly -- on my blog. And if any queen out there has suggestions, by all means post them in the comments!

Exfoliation -- that's "getting rid of hair" to you philistines -- is possibly the dullest subject in drag-queenery. Most men think they know EVERYTHING about hair-removal. But most men haven't tried giving themselves a bikini wax, so shut up and bear with me.

There are several things you want to do when you get rid of hair: you want hairless skin that isn't irritated, you want it to stay hairless as long as possible, and you want to spend as little money as possible. This is what I've learned:


Unless you're really dedicated you'll spend much of your time using a razor. Razors are great for all those places you can reach easily, and they're also great for any piece of skin that isn't easily irritated. What I mean is: if it bleeds when you shave it, or you need to be Houdini to get at it, don't shave it.

I find that I get a closer shave -- anywhere -- if I let the hair grow in a little. I put up with stubble a day or two before I get around to actually shaving, which is why I look scruffy during the week (so now you know).

Half of your shaving routine is preparation. Splash water on whatever you're shaving, then put the shaving cream on it and wait about 90 seconds. This isn't just because you want to be nice to your's because you want to soak the hair so it's easier to shave it off. Don't scrimp on your shaving scream; make sure it moisturizes your skin, froths up beautifully, and smells nice. If you're doing your legs, just let them soak for a few minutes before you apply shaving cream and start to shave. Put a few drops of bath oil in the water to make yourself feel and smell good.

Next, take your Gilette Mach 3 razor (the best there is) and shave against the hair growth. If you're shaving your chest or your legs be aware that your hair doesn't necessarily grow in the direction you'd expect. If you find that you're cutting yourself a lot in certain spots -- front and back of knees, collar-bone, and upper-cheekbone for instance -- swallow your pride and shave perpendicular to the hair in those spots. You won't have as close a shave on your knees, but oh well, accessorize with knee-pads.

Some people moisturize when they're done shaving. I don't know if this helps or not, my skin tends to get irritated if I moisturize right away. And therein lies one of the hidden tortures of shaving: if you sweat a lot on any sort of razor burn, be prepared to two days of horrible itching that just won't go away. I think of it as "drag-queen ivy."

Other downsides of shaving: you might get red bumps on some parts of your skin, which scientists have a lot of theories about but they're all crap. Also, the hair grows back faster than with other exfoliating methods, because you're not actually pulling out the hair root...and when it DOES grow back it looks coarse. For me, I can shave my legs and get about 18 hours of smoothness. You just have to learn how long you can go and time your shave-a-thons accordingly.

Should you use a rough exfoliating soap before you shave? Probably, because it feels good!


Depilatories like Nair are good if you're trying to remove hair in those "hard to reach" places, and you know somebody's going to SEE those places. It's easier to slap on Nair than it is to try to contort your razor into an awkward position (and probably end up flaying yourself alive).

Always make sure that your depilatory doesn't aggrivate your skin. Don't get it in your eyes, and don't put it on hair that you want to keep. Really goop it on (a thin layer doesn't seem to work) and leave it there for a good 15 minutes (if your skin can stand it). Then, stand in the shower, let the water wash over it, and use a loofah or something to scrub it off. And if you've never seen hair after it's been Nair-ed it's pretty cool.

I don't use Nair enough to know its pros and cons. I do know that it doesn't touch the hair root so it probably only lasts about as long as shaving does, but on the plus side it smells like cucumber. Don't eat it.


I have flirted with home waxing kits now and then. The real problem is that you need to let your hair grow out enough for the wax to grab the hair. It's time-consuming and takes some precision. It also hurts, and if you use it in a place where your skin is sensitive you're liable to pull the skin off (seriously). Do small tests before you try it in a new spot.

The plus side, though, is that it pulls the hair roots out, so theoretically you get skin that's smoother, and it lasts longer. Keep in mind, though, that hair doesn't just grow in one you're waxing an area for the first time, a new crop of hair is just ready to break the surface. You need to wax through two or three of these hair cycles before you'll get a long-lasting wax job.


Miss Drew says "you pluck chickens, you tweeze eyebrows," but removing eyebrow hair is so barbaric that no euphemism is appropriate. Plucking is an art in itself, and I've never completely gotten the hang of it. Best to let a professional do it, otherwise you'll look stupid or terminally surprised.

"Sudden Change" sells eyebrow stencils that you might try...they give you a generic "perfect arch" as long as you put the stencil on straight before you start plucking. There's the famous "pencil test" for judging where your eyebrows should start, arch, and famous that I won't repeat it here. People also say "never pluck the UPPER part of your eyebrows," which is bull.

But you DO need to be careful...pulling a hair out might leave an ugly bald spot. I've gradually plucked my brows to a shape and density that I'm comfortable with. Every week I attack them with the tweezers, removing all the new growth above, below, and on either side of the eyebrow, then I take nail scissors and cut back any new "bushiness." Make sure you buy a tweezer that works for you...there are lots of different shapes.

If your eyebrows are light-coloured, try this: take a black brow pencil and draw, on your eyebrow, the shape that looks good. Take your time. Then, when you've got two symmetrical eyebrows, get your tweezers and pluck around the part you drew in. It works if you've got some free time, but don't blame me if you don't like the results.

Arches that are two high, and eyebrows that are two thin, can make you look old. Watch out!

Some queens smear concealer over their eyebrows, then paint new eyebrows over top (or some place else). Don't do this unless you're really good. Otherwise you'll look like Divine.


Never try to pluck an eyelash. If an eyelashe is too long cut it off with nail scissors.

For God's sake, take a look at your nose hair and ear hair. Not enough people do this. Tweeze that junk off or some bitchy queen will hold you down and do it for you.

When you think you've gotten rid of all your unwanted hair, do a "circle check" while wearing your outfit of choice. Look at yourself from different angles. Check the backs of your arms and your neck. Check the backs of your hands. Then berate yourself for missing something so obvious and go back to the razor.

Both girls and boys have a fine layer of downy hair that only really shows up in direct sunlight. If this bothers you, find out where it is and eradicate it regularly.

If you really don't want to shave your legs, wear thick tights (or several pairs of thin, opalescent tights). It's itchy but it generally works.

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