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For those afflicted with sensitive and easily reactive skin, you can’t be too careful when it comes to keeping your skin in check. Skincare is often the focus, and yes, looking for creams, moisturizers, and serums that help protect your skin barrier (the outermost layer of your skin responsible for keeping moisture in and irritants out), can absolutely make a difference. But contrary to popular belief, the buck doesn’t stop with your skincare stash. The type of makeup you’re using matters, too. It sits atop your skin all day long, exactly as a skincare product would, so why not take advantage of that and opt for a formulation with extra benefits?
Whether you suffer from dryness, redness, itchiness, flaking, inflammation, or all of the above, having an easily irritated complexion can make finding the right products to incorporate into your beauty routine a challenge. Because it’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause of sensitive skin, coming up with an exact solution can be tricky, too. Thankfully, we’ve done the leg work in finding makeup products tailored with the right ingredients to help tame sensitivity and maintain calm, healthy skin.
Ahead, the top makeup products for sensitive skin.
Best Budget: Almay Healthy Glow Foundation Makeup + Gradual Self Tan
It can be admittedly tricky to find a wallet-friendly option for any kind of complexion perfector, much less one that’s not going to irritate sensitive skin. Enter this hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested, fragrance-free option. Not only does it deliver medium coverage, it also has a built-in self-tanner to gradually give your skin a healthy glow over the course of three days. Also nice: It contains all-important SPF, too, derived from non-irritating mineral blockers zinc and titanium dioxide.
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream SPF 30
The number one best-selling prestige tinted moisturizer in the US, this helps boost hydration by over 200 percent. Still, because it does so using plant-based squalene (an ingredient very similar to the natural oils in our skin), and has a gel-like texture, it won’t ever feel greasy or heavy, which may be ideal for oily or acne-prone skin.
It also contains a mineral-based sunscreen (a good choice whether you’re sensitive or want to avoid breakouts or both) and is non-comedogenic so you don’t have to worry about it clogging pores. And because it’s tinted, it’s also perfect for covering up any redness, whether it’s from blemishes or skin sensitivity.
We took this product for a spin. Find out how it went in our Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue review.
Best Natural: Alima Pure Oil Balancing Primer Powder
There’s a long list of what this formula doesn’t contain, namely nuts, gluten, fragrance, silicone, parabens, sulfates, synthetic dyes, phthalates, dimethicone, talc, bismuth oxychloride, and nanoparticles. In fact, it’s so natural that it contains only four ingredients, the first and most important of which being kaolin to absorb oil and help keep your makeup in place all day long.
Best Mineral: Colorscience Natural Finish Pressed Foundation SPF 20
Mineral makeup is often recommended for those dealing with sensitive skin; minerals tend to be fairly innocuous ingredients that are much less likely to cause any kind of allergic reaction than many of the other ingredients found in traditional makeup. This pressed powder is in fact mineral-based, but also earns extra points for containing hydrating natural oils to keep the finish from looking chalky. Free of talc, synthetic dyes, and drying alcohol, it also delivers SPF 20, and looks equally natural whether you apply it with a brush or sponge.
Best Coverage: Dermablend Flawless Creator Lightweight Foundation
Okay, let’s face it, if you have sensitive skin, you’re going to want to cover up unsightly redness at some point. Enter these customizable drops. On the skincare side, they’re dermatologist-, sensitive skin-, and allergy-tested, as well as non-comedogenic and vegan.
On the makeup side, they contain 33 percent concentrated pigments that you can easily mix into any moisturizer, serum, or sunscreen you’re already using (lowering the likelihood of any kind of reaction, since the fewer products you use, the less likely you are to react to something). Add one drop for sheer coverage, or up to four for maximum coverage. And with 20 different shades available, there’s an option for any and every skin tone.
Best Mascara: Clinique High Impact Mascara
In talking about sensitive skin makeup, you can’t forget about mascara. After all, sensitivity around the eyes is super common, and it can be tricky to find eye products that don’t exacerbate this irritation. Just like many of Clinique’s skincare products are meant for sensitive skin sufferers, so is this mascara. It’s ophthalmologist- and allergy-tested, and safe and non-irritating for anyone with sensitive eyes and even contact lens wearers; it’s also free of mineral oil and fragrance. Plus, the formula pumps up both length and volume, while also defining each and every lash.
What Our Testers Say
"My lashes have never looked longer than when using the High Impact Mascara; it’s safe to say this product lives up to its name. The formula held a curl in my eyelashes throughout the day and didn’t succumb to flaking or fallout—raccoon eyes just are not in style right now." — Nicole Pulyado, Product Tester
Best Eye Shadow: RMS Beauty Eye Polish
These shadows (which comes in a bunch of shades) are worked into the skin like a moisturizer—as they have all the benefits of raw mineral pigments without the dry, flaky effect. The coolest thing, though, is that it can double as an eye cream to hydrate the delicate skin on your lids. If you have dry eyes that are sensitive to most shadows, this is the one for you.
Best Primer: MAKE Beauty Moonlight Primer
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and one of the most critical vitamins for biological function. Our skin is an important natural reservoir for its production, triggered by UV light into synthesis. The vitamin helps protect the skin, decreases inflammation, and normalizes cell production.
This innovative primer helps protect against the skin damage caused by your laptop and iPhone. It’s chock-full of vitamin D and marine algae to keep pollution and free radicals away from your skin. Plus, it won’t irritate your skin. Buh-bye, redness.
Best Serum Foundation: Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum Foundation
Made with ingredients including vitamins and fruit skin, this formula is an instant anti-fatigue treatment that easily glides over the skin and blends. It’s non-comedogenic, super light, and leaves a glowy finish.
What To Look For in Sensitive Skin Makeup
If you decide to opt for a foundation containing SPF, ensure it contains sunscreens that are known to not irritate sensitive skin, such as zinc and titanium dioxide. (These the two actives commonly found in mineral sunscreen.)
Mineral-based pigments have long been respected for their ability to impart coverage and luminosity without irritating skin, so when choosing makeup for sensitive skin, consider those containing mineral-based ingredients at the top of your list.
The tendency to be sensitive doesn’t just apply to skin—vulnerable areas like the eyes are also prone to their fair share of sensitivity. That doesn’t mean expressive eye makeup is out of the question, thanks to a variety of formulations that are developed without potential irritants and which contain soothing, hydrating ingredients to keep eyes calm.
Which type of makeup is best for sensitive skin?
When shopping for makeup that is safe to use on sensitive skin, search for products that are specifically formulated for it. This applies to all categories including face makeup like foundation, concealer, powder, and highlighters, eye makeup and even lipstick. Be on the lookout for such tags as dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free, to name a few.
Is makeup bad for sensitive skin?
If you have highly-reactive skin, it’s okay to wear makeup, but avoid a number of potentially-irritating ingredients such as added fragrance, which may aggravate skin. Also, opt for products that were developed with sensitive skin in mind (they may contain ingredients to help calm and protect skin’s barrier). If you have any doubts, it’s best to talk to a dermatologist first.
How do you get makeup off sensitive skin?
Those with sensitive skin should use cleansers and makeup removers formulated with gentle ingredients to help remove makeup from skin without causing irritation.
Aranow C. Vitamin D and the Immune System. J Investig Med. 2011;59(6):881-886. doi:10.2310/JIM.0b013e31821b8755