There’s nothing like the misery of close friends to spur you into action. And when two of my closest gal pals mentioned the same problem — the difficulty of finding makeup for sensitive skin — it was time to look for solutions.
Sensitive skin can react to even the mildest beauty products, which means they have almost given up on makeup. When the lightest application of mascara or foundation brings up rashes, redness, and horrible itching, that seems like the only solution.
Delving into the world of makeup for skin that’s so hyper-reactive and speaking to dermatologists and makeup experts made me realize the problem is real but manageable.
With many brands focusing on creating makeup for reactive skin, there are so many options that nobody needs to feel deprived of choices.
Because remember what I always say? The best beauty is one that’s democratic. So, sensitive skin or not, everyone gets their best choices.
All you need is to make a few tweaks to your beauty routine.
And you’ve come to the right place if you or someone you know experiences sensitive skin. Read on for the best makeup products and tips for irritable skin.
The best makeup products for sensitive skin
Let’s jump into the best makeup options ideal for hyper-reactive skin — though, I strongly suggest you don’t stop with the products; keep going for an in-depth overview of what works for sensitive skin, including specific ingredients and brands.
Best primer for sensitive skin
Look for a silicone-free primer, which can help create a smooth canvas for makeup application without irritating.
Best primers for sensitive skin (click to buy): IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Primer+, First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Coconut Skin Smoothie Priming Moisturizer, Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer, Tatcha The Silk Canvas Protective Primer
Best foundations for sensitive skin
To find the best foundation for sensitive skin, opt for a mineral-based, liquid, or powder formula that is fragrance-free and non-comedogenic. A stick foundation tends to create too much friction on the complexion, which can result in irritation.
Best foundation for sensitive skin (click to buy): BareMinerals Original Loose Powder Foundation SPF 15, Clinique Even Better Makeup SPF 15 Foundation, Neutrogena Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup Foundation, Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation SPF 15, Tower 28 Beauty SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation
Best setting powders for sensitive skin
If you need a setting powder to blur the pores, stop greasiness, create a matte finish, prevent makeup from sliding off, or just because you like the feel of one, look for products free of talc, parabens, and fragrance.
Best setting powders for sensitive skin (click to buy): IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Pressed Powder, Tarte Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Finishing Powder, BareMinerals Original Mineral Veil Finishing Powder, Dermablend Loose Setting Powder, Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Talc-Free Pressed Powder, Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder
Best concealer for sensitive skin
Choose a creamy, hydrating formula that will cover dark spots and under-eye circles without settling into fine lines or causing skin irritation.
Best concealers for sensitive skin (click to buy): BareMinerals Original Liquid Mineral Concealer, IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Full Coverage Anti-Aging Waterproof Concealer, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer
Best blush and bronzer for sensitive skin
Go for mineral-based, pressed powder products that are easy to blend and gentle on the skin.
Best blush for sensitive skin (click to buy): BareMinerals Gen Nude Powder Blush, Clinique Cheek Pop, Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush, Burt’s Bees Color Nurture Moisturizing Cream Blush, Neutrogena Healthy Skin Blush, Tower 28 Beauty BeachPlease Lip + Cheek Cream Blush
Best bronzer for sensitive skin (click to buy): Clinique True Bronze Pressed Powder Bronzer, Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer, BareMinerals Warmth All-Over Face Color, Tarte Amazonian Clay Matte Waterproof Bronzer
Best lip products for sensitive skin
Stick with hydrating, fragrance-free lipsticks and lip balms with natural ingredients like shea butter and beeswax.
Best lipsticks for sensitive skin (click to buy): Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Moisturizing Lipstick, BareMinerals Mineralist Hydra-Smoothing Lipstick, Tarte Juicy Lip Creme, Clinique Pop Liquid Matte Lip Colour+Primer Lipstick
Best lip glosses for sensitive skin (click to buy): Tower 28 Beauty ShineOn Lip Jelly Non-Sticky Gloss, BareMinerals Mineralise Lip Balm Gloss, IT Cosmetics Pillow Lips Solid Serum Gloss, Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Lip Shine
Best eye makeup for sensitive skin
The eye area tends to be the most fragile and is, therefore, more reactive than anywhere else on the face. So, it pays to go the extra mile and search for ophthalmologist-tested, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free mascaras, eyeliners, and eyeshadows specifically formulated for sensitive eyes.
Best eye shadows for sensitive skin that are ophthalmologist tested (click to buy): Merit Solo Shadow Cream-to-Powder Soft Matte Eyeshadow, BareMinerals Mineralist Eyeshadow Palette, Westman Atelier Eye Pods Cream Eyeshadows, Almay Shadow Squad
Best mascara for sensitive skin that are ophthalmologist tested (click to buy): Clinique High Impact Mascara, Almay Thickening Mascara, Neutrogena Healthy Lengths Mascara, Tower 28 Beauty MakeWaves Lengthening + Volumizing Mascara
What’s the best type of makeup for sensitive skin?
When searching for makeup products suitable for sensitive skin, it’s crucial to pay attention to the labels and check out the list of ingredients. Opt for products that are free from irritants and packed with skin-soothing ingredients.
Here’s a list of what to look for and what to avoid.
Look for the following ingredients in your makeup
- Hypoallergenic brands and non-comedogenic formulations
- Fragrance-free formulas (whether it’s natural or synthetic fragrance)
- Soothing ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, plant-based squalene, and calendula
- Nourishing oils such as jojoba, almond, or argan oil
- Antioxidant-rich ingredients like green tea and vitamin E
Avoid these ingredients at all costs!
- Synthetic fragrances and dyes
- Harsh chemicals like sulfates, parabens, and phthalates
- Alcohol-based products
- Comedogenic ingredients that can clog pores
- Abrasive physical exfoliants
- Essential oils
- Chemical sunscreens (often included in foundations); opt for mineral-based SPF instead
Is hypoallergenic makeup good for sensitive skin?
Hypoallergenic products are formulated without ingredients that cause allergies or irritation — such as essential oils, fragrances, and certain preservatives.
However, the myth that hypoallergenic products will solve all your sensitive skin problems is invalid. That’s because the label “hypoallergenic” is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This means that brands can call their products hypoallergenic when they see fit. They are not bound by any FDA regulation or approvals.
Hence, a ” hypoallergenic ” makeup product may still contain ingredients that can trigger skin sensitivity.
Is mineral makeup good for sensitive skin?
While products comprising finely milled minerals such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and iron oxides may sound scary, mineral makeup is actually one of the best options for reactive skin.
Unlike traditional makeup, it is free of harsh chemicals, fragrances, and synthetic dyes, which can aggravate skin and exacerbate existing conditions.
Bare Minerals Loose Powder Mineral Foundation is the OG choice for sensitive skin because it contains pure, finely milled minerals that give a smooth, flawless finish to even the more overreactive complexions.
The 16 best makeup lines for sensitive skin
Many beauty brands have recognized the need for sensitive skin makeup. Here are the best options to explore.
A dermatologist-developed brand with fragrance-free and allergy-tested products, Clinique offers a wide range of options for sensitive skin.
Bare Minerals is known for mineral-based makeup, free from harsh chemicals, preservatives, and synthetic fragrances. Bare Minerals has one of the best and most pioneering foundations for sensitive skin. Plus, they cater to a variety of skin tones.
Tower 28 Beauty
A clean, vegan, and cruelty-free makeup brand designed for sensitive skin, following the National Eczema Association’s guidelines.
IT Cosmetics has been developed with plastic surgeons and dermatologists, focusing on skin-friendly formulations.
Neutrogena offers dermatologist-tested, non-comedogenic makeup products suitable for hyper-reactive skin.
Burt’s Bees makeup products are derived from natural ingredients and are free from parabens, phthalates, SLS, petrolatum, talc, synthetic fragrances, or silicones.
As a hypoallergenic, skin-friendly brand, Almay offers a variety of makeup options that are gentle on the complexion.
Tarte’s products are formulated without parabens, mineral oil, phthalates, and other potentially irritating ingredients, making them suitable for sensitive skin types.
Known for its skincare products, La Roche-Posay also offers a makeup line designed for easily irritated skin. Their products are allergy-tested and formulated in collaboration with board-certified dermatologists.
RMS Beauty focuses on organic and natural ingredients, with makeup products formulated to be gentle on sensitive skin.
This brand offers makeup colored from fruit, vegetable, tea, and other plant pigments packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and other healthy nutrients.
Avene’s makeup line is specially formulated for sensitive skin, using thermal spring water to soothe and soften the skin.
Cover FX products are free from the ‘Inflammatory 5’: mineral oil, fragrance, gluten, parabens, and talc.
Dermablend offers high-coverage makeup suitable for sensitive skin and is dermatologist recommended.
Known for its gentle and safe products, Physicians Formula creates makeup for delicate skin and eyes.
This mineral makeup brand focuses on clean, natural ingredients and offers an extensive range of products designed for sensitive skin.
Additional makeup tips for sensitive skin
When it comes to sensitive skin, the key is to be gentle, patient, and consistent. Here are some tips to keep your skin feeling its best at all times — whether you are applying makeup or not,
Always patch test
Even if it’s universally known as the best foundation for sensitive skin, it’s worth going the extra mile by conducting a patch test for allergic reactions before trying out a new makeup product. Apply a small amount of the product on your wrist or behind your ear and wait 24 hours to see if any irritation occurs.
Avoid hot water
Hot water can strip your skin of natural oils, causing dryness, irritation, and other skin reactions. Take off your makeup with lukewarm water instead.
Apply a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen with at least SPF 30 daily. Remember to reapply every two hours and wear a hat and sunglasses for added sun protection.
Drinking plenty of water helps to maintain healthy, supple skin. Also, incorporate a good moisturizer into your routine, preferably with hyaluronic acid, which helps retain moisture.
Get your beauty sleep
Adequate sleep is essential for healthy skin. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality shut-eye each night.
Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, or meditation to keep stress levels in check. Remember, a calm mind (usually) leads to calm skin.
Consult a professional
Seek advice from a dermatologist if you need clarification on your skin’s needs or help with persistent sensitivity.
What is sensitive skin?
But what is sensitive skin? And why does it happen?
Sensitive skin is just what it sounds like: Skin that reacts quickly to certain ingredients or environments, causing redness, inflammation, stinging, burning, rashes, or itching.
This can be triggered by several factors, like the following.
Skincare and makeup products
Harsh chemicals, fragrances, and alcohol in skincare products can cause redness, itching, and burning.
Sun exposure, cold temperatures, and pollution can lead to dryness and irritation.
High-stress levels can trigger inflammatory responses, leading to breakouts and increased sensitivity.
Individuals with specific skin conditions, such as eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, or allergic contact dermatitis, may also experience increased sensitivity.
Ditto for acne-prone skin that has been dealing with strong active ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
I had super sensitive skin for months after my cancer surgery and radiation. I switched to more gentle brands like Clinique, IT Cosmetics, Le Roche-Posay, Bare Minerals, and Tower 28 Beauty!
Weakened skin barrier
The skin’s outermost layer, the stratum corneum, functions as a barrier that retains moisture and shields the skin from harmful irritants, allergens, and bacteria.
When this barrier is compromised (due to harsh products, environmental toxins, stress, or hormonal changes), it reduces the skin’s ability to protect itself from external aggressors.
A compromised barrier makes the skin more reactive to everyday stressors, such as common allergens, temperature fluctuations, cosmetics, and pollutants, ultimately leading to sensitivity, redness, and discomfort.
With passing years, our skin undergoes various changes, including decreased production of collagen and elastin, which leads to thinning and less resilience. This can make it more sensitive to irritants and environmental stressors.
And then, some of us inherit thinner skin, which is more susceptible to irritants and allergens (thank you, grandma!).
FAQs: Makeup for sensitive skin
These are the most frequently asked questions about makeup for sensitive skin.
Can I wear makeup with sensitive skin?
You can wear makeup even with sensitive skin, but choosing products carefully is essential. Opt for hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and fragrance-free makeup that is less likely to trigger an adverse reaction. Conducting a patch test before applying a new product to your face is also advisable.
How do you prepare sensitive skin before makeup?
Start by cleansing gently with a hypoallergenic cleanser, then apply a moisturizer suitable for sensitive skin. My favorite? The Avene Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream — it’s instant comfort in a tube! Consider using a hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic primer to create a smooth base for your makeup.
Is powder foundation better for sensitive skin?
In general, mineral powder foundations can be a good choice for sensitive skin as they tend to be free from potentially irritating additives and fragrances. They also provide a light, breathable coverage that doesn’t clog pores, making them suitable for sensitive skin.
What ingredients should I avoid in makeup products if I have sensitive skin?
Avoid makeup with fragrances, parabens, sulfates, and certain alcohols, as these can be irritating. Instead, opt for products with simple, hypoallergenic ingredients.
How can I remove makeup without irritating my sensitive skin?
A: Use a gentle, fragrance-free makeup remover or micellar water. Avoid scrubbing the skin; instead, softly wipe or pat away makeup. Always follow up with a hydrating moisturizer.
Is it safe to use organic or natural makeup on sensitive skin?
While organic or natural makeup can be less irritating for some, it’s not always the case. Certain natural ingredients, like essential oils and witch hazel, can still cause reactions in sensitive skin. Always do a patch test first.