7 Makeup Hacks and Products for Sensitive Skin (According to Pros)

BY Jessie Quinn · December 20, 2018

model applying blush with makeup brush

Nailing a picture-perfect glam goes beyond a few quick taps of foundation and swipes of mascara. Much like skin care application, there are tips and tricks to mastering the art of an #motd—especially if your skin errs on the side of sensitive or redness-prone. Because your skin can get easily irritated, applying makeup over sensitive or redness-prone skin requires a few techniques to help cover up some of the discolorations without making your skin condition worse.

To find out how to solve these makeup woes, we went to the experts for tried-and-true makeup hacks and products for sensitive and redness-prone skin types. But, first, let’s brush up on our sensitive-skin knowledge.

What Is Sensitive Skin 

Sensitive skin is caused by a multitude of factors. From dehydration—which causes the skin to feel ultra-dry and itchy—to ingredient irritation to skin conditions (think: psoriasis flare-ups, breakouts and eczema) that cause the complexion to feel uncomfortable, as even the most normal of skin types can experience a bout of sensitivity from time to time. That said, sensitive skin is not just a side effect, it’s also considered a skin type, as many men and women experience some form of skin sensitivity on the regular.

Choosing the Right Formulas

One of the biggest things to consider when using products on sensitive skin—whether that be skin care or makeup—is formulation. Because of the sensitive sensations experienced among this skin type, using harsh formulas with certain active ingredients, fragrances and other potential irritants can wreak havoc on the complexion and cause sensitive skin to worsen and may even result in visible irritation via redness, rashes and breakouts.

“Skin sensitivities are often caused by products that people use,” says Dr. Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “People with sensitive and redness-prone skin need ingredients that won’t irritate or aggravate their skin,” she adds. With that in mind, she suggests keeping an eye on both skin care and makeup labels and looking out for the most common skin irritants, which include fragrance, parabens and formaldehyde. “Fragrances are sometimes hidden in face creams and detergents and this can be very irritating to people with sensitive skin,” notes Jaliman. In addition, she explains that formaldehyde is sometimes used in formulas and “can cause an allergic reaction in the skin, especially in those with sensitive skin,” she says.

As for what ingredients to look out for, Dr. Jaliman says it’s all about hydration. “Dehydrated skin can lead to issues like inflammation, especially for those with sensitive skin,” she notes. Some ingredients she suggests adding into your routine include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, shea butter and ceramides. All four of these ingredients help draw in moisture, nourish the skin and lock in hydration to prevent further drying.

Makeup Tips for Sensitive and Redness-Prone Skin 

Before you go full glam—especially with a product you’ve never used before—be sure to patch test. Applying a small amount to the inside of the wrist can hint at how the complexion might react to the formula. If the makeup (or skin care) product causes any kind of irritation on the wrist, it’s likely going to disturb your complexion, too.

Once you’re confident in your formulas—i.e. you select products that are safe to use on sensitive skin—it’s time to get down to business. When applying makeup to sensitive skin (especially those who experience redness in addition to sensitivities), prepping the skin is one of the most important steps. Here are some of the top tips and tricks for sensitive skin for a more flawless makeup application:

1. Prep skin with a gentle cleanser.

The first step in skin prep is to cleanse the complexion. “Start by cleansing your face with a gentle cleanser and warm water,” celebrity makeup artist Aliana Lopez suggests. However, Lopez says you want to double check what type of cleanser you’re using—and switch it up seasonally. “During the drier [and] colder months, I like to use oil cleansers,” she says. As for the hotter, more humid season, you might want to change over to something more lightweight—such as a foam or micellar water—with hydrating benefits.

Try: Avene XeraCalm AD Lipid-Repairing Cleansing Oil

The XeraCalm AD Lipid-Repairing Cleansing Oil is an excellent way to prep sensitive skin before makeup application—and Lopez loves it too. “This is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin,” she notes. Enhanced by nourishing ingredients like castor oil and vitamin E, the calming cleansing oil is formulated specifically with inflamed skin in mind. Thanks to its oil base, the cleanser not only lifts away dirt and debris but provides a veil of nourishment, too.

2. Bring on the moisture.

Once your skin is cleansed, Lopez says to set your focus on hydration. Applying moisture to sensitive skin can make the world of a difference, as it can protect against a drying sensation or worse, dehydration. As Dr. Jaliman mentions above, parched skin can easily irritate (especially on sensitive skin), so protecting with a layer of moisture is key. But, before you slather on your favorite creams and lotions, Lopez says to take your time in order to truly reap the benefits of your products.

Try: Eminence Organic Skin Care Calm Skin Chamomile Moisturizer

Per Lopez’s advice, you don’t want to skip out on moisturizer—and one with soothing ingredients like chamomile can help calm sensitive skin. The Calm Skin Chamomile Moisturizer “will calm signs of inflammation,” explains Lopez. In addition to chamomile, it also has deeply nourishing ingredients like shea butter, sunflower oil, aloe vera and calendula oil to help revitalize the complexion and blanket in hydration.

3. Top things off with SPF.

According to Lopez, the last step in your skin prep is SPF. Applying sunscreen before your makeup application can allow for a layer of protection that helps prevent certain skin and sun care woes like damage, as well as premature signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles.

Try: Colorscience All Calm Clinical Redness Corrector SPF 50

Need help finding the best sunscreen for sensitive skin? Lopez says, “Colorscience is a wonderful option for sensitive skin and its All Calm Clinical Redness Corrector SPF 50 is the perfect product to prime your skin before makeup. It’s mattifying and smoothes your skin all while incorporating high SPF coverage.” Once you’re done with your skin care regimen, “your skin should feel packed with moisture,” says Lopez. “This is the best state for your skin to be in to accept makeup on top of it,” she adds.

4. Reach for multitasking products.

When it comes to makeup application, Hannah Hatcher, Global Makeup Artist and Educator for jane iredale says less is more. “Keeping less products on the skin will also keep your skin from freaking out,” she explains. With that in mind, she recommends using multitasking products so that you can stick to a more minimal routine. “Clean, mineral-based makeup with a physical sunscreen will be your best friend,” she notes.

Try: jane iredale Amazing Base SPF 20

Your makeup routine—and sensitive skin—can seriously benefit from multitasking products like jane iredale’s Amazing Base SPF 20. Hatcher loves this product as “it provides a range of coverage, leaves the skin with a dewy [and] hydrated finish and [it] also contains a physical SPF 20.”

5. Apply foundation and concealer only where you need it.

As for foundation application, Lopez says, “Apply foundation coverage only where you need it—let the rest of your skin that is glowing and beautiful take center stage.” The same rule should apply for concealer, as we only really need it to cover up pesky blemishes, not entire surface areas.

Try: RMS Beauty “Un” Cover-Up

RMS Beauty’s “Un” Cover-Up exists to tame down imperfections and reveal flawless-looking skin. Made to hide the look of blemishes, scars, discoloration and dark circles, the natural and organic concealer can be applied sparingly (per Lopez’s advice) to blur areas of concern and create a more even-looking canvas.

6. Focus on your tools (and keep them clean).

As for what tools to use when applying makeup to sensitive skin, Hatcher says to “reach for makeup sponges for application to maximize coverage.” In addition, Lopez says it’s ultra-important to “keep your makeup brushes clean to prevent any irritations.” Ideally, you want to clean your makeup brushes once a week. However, if you don’t have the time, you can give them a deep clean every other week and spritz with a brush spray such as the Botanical Brush Cleaner. She also says to be gentle when using your makeup tools to apply products, as rubbing or swiping too harshly can cause further irritation.

Try: beautyblender original 

The beautyblender original is an excellent way to maximize your coverage and blend everything together for a flawless appeal. In addition to helping you achieve a perfect #motd, the latex-free sponge is also easy to clean and minimizes the amount of bacteria that comes in contact with your skin, making it the perfect beauty tool for sensitive complexions.

7. Remove your makeup...always!

If you wear makeup, remember to wear it responsibly. What we mean by that is…remove your makeup! Taking off your makeup can make a huge difference in the clarity of your skin since the bacteria stuck to your foundation, concealer and other products can easily press into your skin and wreak havoc (aka, cause breakouts). Not to mention: Your skin needs some time to breathe—especially during its regeneration process—and not removing it can really tamper with that.

Try: Obagi Cleansing Wipes

We know that makeup removal can sometimes feel like a chore, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re in a pinch (or are simply too tired to rinse and lather) reach for these sensitive, skin-friendly cleansing wipes. Made with soothing aloe vera, the cleansing wipes gently lift away dirt, debris and makeup to reveal a fresher, cleaner complexion in no time. Don’t forget to follow up with your favorite cleansing products and lock it all in with a veil of moisturizer!

Jessie Quinn

Jessie Quinn is a writer and editor with work published in NYLON Magazine, StyleCaster.com, Girlboss.com, Marvel.com, and more. She is a graduate of Academy of Art University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Journa... Read More >

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