Whether you’re a pro about to battle in out on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK or a baby drag looking to get your first gig in the drag world, a handy guide of some of the best makeup for drag can never do you wrong. There are so many elements to drag makeup that having a concise list with examples always comes in useful.
I’ve broken drag makeup down by areas of the face and offered – where I can – both higher-end and affordable options for those just starting out in the drag world.
Just a disclaimer: I’m only one person and I haven’t tried every product in the world. I’ve only listed products here that I’ve used and really love. So if your favourite products aren’t listed, let me know in the comments and I’ll give them a try.
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Prepping your face for drag makeup is just as (if not more) important than the actual makeup itself. A good canvas makes it easier for your makeup to sit and stay for the entire night.
Prepping Skin for Drag
Prep the skin with good skincare so it’s clean and hydrated. I won’t go into what skincare I use here, but might do a post later if people are interested.
To help your eyebrow glue stay down, remove any excess oils from the eyebrows with a some form of rubbing alcohol. Isopropyl Alcohol can be a little hard to get a hold of in the UK, but a quick search around the internet should turn something up.
Gluing Brows for Drag
You’ll then want to glue your brows down. Most people are happy with a good old Elmer’s Purple Glue Stick (Various prices, Amazon) because it’s cheap, non-toxic and easily washed out… like me in drag. The purple helps you see where the glue is and it disappears when it dries – no purple brows, don’t worry!
Personally, I prefer Pros-Aide Cream Adhesive (from £4.95, TILT Professional Makeup) as I find it lasts no matter what you put your face through in the evening.
Comb the glue through your brows with a standard hair comb or some Bamboo Disposable Mascara Wands (£5.99, Etsy). This ensures the glue is spread evenly. Then flatten them down with the flat side of a spoon or a Stainless Steel Makeup Spatula (£3.97, Amazon).
Best Primer for Drag
A good primer will help makeup go on smoother and last longer, which is especially important for drag makeup.
I can’t recommend the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer (£29, Smashbox) enough. As someone who has quite visible pores on my cheek, this ensures my foundation blends evenly without any unwanted texture.
The NYX Studio Perfect Primer (£10.50, Boots) is a good, cheaper alternative to the above. Both brands also do other primers that are more specific to any concerns you have i.e. redness, larger pores, etc.
A good drag foundation is very, very full coverage. This is not usually something you’ll find in any old high-street store. You want to block out all your natural features and textures. That way you can paint new ones on, you’re creating a whole new face.
Best Foundation for Drag
Of course, a drag makeup staple is the Kryolan TV Paint Stick (£17.20, Kryolan UK) which drag entertainers have been slapping on for years. It’s a very thick, full coverage and will help to give you a completely blank canvas to work with. You may want to pop a bit of moisturiser on beforehand as it can be quite dry.
If, like me, you find that sometimes the TV Paint Stick doesn’t stick to your face (honestly, what is that about?) then the Mehron CreamBlend™ Stick (£12.45, TILT Professional Makeup) is a slightly wetter formula that glides on like a dream.
Best Cream Highlight and Contour for Drag
Because drag makeup is often exaggerated, I like to highlight and contour in creams as well as powder.
I use the Kryolan Supracolor (from £7.80, Kryolan UK) as my cream highlighter. You can also use this as a base on your eyes to make your eyeshadow pop. For my skin, I used Shade 00.
For contouring, I switch between a Revolution Fast Base Stick (£5.99, Revolution) or a Kryolan Supracolor (from £7.80, Kryolan UK). I find a wetter cream here is better, so you can get a really smooth blend.
Best Setting Powders for Drag
Drag makeup has to go through a lot: club lights, sweating, people touching you, alcohol being spilled everywhere. You’ll want your foundation to actually stay throughout the night. This means you’ll need to set that bitch with some powder. Lots of powder.
My very first powder was drag makeup staple Coty Airspun Loose Powder in Translucent (£10.88, Amazon). I’ve pretty much used this consistently since I started. If I ever deviate and try a different powder, I still will put in my empty Coty packaging.
Of course, if you’re buying your foundation from Kryolan anyway you can always grab a Kryolan Translucent Powder (£9.40, Kryolan UK) too.
I like to set under my eyes with a pure white powder. I feel this accentuates the cream highlight – drag makeup is all about drama, after all – and nothing can beat the Ben Nye Super White Powder (£7.95, TILT Professional Makeup). If you have a deeper/warmer skin tone then you can use the Revolution Loose Baking Powder Banana (Light) (£5, Revolution).
That being said, if you’re really trying to save some coin, throw on a bit of baby powder and call it a day.
Best Powder Highlight, Contour and Blush for Drag
Like I said, I like to highlight and contour in creams AND powders. I’m an excessive queen and I genuinely believe it adds dimension to the face.
I also use the MAC Sculpting Powder (from £18.50, MAC Cosmetics) which replaced my Makeup Geek contour when they stopped selling it in the UK! It’s just as good, if not a little bit on the pricier side…
Blush is one of my favourite steps! It adds warmth back into your face and makes you look alive. I use Inglot Freedom System Face Blush AMC (£8, Inglot). I prefer individual pans that I can use to build my own palette.
Prefer a cheaper version of all of the above? The Sleek Face Form Contouring Palette (£9.99, Sleek Makeup) has a contour, blush and highlighter all in one. I find the contour can sometimes be a little warm, but depending on the look you’re going for, this is definitely a cost-effective alternative.
Eyes have always been a focal point of drag makeup. That’s usually where the biggest exaggeration and biggest transformation happens. The eyes are what you’ll likely spend most of your time working on so you’ll want to make sure you have the right products.
Before you do anything with your eyes, make sure you use a base so the colour has something to stick to – remember that clean canvas we talked about before?
You can use your foundation to do this, or the Kryolan Supracolor (from £7.80, Kryolan UK) that I mentioned earlier. The pure white of this product will really help the colour pop. Make sure to set the base with a little dusting of your setting powder and you’re good to go.
Best Eyeshadow for Drag
There are sooooooOOOoooOo many eyeshadows out there but the important thing for drag is that you want something super pigmented. It might seem like a good idea to grab a cheap palette from any old place, but if you’re not careful you could end up just wasting money.
If you’re looking for palettes – a good idea if you’re just starting out – then the What a Drag Coronation Artistry Palette (£29.50, What a Drag) is a great start. It has everything you could want in 24 highly-pigmented shades: neutrals for carving a crease, shimmers for your lid and a whole host of really bold matte colours.
You can get 10% off at What a Drag when you use the code ENVY10.
SugarPill Pro Pan Pressed Eyeshadows (from £8.95, TILT Professional Makeup) are also a personal favourite of mine when it comes to drag makeup; they’re in an extra large pan so you get more than a standard eyeshadow and the colour pay off is amazing.
Best Loose Pigments and Glitter for Drag
Speaking of colour pay off, the best way to get a really bold colourful eye is with a bit of loose pigment and some glitter.
If, like me, you love anything bright and colourful, the Sample Beauty Loose Eyeshadow Sparkle Pigment (from £5.95, Beauty Bay) are incredible and really affordable. Want to try something a little different? Try the Stargazer Neon Eye Dust (£4.50, Stargazer Cosmetics) which glow under a black light.
If you like pigments with a little more shimmer to them, give NYX Professional Makeup Foil Play Cream Pigment (£7.00, Boots) a go. These are all really affordable options and can help create a really dramatic drag makeup look.
While it might be the herpes of the makeup world (you’ll never get rid of it), no drag makeup kit is complete without a batch of glitter! A personal favourite of mine is the MUOBU Biodegradable Glitter (from £3.50, MUOBU).
You can use a MUOBU Glitter Fix Gel (£3.00, MUOBU) to get it stick if you want, but you could also use whatever lash glue you’re using instead (see Lash Glue below).
Eyeliners and Eyebrows
A strong black wing really adds that “drag look” to any eye. To do a black wing, I’ve always used the Inglot AMC Eyeliner Gel in 77 (£14, Inglot) with an angled liner brush (see Brushes section below). I find that I can get a really black, clean line with this that won’t move once it’s set.
If a gel or pot liner isn’t for you, then try the Rimmel Exaggerate Liquid Eye Liner (£5.99, Superdrug). It’s super black, smudge-proof and the applicator is easy to control. For the white under your eyes I’ve always used NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk (£5.50, Boots).
If you’re using pencils to do your eyebrows, a MAC Lip Pencil in the shade Cork (£15, MAC Cosmetics) is perfect, though you could use any liner pencil in your favourite colour. I like a pencil that is a little harder so I can get a really sharp line. I tend to set those with any generic matching eyeshadow from one of the palettes mentioned above.
Best Eyelashes for Drag
Of course, when it comes to eyelashes, the age old adage counts: go big or go home. More often than not you’ve exaggerated your features so much that you can’t wear a standard pair of single eyelashes.
That’s why I love What a Drag Femme Top 301 Lashes and Three Way 301 Lashes (both £7.49, What a Drag); huge, thick eyelashes made specifically to work with drag makeup. I like them both because they stack really well together. The Three Ways will give you volume, while the Femme Tops add length to the end.
They do a whole load of other drag lashes too. Read my review of What a Drag 301 lashes for the scoop!
|Get a 10 percent discount at What a Drag if you use my referral code ENVY10.|
While you’re there, grab a pair of What a Drag Safe Word Lashes (£5.29, What a Drag). They give a bold spike for underneath the eye, balancing out the heaviness on top.
To attach your lashes, throw away any glue that comes with your lashes, because that rubbish isn’t going to keep your lashes on all night.
A lot of people use Duo Striplash Eyelash Glue (£5.49, Superdrug) but a cheaper alternative would be standard Hair Bonding Glue from your hair or local wig store. These money-savers actually tend to work better than standard eyelash glue and you get a lot more for your money.
A good drag lip is vital. Especially if you’re going to make your money on a stage singing, lip syncing or performing anything orally. 😉 The attention will all be on your mouth, so ensuring you have the right products to overdraw those bad boys is key.
Best Lip Pencils for Drag
Now, they’re a little bit on the pricier side but I honestly swear by the Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil (£16, Urban Decay) because they do not move. They’re really creamy but once they set, they set.
If you prefer something a little on the more affordable side – and I don’t blame you sis, drag makeup is expensive – try the NYX Slide On Lip Pencil (£6, NYX Cosmetics) or the KIKO Milano Creamy Colour Comfort Lip Liner (£4.99, KIKO Milano).
Best Liquid Lipsticks for Drag
With most things, I’m happy to admit that more expensive does not always equal better. You can often find the same thing for much cheaper if you look hard enough.
Now maybe I haven’t looked hard enough, but I’ve found that little bit of wisdom does not apply to liquid lipsticks. I’m happy to be challenged here! If you know a better, cheaper liquid lipstick then comment below. But I have tried soooo many and always come back to the more expensive options.
The Huda Beauty Liquid Matte Lipsticks (£18, CultBeauty) are a good my all time favourite liquid lipsticks for drag. They come in really lovely, sultry colour options and have incredible staying power.
Lip gloss or lip toppers
I hate lip gloss. I don’t use it. Seriously, who wants their wig sticking to their lips?
Brushes and Sponges
I won’t go into too much detail about which specific brushes you need. That could be a whole post by itself. However, I’ll recommend some of my favourite brands.
I prefer to blend my foundation out with a sponge rather than a brush and the B. Blending Makeup Sponge (£4.99, Superdrug) is the best I’ve tried. Once it’s wet it expands, softens and gives you a really flawless finish.
Finally, once your makeup is done you’ll want to set it to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere. In the past, drag queens have just used a light hairspray and this has worked for an age. However, I’ve found that hairspray can sometimes crease or give your face a weird “film”.
The Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray (£26, Urban Decay) does what it says on the tin and ensures my makeup lasts the entire night no matter how much I sweat (and you will get sweaty in drag).
If you want something a little more “industrial”, I’ve tried the Green Marble SeLr Spray (from £14.95, TILT Professional Makeup). This stuff is hardcore and is used by theatre makeup artists. Those stage lights get really hot, so it’s designed to make sure your drag makeup won’t move an inch. Take a deep breath before you apply and make sure none of it gets in your eyes.
So that’s it! My ultimate drag makeup checklist. Hopefully it’s been useful to beginners and even those with a little more experience.
Not what you use? If your must-have product isn’t listed then let me know in the comments below and I’ll try it out.
Prices were correct at the time of writing. None of these recommendations have been paid for and are all my own opinions. This piece may contain affiliate links, meaning I’ll earn a small piece of commission if you buy anything after clicking.
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“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but Envy rots the bones.”
Drag Queen 💃🏼