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If you’ve ever done your makeup and find that your skin itches after applying a new foundation, you likely already know there are plenty of makeup products on the market not suitable for sensitive skin.
But even if you don’t have sensitive skin, you might benefit from hypoallergenic makeup products.
Here, we’ll hear from a dermatologist about what exactly
“[Hypoallergenic] is not a regulated term with respect to labeling laws,” says Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, dermatologist and author of “Beyond Soap.” “What it’s supposed to mean is the product contains fewer ingredients that could potentially cause an allergic reaction — something called allergic contact dermatitis.”
Hypoallergenic makeup is typically gentler on the skin, can often be fragrance-free (as
Sensitive skin is typically skin that’s having a reaction to an ingredient or a new climate. It’s not an official medical term. “Skin sensitivity in medical terms is irritant dermatitis or irritation: redness, stinging, burning, and, in extreme cases, flaky skin,” says Skotnicki.
One of the most common culprits of skin sensitivity and irritation is fragrance. “I recommend brands that are 100 percent fragrance free,” says Skotnicki. Fragrance, however, can be tricky. Some products can contain natural scents or essential oils, like lavender or ylang ylang, and they can still be labelled fragrance-free or unscented.
Ingredients that cause sensitivity or irritation are different than those that cause true allergy. “
If you suspect you have a true allergy to makeup, consider seeking out products that say “allergy-tested” on the label. “Allergy-tested [means] the brand must pass a 50-person Human Repeated Insult Patch Test,” says Ginger King, a cosmetic chemist.
The most common irritants in makeup include:
- fragrance (both synthetic and natural)
- mica, which gives makeup a shimmer
- chemical sunscreens, which are commonly added to face makeup
- certain preservatives, like parabens, diazolidinyl urea, benzyl alcohol, butylparaben, propylparaben, and formaldehyde
- alpha hydroxy acids
- essential oils
All skin is unique and something that irritates one person’s skin may be fine for someone else. However, King says ingredients that are generally pretty gentle for everyone include licorice, chamomile extract, and alpha bisabolol.
“For patients with sensitive skin, I suggest matte makeup, earth tones for eyeshadow (which are often made with minerals), pencils for eyeliner, and foundation without sunscreen or with only mineral sunscreen,” says Skotnicki.
Since hypoallergenic is not a regulated term, it can be challenging to discern which brands are less likely to cause a skin reaction, and which brands use “hypoallergenic” as a buzzword.
The brands on this list are suitable for sensitive skin, made without common irritants, are mineral-based, go through rigorous allergy testing, and are dermatologist-recommended.
- Tarte Cosmetics
- Tower 28 Beauty
- Jane Iredale
- Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics
- VMV Hypoallergenics
With so many gentle makeup products on the market, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are 17 of the best makeup products, brushes, and makeup removers that are gentle enough for everyday use on sensitive skin.
How we chose
The products on this list are dermatologist-tested or ophthalmologist-tested, and are free of known irritants and allergens. This includes parabens, phthalates, talc, and synthetic fragrance.
Many of these products are also made using minerals or botanical ingredients, and some are specifically allergy-tested. The vast majority are cruelty-free and vegan.
We’ve curated a wide range of products with varying price points. For ease of use, and with a wide range of budgets in mind, we’ve indicated cost as follows:
- $ = under $15
- $$ = $16–$30
- $$$ = over $30
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Extension Mascara
This formula is both dermatologist-tested and ophthalmologist-tested to be suitable for sensitive eyes. Plus, it’s fragrance-free and allergy-tested. It’s said to separate evenly for lashes that look super long and fluttery.
Almay Thickening Mascara
Cruelty-free, fragrance-free, ophthalmologist-tested, and dermatologist-tested, this affordable mascara is intended to make lashes look full and thick — with nourishing aloe and vitamin b5.
Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer
Made without irritating ingredients, including parabens, sulfates, and synthetic fragrance, this product has mascara on one side and lengthening primer on the other. It’s made to deliver long, defined lashes without redness or stinging.
Tarte Cosmetics Water Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15
This vegan foundation is made without common irritants, including mineral oil, parabens, and synthetic fragrance. Instead, it features antioxidant-rich marine plant extracts for weightless coverage that is said to brighten up the skin. Plus, it has SPF 15.
bareMinerals Matte Foundation SPF 15
A classic for a reason, this mineral-based loose powder foundation helps even out and mattify oily skin. It contains just seven ingredients, including a non-chemical SPF.
Glo Skin Beauty Oil-Free Camouflage Concealer
Free of talc, parabens, and oil, this cruelty-free concealer is made to provide smooth, even coverage. It also includes skin-nourishing ingredients, like green tea, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
W3ll People Bio Correct Multi-Action Concealer
This concealer is made with caffeine to help depuff tired eyes. It also features brightening and firming ingredients, like aloe vera extract and peptides, for skin that looks even and radiant.
RMS Beauty Eye Polish
Made with a combination of natural pigments, coconut oil, and jojoba oil, this eyeshadow is made to glide on seamlessly without creasing or irritating sensitive eyes. It comes in eight shades, from bold shimmers to earthy neutrals.
Pacifica Beauty Coconut-Infused Mineral Eye Shadows
This versatile eyeshadow palette is vegan, cruelty-free, and formulated without carmine, phthalates, petroleum, or silicone. The velvety formula includes nourishing coconut water, and the shades can build from neutral to bold.
Almay Liquid Eyeliner
Ophthalmologist-tested, this liner is said to not cause irritation. The waterproof formula won’t budge all day, and the flexible tip makes it easier to apply an even line or a winged tip.
Covergirl Perfect Point Plus Eye Pencil
Cruelty-free and made without an endless ingredient list, this eyeliner glides on smoothly and is sais to not cause watering or irritation. It comes in tons of shades, like Cobalt and Olive.
ella+mila Matte Liquid Lipstick
This liquid lipstick is vegan, cruelty-free, and made without parabens, phthalates, lanolin, or gluten. The velvet-like formula is made to be lightweight while still giving major color payoff.
Kosas Weightless Lipstick
Made with moisturizing and antioxidant-rich ingredients, including jojoba oil, rosehip seed oil, and mango seed butter, this lipstick is made to glide on easily, stay richly pigmented, and wear comfortably.
EcoTools Start the Day Beautifully Kit
This set of five brushes won’t break the bank. Plus, they’re vegan, and they’re made with recycled aluminum, renewable bamboo handles, and cruelty-free bristles that won’t irritate sensitive skin.
Alima Pure Foundation Brush
Made with 100% vegan Taklon synthetic bristles, this quality brush is made to feel super soft on the skin and seamlessly apply foundation for even coverage.
Hypoallergenic makeup remover
Paula’s Choice Gentle Touch Makeup Remover
This gentle formula is safe for use around the eyes, plus it’s formulated to leave skin feeling hydrated and soft without an oily residue.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover
Oil-free and ophthalmologist-tested, this makeup remover is safe for contact lens wearers. It’s made to remove even waterproof eye makeup without pulling the skin or lashes. The formula contains aloe and cucumber extracts for a clean, refreshing feeling.
Hypoallergenic isn’t a regulated term, but there are beauty products out there that don’t include ingredients (like fragrance or preservatives) known to cause skin irritation.
You don’t have to sacrifice performance or color payoff when opting for gentler products either. Whether you have sensitive skin or not, it’s always a good idea to look for makeup products that are ophthalmologist-tested and dermatologist-tested.