Leola Davis and Pansy Esthetics Are Here to Queer Skincare

Pansy Esthetics feature image by Wondra

If you asked me to describe my skin in one word, my first response would be: thick. As in, I have a thick skin. Even after finally adopting a more complex skincare routine than face soap + moisturizer, I still haven’t taken the time to really understand the specificities of my literal skin. I don’t even know what a serum is even if I now put it on my face twice a day.

But I say I have a thick skin, because as a trans woman that’s felt like the best option. To feel upset every time I’m misgendered or experience another microaggression, would be to live in a constant state of upset. Instead I shrug and move on with my day.

I say I have a thick skin, but the truth is the way I’m perceived by the world does my impact my actions. While it doesn’t prevent me from going out and having fun, it does probably factor into my reluctance to, say, go to the dentist. Since I’ve been treated with disdain and confusion in doctors’ offices where I specifically received gender care, there’s no hope elsewhere. Maybe that’s why it’s been years since I went to a dermatologist. Maybe that’s why I’d never even considered the luxury of getting a facial.

Enter Leola Davis.

My trans guy friend had been seeing Leola Davis for six months when he recommended I go to her. As the owner of Pansy Esthetics, Davis promises “an inclusive and safe space for all.” But, for Davis, trans clients being treated with respect is just the beginning. Trans people also have a lot of specific skincare needs — for example, my friend saw Davis for changes to his skin after starting testosterone.

“My goal in starting Pansy Esthetics was to make skincare accessible to my community,” Davis said. “I wanted to create a space where the queer community could come and get care and treatments geared specifically toward them and their skin and body.”

A queer Black woman with tattoos on her arms rests her head on her hand as she leans against a facial table.

When I arrived at Davis’ office, another trans woman was leaving face aglow. And it’s not just transness that’s normalized at Pansy Esthetics — it’s also a judgment free zone for skincare ignorance. “As I started this skincare journey, I realized a lot of my queer and trans friends had never gotten facials or esthetic care,” Davis noted.

Even Davis herself hadn’t had a facial until 2019 — which led to monthly facials, which led to esthetics school, which led to opening her own company. She may now have clinical knowledge but there’s nothing clinical about the energy of her space. Instead, it feels more like receiving treatment and advice from a cool queer friend. It’s an energy trans people — and people in general! — are rarely granted in a medical-adjacent space.

The skincare concern I brought to my session was the aftermath of electrolysis. I had successful weekly electrolysis sessions for a year when I first transitioned, but then I moved and had a terrible experience in my new city. After just three sessions, my face began to scar. I switched to laser, but even years later I can still see the impact of those sessions. As I consider returning to electrolysis, I wanted advice on how to improve the current state of my skin — and prevent it from worsening if I went back to electrolysis. Davis answered my questions with ease.

And the impact of hair removal is just one trans-specific skincare need. There are also changes caused by HRT (Davis calls one of her most popular treatments for clients on T the Acne Slayer) and aftercare for gender affirming surgeries. Bemoaning a lack of aftercare instruction provided by many surgeons, Davis aims to fill that gap assisting clients in the healing process after top surgery and FFS.

While her office is based in Los Angeles, Davis doesn’t want to limit this education to one city. She has started offering virtual consults and skincare packages for day-to-day and for surgery aftercare.

Davis says she wants to create space for open communication and understanding. “Before clients even come in, I have them fill out a consultation form so they can tell me about themselves.” This form has basics like pronouns and whether someone is on HRT, as well as questions about chest treatment, robe size, and if someone wants a silent service.

After decades of watching my cis mom and sister act like facials were the height of luxury, I finally understood why. Under the care of Davis, I was able to relax and enjoy the experience, feel a real cleanse, and freely ask all the questions I had about skincare and my skin specifically. It was luxurious and educational all at once.

As a trans person, I may have developed a thick skin. But when getting treated at Pansy Esthetics, I didn’t need one. I could let go and focus on what really matters: getting a better exfoliant.


To book an appointment with Pansy Esthetics visit their website

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and I Heart Female Directors. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 476 articles for us.

3 Comments

  1. I love that in the lead photo Leola is wearing a mask. COVID safety is so important to me regarding personal care providers.
    I’m saving up for an acid peel and I’m already preparing myself to be misgendered. More queer-friendly skincare services and personal care services in general are so needed. I’m glad Pansy Esthetics exists.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!