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The Complete Guide to Makeup for Sensitive Skin

The Complete Guide to Makeup for Sensitive Skin

If your skin tends to be sensitive, trying new makeup products can be a little nerve-racking. When searching for the next addition to your cosmetics collection, you might also be asking yourself one or more of these questions:

For products that cover a lot of your face—think foundation, powder, concealer and blush—using formulas created with sensitive skin in mind can go a long way to curb irritation. To get a better handle on the best makeup for sensitive skin, we’ll walk you through five key labeling terms that you should know and understand before you make your next purchase: hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, paraben-free and mineral-based. We’ll also share some of our favorite product picks!

What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?

Because this term isn’t regulated by the FDA, it doesn’t have a standard definition that all cosmetics companies are required to adhere to when using it on labeling. “The word ‘hypoallergenic’ can actually mean a variety of things from company to company,” says board-certified dermatologist and LovelySkin CEO Dr. Joel Schlessinger. “Companies tend to use it to indicate that a product is less likely to irritate your skin versus other products, but I always go by the manufacturer to be assured that it is true. Good companies are honest, while others can stretch the truth.” Suffice it to say, there's no reason to avoid makeup that's labeled hypoallergenic; just keep in mind that the word in itself is not a guarantee against an allergic reaction.

What Does Non-Comedogenic Mean?

Ready for a little vocab lesson? Comedogenic means “causing comedones,” which is medical-speak for clogged pores. So if a product is non-comedogenic, that means it is less likely to clog your pores, irritating your skin and causing breakouts. If your skin is acne-prone, using makeup that is non-comedogenic may help cut down on acne flare-ups.

If you are shopping for makeup for sensitive skin, it's a good idea to take a second look at ingredient labels and steer clear of ingredients that are comedogenic. Some common ones are coconut oil, almond oil, lanolin and fatty acids such as isopropyl palmitate and octyl palmitate. However, there’s no need to avoid oils altogether, since oils such as jojoba, safflower, sunflower and castor oil are all non-comedogenic.

Why Should I Care About Fragrance-Free Makeup?

Fragrances in cosmetics are the biggest cause of dermatitis, an allergic skin reaction. Here’s a pro tip from Dr. Schlessinger that will help you on your quest for the best makeup for sensitive skin: “When you see ‘fragrance’ listed on an ingredient list, it could literally mean anything,” he says. “That’s because current laws do not require companies to disclose what ingredients are in a fragrance. You can also have products that claim to be fragrance-free, but sneak in fragrance in other ingredients where it doesn't 'count.'”

Shopping for cosmetics that are fragrance-free can help reduce the number of unknown ingredients in makeup you're using that could be potentially irritating to your sensitive skin.

What the Deal With Paraben-Free Makeup?

Parabens typically refer to preservatives designed to help keep cosmetics or other beauty products fresh and free of bacteria. It’s possible for you to be allergic to or irritated by makeup with parabens, but for all the buzz out there about whether or not to avoid parabens, it’s a pretty uncommon allergy from a medical standpoint. "Many companies have moved away from parabens due to concerns about hormone disruption, but the ingredients they moved to were even worse and often caused terrible allergies and didn't provide a decent shelf-life for products," Dr. Schlessinger says. "Suffice it to say, there isn't a perfect answer at this time to whether paraben-free is good, bad or even possible in all products."

Is Mineral-Based Makeup the Best Makeup for Sensitive Skin?

This is a great term to look for on your search for the best makeup for sensitive skin. Mineral-based makeup typically refer to cosmetics made from finely milled minerals such as mica or zinc, titanium and iron oxides. Mineral-based makeup is usually non-comedogenic (hey, there’s that word again!) and generally more gentle on the skin. When it comes to makeup with sunscreen, mineral-based sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreens, are typically less likely to irritate skin over chemical-based sunscreens.

6 Dermatologist-Recommended Makeup Products for Sensitive Skin

1. Glo Skin Beauty Redness Relief Powder

Glo Skin Beauty Redness Relief Powder

This translucent powder is a serious multitasker. In addition to giving your skin the appearance of a smoother finish, it also sets your makeup for long-lasting wear while helping to reduce redness in sensitive skin thanks to its ingredients: honeysuckle, zinc oxide and caffeine.

All Glo Skin Beauty products are made without common irritants, such as talc, sulfates or parabens, which makes this powder a great everyday choice for those dealing with sensitive skin, redness and rosacea or skin that’s acne-prone.

2. Avene High Protection Tinted Compact SPF 50

Avene High Protection Tinted Compact SPF 50

A specialist in gentle products, Avene created this tinted SPF 50 cream specifically with sensitive skin in mind.

It combines the broad-spectrum protection of mineral-based sunscreen (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) with the skin-perfecting powers of a BB cream, all contained in a convenient compact with a puff for easy application. It’s mineral-based, non-comedogenic and water-resistant, making it a smart choice for beach trips or sports.

3. Dermablend Cover Care Concealer

Dermablend Cover Care Concealer

Whatever imperfections you are looking to cover, from acne scars to dark under-eye circles, you can count on this concealer to do the job without irritating your sensitive skin.

This non-comedogenic formula is also incredibly long-lasting, waterproof and transfer-resistant, so you can be assured it will stay put. As an added bonus, this product is also 100% vegan-friendly.

4. Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation

Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation

If your skin sensitivity is caused by a skin condition such as eczema, rosacea or psoriasis, we have good news for you. This paraben-free foundation with a soothing aloe gel base was created specifically with these conditions in mind.

The airless pump packaging helps keep the product fresh without the use of harsh preservatives, which translates to less possible irritation for your sensitive skin.

5. jane iredale PurePressed Blush

jane iredale PurePressed Blush

This classic pressed powder blush is the perfect addition to your makeup collection if you have skin that's easily irritated. Dedicated to creating non-comedogenic products safe for sensitive skin, jane iredale makeup features formulas with no synthetic fragrance or parabens.

The Pure Pressed Blush is available in an array of color choices ranging from golden Copper Wind to soft pink Cherry Blossom and deep, rich Mocha.

6. Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Color Balm

Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Color Balm

For adding subtle color to your cheeks, lips or eyelids, reach for this multitasking balm that comes in three rosy shades: blush, berry and bronze.

In addition to containing jojoba esters and squalane, which help hydrate skin, this formula is also oil-free and non-comedogenic. For extra sun protection, this balm also features Colorescience’s EnviroScreen technology, a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen powered by zinc oxide.

Are you looking for ideas on how to wear makeup under a face mask? Visit the LovelySkin blog for all our advice on mask-friendly makeup.

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