Finding makeup for sensitive skin isn’t without its challenges. Whether you have something more complex like a specific condition or just experience general irritation after applying foundation, it can be tough to pinpoint what exactly makes your delicate outer layer tick. And don’t even get me started on additional skincare products like serums—that’s a whole other ball game.
First things first, it’s important to understand what it really means when a beauty product is labeled as hypoallergenic. According to Kaveri Karhade, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in the San Francisco Bay Area, this term is extremely broad. “There are so many different types of allergens out there, and some may be allergic or sensitive to some ingredients, while others are sensitive to different ingredients,” she says. “It would be impossible for there to truly be a completely allergen-free product.”
This is why it’s paramount that you see a dermatologist or doctor if you’re noticing any extreme reactions to certain products. A proper allergy test can help you pinpoint exactly what ingredient(s) may be triggering irritation for you. Some common allergens for those who experience this include fragrances, essential oils, preservatives, AHAs, and sometimes chemical sunscreens. That being said, there are still plenty of rock-star makeup brands out there that do their best to formulate their products without common allergens known to cause a reaction. If that sounds like it’s up your alley, take a look below at some of the most sensitive skin–friendly makeup brands out there on the market that are backed by skincare experts.
Two board-certified dermatologists, Marisa Garshick, MD, and Karhade, agree that Colorscience is a great brand for allergy-friendly makeup and skincare. “[It] uses mineral SPF filters and other ingredients that are gentle on the skin,” Garshick says. “It’s great for all skin types really but especially for those with sensitive skin.” The brand also prides itself on creating products without harmful fillers, which can cause inflammation in the skin. Its SPF products both shield from damaging UV rays and provide light-to-medium color coverage.
Recommended by Garshick, VMV Hypoallergenics is a great option for those who are allergic or sensitive to common ingredients in other beauty products. “They offer a wide range of products, including cosmetics, that have been shown to be free of most or all of the 109 most common allergens frequently found in cosmetics and use a grading system to help guide consumers,” she shares. “It’s [also] a great pick for those dealing with allergic contact dermatitis.”
As the very first makeup brand to follow the National Eczema Association’s ingredient guidelines, Tower 28 simply had to be on this list. Founder Amy Liu dealt with severe eczema most of her adult life and created the sensitive skin–friendly brand because she couldn’t find makeup she trusted for her skin. The brand avoids ingredients like essential oils, synthetic fragrances, and other potential irritants to produce makeup that’s friendly to even the most sensitive complexion.
Liu also loves Saint Jane Beauty for its focus on products that are gentle on sensitive skin. Its cult-loved Hydrating Petal Cream is a great option pre-makeup, but the brand also carries a few luxe lip shades that are rich in soothing botanicals.
Both Karhade and Garshick always recommend BareMinerals. Garshick shares that “these makeup formulations use natural minerals, which are thought to be gentle on the skin and less likely to lead to irritation.” There’s an array of options for a tender complexion in need of extra TLC. It offers noncomedogenic and lightweight formulas that leave skin looking ultra smooth.
Karhade also loves suggesting Jane Iredale products to those with skin sensitivities. The brand combines skin boosters with potent natural ingredients to soothe your delicate outer layer. It also partners with a variety of skincare experts including dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and estheticians to make sure its makeup is sensitivity-tested.
Although Dermacol isn’t strictly a hypoallergenic brand, it has a few noteworthy and sensitive skin–friendly options. Its products labeled as hypoallergenic are clinically tested and free of preservatives and parabens. The brand’s foundations are also known for providing full, professional-level coverage. Its Make Up Covers conceal scars, color-correct, and brighten—all for a killer price.
Another favorite of Garshick’s, Wander Beauty excels at making multitasking beauty products with clean, natural ingredients. Not everything the brand carries is specifically made for sensitive skin, but it still has a great selection for those who have it. By formulating without common ingredients known to cause flare-ups, it provides a great springboard for the sensitive folks who could use fewer irritating products. Garshick’s especially a fan of the foundation, which you can shop below.
“It’s particularly useful for someone with sensitive skin, as it delivers a natural matte finish without drying out the skin. It’s free of mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, and synthetic fragrance while also being gluten-free and vegan-friendly.”
Youngblood emphasizes the use of minerals in its cosmetics, a gentler approach to product formulation that’s ideal for sensitive skin. If you’re allergic to chemical sunscreens, the foundations this brand carries optimize minerals, such titanium dioxide, that will still help shield you from the sun’s rays.
Almay prides itself on using clean ingredients that minimize the risk of irritation. Luckily, it has everything from eyeliner and lipstick to foundation—a one-stop shop for your makeup bag. Its products are also always dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-tested to ensure they’re safe for sensitive skin and eyes.