Ask Allie: Treats for Your Trans Loved One

by Sarah Rutledge Fischer, with Jad Davis | photos from the brands’ websites

Dear Allie,
My niece, a transwoman in her early 20s, just moved nearby after a terrible break with her family of origin. As a gay man (and decent human being), I am horrified at how my sister is treating her.

I know the upcoming holidays will be especially hard on my niece. Right now, my husband and I have her to dinner several times a week, and we have invited her to stay over during the holidays. I want to play Santa this year and treat her with some beauty products that celebrate her new look. But I have always been a facewash and moisturizer kind of guy—I don’t know where to begin.

Can you please help me make my Christmas list?

Uncle Santa


Dear Uncle Santa,
Great idea! Recent studies show that the support of just one adult can make all the difference for a young trans-person. Besides, who doesn’t like being showered with gifts at the holidays? I think, with help, we got you covered!

Between you and me, I’m a bit more of a toner and moisturizer person myself, so I reached out to friend-of-Focus, Jad Davis, who, in addition to being an up-and-coming area musician, is also a Prestige Sales Manager at one of our area Ulta Beauty stores. Jad immediately broke the beauty world into three essential categories: mental and physical safety, skin health, and artistic expression. “If you really want to send [someone] down a path of beauty, you need to address the most important foundation, which is your mind, and then your skin, and then how you decorate it.”

Starting with health and safety may not seem festive, but Jad reminds us that encouraging your niece to “take care of what is happening on the inside, is going to help her perpetuate what’s happening on the outside.” Depending on your budget, a health and safety gift could be vitamins and bath oils or therapy and massage appointments. Whatever your budget, a health and safety gift will communicate that you value her wellbeing.

Second is skin. “Skin,” says Jad, “is what everything is going on top of, and healthy skin is going to give you a healthy finish with your makeup.” He suggests that we all follow a basic skincare routine (cleanser and toner, followed by moisturizer and SPF in the morning or serum and moisturizer in the evening). If you are looking for a gift set, he suggests a complete regimen from companies like Clinique and Lancôme that are known for respecting the science of skin. If you’d rather let your niece discover her own regimen, the consultants at a safe and supportive beauty store can walk her through every step. And, if you are looking for a splurge in this category, consider a gift certificate to a trans-supportive aesthetic clinic that offers laser hair removal and other gender-affirming aesthetic services.

Finally, we turn to artistic expression, which Jad calls “the last part of beauty.” Gifting makeup is tricky, because this level of beauty is completely subjective, but there are a few core products that make great gifts for anyone. Jad suggests mascara as a core makeup component, “because you can get away with just wearing mascara.” Another product on his go-to list is liquid highlighter, which is “great for people who don’t want to wear foundation but just want to compliment the highness of their cheekbones, points on their nose, or the cupids bow on their lip.” And of course, you can always pick up a gift card and let your niece choose her own beauty essentials.

No matter what you choose, the biggest gifts you are giving your niece are love, support, and security. “The most important aspect of exploring beauty is finding a safe place,” says Jad. “I remember growing up and not knowing if I was allowed to go into beauty stores and ask my questions, and now we live in a world where I get to be one of the people who answer the questions.”

You and your husband are already providing your niece with a safe place in your home. Your beauty-focused gift will help her build a safe mental and emotional space in which to nurture and grow her new identity. That should get you started.

Your friend,

To submit your own question, email Allie at Focus Mid-South reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity.

Gift advice is well and good, but a good gift guide isn’t much use without product recommendations. We asked our friend Jad for some of his favorites at a variety of price points. FYI, all of these products are available at Ulta.


  • Consultation at Ashtoria Aesthetics & Wellness in Collierville- SPLURGE!
  • Clinque 3-Step Introduction Kit–available for either oilier or drier skin $19.50


  • Benefit Cosmetics: They’re Real Lengthening Mascara $25
  • Lancome Grandiose Extreme Mascara $32


  • Benefit Cosmetics Dandelion Twinkle Nude-Pink Powder Highlighter & Luminizer $30


  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Glow $25
  • Makeup Revolution Liquid Highlighter $9
  • Pacifica Body Shimmer Hardcore Happy Power Body Lotion $15