The 12 Best Makeup Products That Won't Irritate Sensitive Skin of 2023

Our favorite is Estee Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Foundation

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Those with sensitive or easily reactive skin can’t be too careful when it comes to keeping their complexion in check. Skincare is often the focus, with creams, moisturizers, and serums that help protect the skin barrier (the outermost layer of the skin responsible for keeping moisture in and irritants out). But the buck doesn’t stop with skincare. Makeup matters, too.

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Our best overall pick is Estee Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Foundation SPF 45, which is full of hydrating ingredients but free from parabens, phthalates, alcohol, and mineral oil.  We also love  Alima Pure Oil Balancing Primer Powder which controls shine and keeps makeup set all day with just a few all-natural ingredients safe for sensitive skin.

Whether you suffer from dryness, redness, itchiness, flaking, inflammation, or all of the above, having an easily irritated complexion can make finding the right beauty products a challenge. “In general, avoid products that are heavily fragranced, and be sure to keep your skin well-moisturized all year long—strategically layer moisturizing products underneath your makeup,” offers board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman.  

Because it’s often hard to pinpoint the specific cause of sensitive skin, coming up with an exact solution can be tricky. But we’ve done the legwork to find makeup products formulated with the right ingredients to help tame sensitivity and maintain calm, healthy skin.

Here, we have distilled the top makeup products for sensitive skin.

Best Overall

Estée Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Foundation SPF 45

4.7
Estee Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Foundation SPF 45

Ulta

What We Like
  • Lightweight and breathable yet ultra hydrating

  • Covers imperfections without weighing down skin

  • Clean ingredients

What We Don’t Like
  • Not cruelty free

This foundation seems to do it all: It’s makeup, skincare, and sunscreen. Dr. Dendy Engelman favors this foundation because she says, “It provides great buildable coverage while nourishing the skin with soothing ingredients.” Dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-tested, it’s formulated specifically for sensitive skin with key ingredients—like chia-seed extract, vitamin E, and ion-charged water complex—for hydrating, nourishing, and soothing even the most acne-prone skin. Clinical testing demonstrates it alleviates visible redness and irritation, protects against pollution with antioxidants, and offers ultra-moisturization that’s felt instantly and seems to last all day. As a foundation, it helps to even out skin tone and covers dark spots and imperfections with buildable coverage that results in a natural-looking yet radiant finish. What’s more, it’s formulated free of parabens, phthalates, alcohol, and mineral oil; it comes in 28 shades to suit a variety of skin tones; and it works well on mature skin, as it does not settle into fine lines and wrinkles. What else can someone with sensitive skin possibly want in one product?

Price at time of publish: $51

Active Ingredients: Salvia Hispanica Seed (Chia Seed) Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Phenyl Trimethicone | Coverage: Medium to Full | Finish: Radiant  | Size: 1.2 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Budget

Almay Healthy Glow Foundation Makeup + Gradual Self Tan

Almay Healthy Glow Makeup & Gradual Self-Tan

Walmart

What We Like
  • Creamy texture that goes on easily and blends well

  • Self-tanner shows visible results in three days

  • Includes SPF 20

What We Don’t Like
  • The pump doesn’t always work

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.

Price at time of publish: $4

Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 7.0%, Titanium Dioxide 7.1%, Zinc Oxide 4.2% | Coverage: Medium | Shades: 2, Fair/medium, medium | Finish: Natural | Size: 1.0 oz.  | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Acne-Prone Skin

bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream SPF 30

4.9
bare minerals complexion rescue

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Water-based, lightweight, and feels refreshing

  • Contains non-chemical, mineral-based SPF 30

  • Recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation

  • Comes in more than 20 shades

What We Don’t Like
  • Some say it doesn't work well on oily or mature skin

This oil-free, tinted moisturizer really packs a punch of hydration. Made with plant-based squalene (a lipid similar to the natural oils in our skin), marine botanicals, and coconut-derived ingredients, and formulated without parabens, binders, or fillers, it’s lightweight and won’t feel greasy or heavy—ideal for oily or acne-prone skin. It promotes the skin’s natural balance with potassium and mineral electrolytes, calcium, and magnesium components. It also contains a mineral-based sunscreen (a good choice whether you’re sensitive or want to avoid breakouts or both). And because it’s tinted, it also helps cover up redness from blemishes or skin sensitivity. Engelman advises how to apply a product like this gel-cream tint so as not to irritate sensitive or inflamed skin. “Pat on your moisturizer or makeup,” she offers, “instead of rubbing, which can increase redness.”

We took this product for a spin. Find out how it went in our Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue review.

Price at time of publish: $30

Active Ingredients:  Titanium dioxide 6.2% | Coverage: Sheer-to-medium | Shades: 20+ | Size: 1.18 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Natural

Alima Pure Oil Balancing Primer Powder

Alima Pure Balancing Primer Powder

Alima

What We Like
  • All-natural ingredients

  • Controls shine

  • Keeps skin looking fresh and not greasy

  • Woman-founded, woman-run, carbon-neutral business

What We Don’t Like
  • Some say it’s too sheer

  • Only comes in three shades

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 is kaolin to absorb oil and help keep your makeup in place all day long. Apply this powder beneath your foundation to control shine, and because it’s so lightweight you won’t feel like you have layers of makeup caked on. The simple formula with all-natural ingredients makes this product a winner for those with acne-prone skin.

Price at time of publish: $16

Active Ingredients:  Kaolin, Mica, Zinc Oxide, Iron Oxides | Coverage: Sheer | Shades: 3: light, medium, deep | Size: 0.16 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Derm-Approved

La Mer Soft Fluid Long Wear Foundation SPF 20

La Mer Soft Fluid Long Wear Foundation SPF 20

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Lightweight formula with buildable coverage

  • Stays on all day—in any weather

  • Comes in more than 25 shades

  • Contains SPF 20

What We Don’t Like
  • Has a strong scent

  • Can settle into lines of mature skin

This splurge-worthy foundation goes on silky and stays put on your face all day—even in humidity. Dermatologist Dendy Engelman recommends this product for sensitive skin and says she loves it because it’s super sheer and natural looking. It provides nourishing coverage that helps to soften fine lines and diminish pores and imperfections. Free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, formaldehyde, mineral oil, hydroquinone, and triclosan, this foundation is packed with antioxidants and contains SPF to boot.

Price at time of publish: $140

Active Ingredients:  Octinoxate 7.5%, Titanium Dioxide 1.9% | Coverage: Medium | Finish: Natural | Shades: 27  | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Mineral

Colorscience Natural Finish Pressed Foundation SPF 20

Colorscience Natural Finish Pressed Foundation SPF 20

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Looks natural and doesn’t feel heavy

  • Goes on and washes off easily

  • Contains SPF 20

  • Water resistant up to 80 minutes

What We Don’t Like
  • Not enough shades

  • Application sponge doesn’t last long

For those with sensitive skin, mineral makeup is often recommended, as minerals are less likely to cause an allergic reaction than many ingredients in traditional makeup. This pressed powder is, ​in fact, mineral-based, but it also earns extra points for containing hydrating natural oils and antioxidants, including carrot seed oil with Omega 3-6-9 and vitamin E that helps protect against free radical damage. Free of talc, synthetic dyes, and alcohol, this vegan foundation also delivers SPF 20, and it looks equally natural whether you apply it with a brush or sponge.

Price at time of publish: $55

Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 21.2%, Zinc Oxide 12.1% | Coverage: Medium-to-full | Finish: Natural | Shades: 8 | Size: 0.42 oz. | Cruelty-Free: yes

Best Coverage

Dermablend Flawless Creator Lightweight Foundation

Dermablend Flawless Creator Multi-Use Liquid Foundation Drops

Ulta

What We Like
  • Made with clean ingredients

  • Non-irritating

  • Buildable coverage

  • Comes in 20 shades

What We Don’t Like
  • It can dry out skin

  • If not applied properly (tapped into skin), it could go on too thick

Let’s face it: If you have sensitive skin, you’re going to want to cover up unsightly redness at some point. Consider these customizable drops that can be used alone or mixed in with any moisturizer, serum, or sunscreen. This foundation contains 33 percent concentrated pigments, so use one drop for sheer coverage on its own, or add up to four drops into your skincare can help create an even natural finish. Comprising only 10 clean ingredients—no parabens, phthalates, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfates, or animal by-products—this oil-free, vegan foundation works well on a variety of skin types to help cover up and even out redness, dark spots, and uneven skin tones. Be sure to apply with a brush, recommends makeup artist Lisa Aharon. “I find using a brush for application to be the least irritating on the complexion,” she says. “The warmth of the fingertips or the stippling of a sponge could potentially add redness to a sensitive face.”

Price at time of publish: $40

Active Ingredients:  Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Isododecane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Silica, Disodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Dimethiconol, Aluminum hydroxide | Coverage: Full coverage | Finish: Natural | Shades: 20 | Size: 1.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Hydrating

Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Hydrating Primer

Laura Mercier Hydrating Foundation Primer

Sephora

What We Like
  • Non-irritating and fragrance free

  • Creamy texture feels more like a lotion than a primer

  • Lightweight and breathable

  • Works on dry skin

What We Don’t Like
  • Not for oily skin

  • T-zone can appear greasy if too much is applied

This super-hydrating primer—made without nasties like parabens, sulfates, and silicone, and containing olive extract marine and hydra botanicals—is a dream for those with extremely dry or sensitive skin, though those with combo and normal skin enjoy its benefits too. Makeup artist Lisa Aharon favors this product for sensitive skin because it’s non-irritating and formulated without fragrance. This water-based primer locks in moisture with a protective barrier on the skin’s surface and create an ideal canvas for even makeup application. And while it’s uber moisturizing and nourishing to the skin, it still feels lightweight and breathable.

Price at time of publish: $42

Ingredients: Olive Extract, Marine Hydra Botanicals, Glycerin | Coverage: sheer | Shades: 1 | Size: 1.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Mascara

Clinique High Impact Mascara

5
Clinique High Impact Mascara

Sephora

What We Like
  • Lash-lengthening plus volumizing formula

  • Non-irritating ingredients

  • Made without parabens and phthalates

What We Don’t Like
  • Messy application

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, 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, adding definition to create notice-me lashes.

Price at time of publish: $23

Active Ingredients: Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Stearic Acid, Silica |  Shades: 2, black and black/brown | Size: 0.28 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No

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

RMS Beauty Eye Polish

Amazon

What We Like
  • Long lasting and doesn’t smudge

  • Moisturizing and soothing

  • Made with raw, food-grade organic ingredients

  • Eco-friendly manufacturing processes

What We Don’t Like
  • The texture of the different shades vary

  • Some users complain the product drying up quickly

These shadows (which come 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. With excellent staying power, it doesn’t smudge off after hours of wear. If you have dry eyes that are sensitive to most shadows, this is the one for you.

Active Ingredients: Coconut Oil, Beeswax, Jojoba Seed Oil, Cocoa Seed Butter, Tocopherol (non-GMO), Rosemary Extract | Coverage: Sheer | Finish: Metallic, light-reflective | Shades: 6  | Size: 0.15 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Blush

Chantecaille Cheek Gelée Hydrating Gel Cream Blush

Chantecaille Cheek Gelee Hydrating Gel Cream Blush

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Can be used on cheeks and eyes

  • Easy application

  • Staying power

  • Free of harmful ingredients

What We Don’t Like
  • Only comes in 3 colors

  • Can be too sheer

A little goes a long way with this hydrating gel-cream blush that’s the best of an emulsion plus stain—just a drop offers rich, vibrant pigment plus luminosity for a healthy glow. Dermatologist and allergy tested, it’s free of all the ingredients you don’t want—parabens, sulfates, phthalates, synthetic dyes, mineral oil, palm oil, and fragrance. Makeup artist Lisa Aharon favors this product because she says fragrance- and oil-free formulas are best for acne-prone skin.

Price at time of publish: $48

Active Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Butylene Glycol, Vinyl Dimethicone, Magnesium Sulfate, Glycerin, Sodium Citrate, Silica | Coverage: Sheer | Shades: 3 | Size: 0.73 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Serum Foundation

Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum Foundation

bourjois-healthy-mix-serum-foundation

Amazon

What We Like
  • Applies easily and blends well

  • Lightweight

  • Good value at this price point

What We Don’t Like
  • Not for oily skin

  • Limited shades

Made with ingredients including vitamins and fruit skin from litchi, goji berries, and pomegranates, which aim to combat signs of stress and sleep deprivation, this super-light gel helps to deal with signs of fatigue that may be showing on your face. It easily glides over the skin, blends in well, and helps to perk up your appearance and leave you with a glowy finish.

Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide, Tocopheryl Acetate, Glycerin, Panthenol | Coverage: Light | Finish: Natural | Shades: 6 | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No

Final Verdict

Our best overall pick is Estee Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Foundation SPF 45, which is full of hydrating ingredients including vitamin E to moisturize sensitive skin without irritation. We also love  Alima Pure Oil Balancing Primer Powder to control shine with only a few all-natural ingredients safe for sensitive skin. And we favor RMS Beauty Eye Polish, which has been equated to eye cream for its ultra-hydrating properties.

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Dendy Engelman is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. She is also a member of Byrdie's Review Board.
  • Lisa Aharon is a New York-based celebrity makeup artist who has worked with clients including Florence Welch, Rachel Brosnahan, Anna Kendrick, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Evan Rachel Wood.

What to Look For in Sensitive Skin Makeup

Non-Irritating SPF

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 are the two actives commonly found in mineral sunscreen.)

Minerals

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. 

Eye-Safe Makeup

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. 

Ingredients

Ingredients that are safe for sensitive skin include the following:

  • Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps protect the skin, decrease inflammation, and normalize cell production.
  • Vitamin C (or L-Ascorbic Acid) is a highly effective, widely used, and well-studied antioxidant that can help stimulate collagen production. 
  • Vitamin B3 (or niacinamide) is known for enhancing skin tone and texture, and helping to fade dark marks.
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that also is incredibly moisturizing and helps speed healing.Our best overall pick, Estee Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Foundation SPF 45, is replete with vitamin E.
FAQ
  • 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, highlighters, eye makeup, and even lipstick. Be on the lookout for such tags as dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free, to name a few. 

    “Often, sensitive skin’s biggest issue is a compromised skin barrier,” says board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Dendy Engelman. “Always start with clean skin and hands before applying any products; this will reduce the likelihood of transferring bacteria and other irritants. Also, be sure to clean your makeup applicators (brushes, blenders, etc.) very regularly.”

  • 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 the skin. Also, opt for products that were developed with sensitive skin in mind (they may contain ingredients to help calm and protect the skin’s barrier). If you have any doubts, it’s best to talk to a dermatologist first. When in doubt, talk to a dermatologist first. “When skin is inflamed, only use ingredients for sensitive skin like chamomile, oatmeal, or rose,” urges Engelman.

  • 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 the skin without causing irritation. 

  • How do you use makeup when dealing without breakouts without exacerbating the issue?

    Makeup artist Lisa Aharon advises, “Wear your favorite mineral, fragrance-free, oil-free foundation, or simply use a concealer to cover the spots. But whenever possible, keep your skin clean and moisturized.”

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributing writer Danine Alati has two decades of editorial experience, mainly in the lifestyle and interior design realm. But after interviewing Bobbi Brown for a finance magazine five years ago, her interest in beauty was piqued. As someone who developed super-sensitive skin as an adult—skin is supposed to calm down post-adolescence, no?—she has been trying to tame her complexion for years and was very interested in learning what the experts had to say about the best makeup for sensitive skin.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(2):118-126. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506

  2. Telang PS. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013;4(2):143-146. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.110593

  3. Levin J, Momin SB. How much do we really know about our favorite cosmeceutical ingredients?J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010;3(2):22-41.

  4. Keen MA, Hassan I. Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2016;7(4):311-315. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.185494

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