The Best Makeup For People With Sensitive, Easily Irritated Skin
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If you have sensitive skin, you probably funnel most of your time, attention, and money toward cultivating a safe skin care routine. Which leaves very little time, attention, and money for that other thing you put all over your face: makeup — aka an equally prime opportunity to trigger some kind of reaction. That's why it's important to make sure you're using only the best makeup for sensitive skin, like the 12 products featured ahead. They're all free of the most common potential irritants (like artificial fragrance and parabens), but they don’t sacrifice things like performance, longevity, or ease of application.
When you’re looking for sensitive skin-safe makeup, one tip is to opt for products with fewer ingredients. That’s a pretty safe sign that there aren’t many (or any) sneaky additives hiding in the formula. Also, look for products that are hypoallergenic, or explicitly state that they’ve been dermatologist-, ophthalmologist, allergy-, or sensitive skin-tested. Sticking with brands that also manufacture clean skin care products is often a safe bet, too.
All that said, the absolute safest product is the one that’s been approved by your dermatologist. That’s especially important if you have an underlying skin condition, like eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, or a serious allergy. But if you’re looking for a starting point, whether for a particular product or a new go-to brand, scroll on for the best makeup for sensitive skin, as vetted by me, your reactive-skin-sufferer in arms.
1. The Best Primer
Sensitive skin, in a maxim: The more I put on my face, the worse it feels. Which means primers, seemingly superfluous as they are, generally get the boot. Unless it’s this one from TULA, which feels more like a creamy serum than it does a primer. In here, superfoods like chia and licorice root promote a brighter complexion, while probiotics fortify your skin’s natural protective barrier to prevent redness, breakouts, and other forms of inflammation from occurring over time. In the short-term, it gives your skin a radiant, soft-focused finish. I’ve folded it into my skin care routine, even on no-makeup days.
- Free from: parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, petrolatum, formaldehyde, formaldehyde releasing preservatives, triclosan, retinol, gluten, fragrance
2. The Best Tinted Moisturizer
Like the TULA primer, this bareMinerals tinted moisturizer feels more like a skin care product than makeup. After Dr. Jart’s BB cream, it’s the most lightweight and hydrating tinted moisturizer I’ve tried; but bareMinerals’ range has 20 shades (most of which you can get on Amazon), as opposed to Dr. Jart’s three, which is frankly nonsensical. Beyond the impressive shade range, there’s a lot to love about this best-seller: in the formula, squalane and hyaluronic acid impart non-greasy hydration, titanium dioxide offers itch-free sun protection, and it’s non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic, to name just a few of its virtues. It's surprisingly buildable, too, so the coverage can almost approximate a traditional foundation.
- Free from: parabens, gluten, fragrance, talc, PEGs
3. The Best Liquid Foundation
The term “full coverage foundation” may have you recoiling in horror. But I (and, more helpfully, dermatologists) assure you that this Dermablend foundation is safe for vulnerable skin types — it’s been allergy-tested, tested by doctors, and sensitive-skin tested. Beyond that, you only need to use a few drops of this super-concentrated pigment to get some serious mileage, so you’ll end up applying less product on your face than you may fear. Consider mixing a drop or two in with your favorite moisturizer for easier application and more natural-looking coverage. Note that the formula contains dimethicone, so avoid this product if you have a known sensitivity or allergy to it.
- Free from: fragrance, triclosan, phthalates, oil, parabens
4. The Best Powder Foundation
Mineral makeup is one the safest choices for people with reactive skin, since it's super gentle and unlikely to contain common, chemical irritants. Minerals work differently than liquids or creams, too — they create a gossamer-thin veil over your skin, rather than sinking right into it, so they won’t clog your pores. This INIKA mineral powder foundation in particular gets amazing reviews for its flawless coverage, staying power, and truly weightless feel. Plus, it only contains five ingredients — mica, iron oxides, ultramarines, and titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for sun protection — so you know exactly what’s going on your face.
- Free from: petrochemicals, mineral oil, talc, parabens, GMOs, fragrance, synthetic dyes, gluten, PEGs
5. The Best Setting Powder
Use this ultra fine, silky-smooth Juice Beauty finishing powder to set your makeup, absorb any excess oil, and/or impart a soft, radiant finish to your makeup or bare skin. Weirdly, this powder actually works to improve your skin’s hydration levels, thanks to the brand’s exclusive, oxymoronic Moisture Powder Blend of glycerin, betaine, and phospholipids. Fun fact: Some of the ingredients are certified organic and cultivated on the brand’s own, sustainable farm in California.
- Free from: parabens, petroleum, propylene or butylene glycol, pesticides, phthalates, synthetic dyes, fragrance
6. The Best Eyeshadow
Because skin sensitivity is an equal opportunist, you likely need to keep your eyes just as protected from redness, irritation, allergies, et cetera as the rest of your face. This jane iredale eyeshadow is straight-up gorgeous, non-irritating formula notwithstanding. These intensely pigmented shadows apply and blend like butter, don’t crease, and are mineral-based, so they're super gentle and comfortable to wear. These pretty little singles are available in 18 colors, ranging from neutrals (like bone white and pinky nude) to brights (purple, aqua), and they come in either matte or shimmery finishes.
- Free from: parabens, talc, phthalates, fragrance, GMOs, gluten
7. The Best Mascara
Not only is this Honest Beauty mascara one of the safest mascara options out there, thanks to its seal of approval from dermatologists and opthamologists, but it’s also a total multitasker. And we’re all contractually obligated to like multitaskers. There’s a lash primer on one end and a mascara on the other, so you have fewer excuses not to use the former — which, much like a foundation primer, really, truly makes a difference in your makeup’s intensity and longevity. Amazon reviewers stand by the formula’s lengthening, lash-defining effects, and they confirm that the pigment doesn’t smudge, transfer, or flake.
- Free from: parabens, paraffins, silicones, mineral oil, fragrance
8. The Best Eyeliner
If you have sensitive eyes, there is nothing scarier than putting a semi-sharp object of questionable origin right near your eyeballs. This gentle, ophthalmologist-tested Almay eye pencil makes that prospect a lot more palatable. Vitamin E helps create a smooth, creamy consistency that glides on easily, so no need to pull or tug at your eyes. Plus, the mechanical packaging means you never need to deal with those terrifying jagged edges that crop up from an inexpert sharpening job. It’s not the most intense or long-lasting eyeliner pencil in existence, but it is one of the few that’s genuinely hypoallergenic.
- Free from: fragrance, oil
9. The Best Powder Blush
Another mineral powder formula with an extremely short, easily identifiable list of ingredients for your consideration: Alima Pure blush. A blend of three, finely milled minerals deliver a lit-from-within glow and generally make you look like the happiest version of yourself possible. It comes in 13 shades, in either matte or shimmery finishes, to suit every skin tone under the sun.
- Free from: nuts, gluten, fragrance, silicone, parabens, synthetic dyes, phthalates, dimethicone, talc, bismuth oxychloride, nanoparticles
10. The Best Tint
Beyond being beautiful and creamy and radiant, HAN Skincare’s cheek and lip tint is one of the few cosmetics that can honestly claim to be all natural. Everything in here is plant- or mineral-derived, from the shea butter, coconut cream, and argan oil, which give this tint its smooth, creamy consistency, to the beetroot and cherry powders that replace synthetic dyes. No wonder this versatile, nourishing tint gets an almost-perfect rating from nearly 2,000 reviewers on Amazon.
- Free from: parabens, GMOs, silicones, bismuth oxychloride, phthalates, petrochemicals, fragrance, BHT/BHA, coal tar dyes, mineral oil, carmine, animal fats, dimethicone, talc
11. The Best Bronzer
Physicians Formula is the go-to drugstore brand for folks with sensitive skin, particularly those prone to allergies (the brand was founded by an allergist), though they’re probably best known for their high-performing bronzers and highlighters. This cult-favorite butter bronzer sells out all the time, though you can grab three shades on Amazon right now. The unique, powdery cream consistency (or creamy powder, if you prefer) absolutely melts into your skin, without clogging your pores. Plus, it’s packed with nourishing fatty acids and pro-vitamins, thanks to a trio of plant-derived butters, so your skin will feel genuinely smoother and more nourished, in addition to looking naturally bronzed. And like all Physicians Formula products, it’s hypoallergenic and dermatologist-tested.
- Free from: parabens, gluten, oil, 150+ known skin irritants
12. The Best Setting Spray
Spritz on this boscia setting spray to protect your makeup from smudging or running throughout the day, keep excess oil firmly curbed for hours, or give your skin/soul a little pick-me-up. It’s powered by a trio of beloved J-beauty ingredients: Binchotan white charcoal works to lightly mattify shine and balance your skin’s moisture content; artichoke leaf extract helps minimize the appearance of enlarged pores; and antioxidant-rich black tea protects your skin from free radical damage. Obviously, this is a natural choice for people with oily skin; but the mist is light and fresh, so it feels comfortable on combination skin, too.
- Free from: preservatives, gluten, fragrance, dyes
That said, if your skin is dry, or if you prefer a dewy finish, consider the Neutrogena Healthy Skin Radiant Makeup Setting Spray — the only setting spray I will ever use on my own sensitive skin. The cooling, hydrating feel is unparalleled, and like all Neutrogena products, it’s formulated from a skin care perspective. It does contain fragrance, however, so it may not be the best choice if you have very reactive skin, or a known allergy to fragrance. (Though my skin loves it!)