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As a trans woman in prison, I have to get creative with my beauty routine. I use coffee grinds and Kool-Aid for makeup.

someone applying make up in a small mirror
Prisoners have to get creative when it comes to makeup.NurPhoto / Getty Images
  • As a trans woman in prison, I have difficulties getting access to beauty products.

  • I get creative by mixing items I can procure, like Kool-Aid, Vaseline, coffee grinds, and pencils.

  • My unique beauty routine helps me connect with my true identity in prison.

I'm an incarcerated trans woman, and my beauty routine and self-care practices have become a crucial aspect of my mental and emotional wellness.

Being in prison can be extremely challenging for anyone, but as a trans person, the experience can be particularly difficult. When I was first incarcerated, I struggled to find ways to take care of myself. The environment was harsh, and the conditions were far from ideal.


It was during this time that I began to develop my beauty routine as a way to cope with the stress and anxiety of being in prison. Since getting beauty products can be difficult behind bars, I've had to learn many creative hacks. Through my unusual beauty routine, I have found a sense of comfort and control.

My routine starts with skincare

I make sure to wash my face every morning and evening with a gentle cleanser. Occasionally, I get superior products like CeraVe or Cetaphil facial cleansers from the dermatologist at the prison.

But I'm not always able to get my hands on those products, so I often have to make my own cleanser. I do it by using a very small amount of Noxzema — which I get from the commissary — water, melted-down soap, and some cocoa-butter lotion. All this is mixed into a squirt bottle, and it helps keep my skin moist, tight, and supple.

I follow up with moisturizers, which I also usually get from the dermatologist. Even though I spend most of my time inside, I apply sunscreen to protect my skin and help fight aging. I like to use La Roche-Posay's Toleriane Double Repair UV SPF moisturizer.

I also use a face mask once a week to give my skin a little extra TLC. I typically make my own by mixing watered-down Noxzema, melted cocoa butter, some brown sugar, egg yolk, and coconut oil. I'll typically let this mask sit for about 25 minutes before washing it off.

Coffee grinds mixed with water or coconut oil are also a great exfoliant and help get rid of my dead skin.

Taking care of my skin not only makes me feel good physically but also helps me feel like I am taking care of myself emotionally.

As for makeup, I have to get very creative with what I have 

These days, I rarely wear makeup, but when I do, it's a vibe. With that said, access to beauty products and cosmetics can be extremely limited in prison. But there are several unique beauty hacks and do-it-yourself makeup tips that I use to maintain a sense of self-care.

For example, lipstick can be made with ingredients that are readily available in prison commissaries. I simply mix a small amount of Vaseline or petroleum jelly with a colored powder — such as Kool-Aid, crushed color pencils, or crushed eyeshadow — until it forms a paste. I then apply it to my lips for a pop of color.

Similarly, I make eyeliner by using a sharpened pencil and rubbing the tip on my hand until it becomes soft. I then apply it to the lash line.

If I want to cover blemishes or under-eye circles, I make a concealer with a mixture of petroleum jelly and eyeshadow. If I want a creamy foundation, I mix a small amount of blush with petroleum jelly to create a paste.

You can see petroleum jelly is important to have around for my beauty routine, as is coconut oil, which can be used to moisturize my skin, remove my makeup, and condition my hair.

I learned that with a little creativity and resourcefulness, maintaining a beauty routine is possible even in a limited environment.

Beyond my beauty routine, I prioritize journaling and meditating to preserve my overall well-being

Everything I do now is to help myself survive this environment. Everything I do now is also to ensure I have a future — a life outside this prison — in which I'm rehabilitated and redeemed.

Because I'm an incarcerated transgender woman, my beauty routine and self-care practices have become a lifeline. They help me feel more in control of my life and allow me to maintain a connection to my true identity.

Do you identify as part of an LGBTQ community and have an interesting or unique story about the queer experience that you'd like to share? Please email

Read the original article on Insider