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Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
If you have sensitive skin, a stroll down the makeup aisle is an exercise in dodging explosive breakouts, rashes, and irritation.
Labels of “clean” or “hypoallergenic” alone aren’t enough to guarantee a product will work for you. That’s because any single ingredient could pose a potential threat. It’s important to read ingredients and try little patch tests on your skin before committing to a full face of new products.
A rose by any other name…
…wouldn’t totally matter because — bummer alert — “hypoallergenic” isn’t a federally-regulated packaging term.
According to the FDA, “The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean,” and beauty brands aren’t required to submit any proof before slapping that word on their marketing.
What’s a beauty lover to do? Watch the ingredient labels like a hawk. Fragrances, harsh chemicals, and weird preservatives are all potential irritants.
Life’s too short to live vicariously through makeup tutorials. Despite the lack of label regulation and the ever-changing landscape of ingredient ethics, some brands are absolutely crushing it with allergy-friendly options.
We rounded up our favorite hypoallergenic makeup picks for sensitive skin below.
Since being “hypoallergenic” isn’t an actual thing, we sourced makeup with the fewest ingredients possible.
Artificial fragrance is an absolute non-starter, as are irritating preservatives like parabens or formaldehyde. We chose brands or products tested by dermatologists, that demonstrated transparency around quality and ingredient integrity.
We also took a look at each product’s rating on the Environmental Working Group. The EWG rates personal care products (including makeup) based on their potential health hazards, including their potential for irritation and allergies.
The final piece of the puzzle: user reviews. Since product labels are a bit meaningless, real human reactions matter here.
$ = under $20
$$ = $20–$30
$$$ = over $30
Beauty Counter Volumizing Mascara
This EWG-verified mascara swaps eye-watering mascara ingredients with a blend of gentle waxes including carnauba wax, rice bran wax, and wax from several flowers. The result: a cleaner, less irritating formula with solid staying power and some serious plumping action.
At first we were a little skeptical because it contains phenoxyethanol, a “cleaner” alternative to parabens that may cause irritation, but sensitive-eyed users are loud and proud about their love for this mascara. One review even said, “It’s so nice to finally get to wear mascara again.”
Burt’s Bees Nourishing Mascara
Mascara is tough — it has to be clean and free of irritants, but it also needs preservatives to keep potentially harmful bacteria away from your eyes. Thankfully, Burt’s Bees does it at a drugstore price.
This one’s a good pick because it’s truly 100 percent natural. Jojoba oil and glycerin keep your lashes looking and feeling super soft. And while the Beautycounter option plumps, this formula is perfect for achieving that separated, doll-like lash look without irritation.
Bareminerals Original Loose Powder Foundation SPF 15
When it comes to rashes and bumps or annoying breakouts, mineral makeup is the way to go for sensitive skin. And Bareminerals is basically the OG.
It accomplishes so much with just five ingredients, including a little sun protection. The fragrance- and talc-free formula is buildable, so you can control how much coverage you want each day.
It’s got staying power too, without clogging pores. We also love that it comes in a wide range of shades.
Colorescience Tint du Soleil SPF 30 Whipped Foundation
Mineral makeup for the liquid foundation lover? Yes PLEASE. This light and buttery foundation is free from synthetic fragrances, parabens, dyes, and talc.
It’s infused with fun ingredients like ceramides and peptides to give you a glowy look that won’t end up causing a rash or clogged pores. We don’t love this limited shade range, but it’s more of a bb cream or tinted moisturizer than a full-coverage foundation.
W3LL PEOPLE Narcissist Foundation Stick
Listen, sometimes a cute tinted moisturizer just ain’t gonna cut it — some of us need a little more coverage. This W3LL PEOPLE option serves up serious LOOKS without the usual irritating ingredients.
It’s free from parabens and added fragrance, and the added pearl powder leaves you with a soft, IG-filter finish. It’s buildable and, after warming it up a little with your brush, blender, or finger, it goes on pretty smooth.
Jane Iredale Circle Delete Concealer
Jane Iredale is a mainstay in the hypoallergenic beauty world. So if you blend concealer all around those gorgeous, sensitive eyes of yours, let this one be it. This mineral formula is noncomedogenic and free from parabens and fragrance.
We like this concealer because it infuses your skin with antioxidants from green tea, vitamin C and vitamin A, and it protects your skin from environmental damage while it covers. Beware: users say it’s a little thick, so be sure to blend it OUT, henny!
VMV Hypoallergenics Subtle Shine Lipstick
Lipstick can be pretty problematic — many include dyes, waxes, and fragrances that can cause a slew of reactions. VMV Hypoallergenics comes through with their lipstick lines, but the Subtle Shine line is a true hero.
It’s free from dyes, parabens, phthalates, and any kind of fragrance (synthetic or natural).
VMV also swaps beeswax (a potentially-irritating wax, who knew?!) for microcrystalline and paraffin for a super luscious feel. Coconut oil gives your lips a shot of hydration without clogging up pores around your mouth. Great color payoff, too.
Almay Eyebrow Pencil
If you’re worried about allergies, Almay is almost always a good, affordable choice.
We love that this eyebrow pencil is fragrance-free and ophthalmologist tested, so it’s safe to apply near your eyes. The pointed tip makes creating faux brow strands easy, and the creamy formula blends and stays in place.
Color range is just okay, but it does include a Universal Taupe color that works in between brows.
Physician’s Formula Organic Wear Brow Gel
Physician’s Formula products are formulated without parabens and are noncomedogenic.
This derm-tested, fragrance-free gel uses a blend of organic oils to condition your brows and keep them in place. The clear brow gel is versatile, and the tinted versions are nice and soft. Users love how the small brush tames tiny hairs without clumping.
Clinique Quickliner for Eyes
Sensitive skin or not, it’s important to know what’s going on and around your eyes. Clinique is a solid choice for eye makeup because their products are ophthalmologist-tested and a favorite among itchy-eyed makeup lovers.
The quickliner smudges like a pencil but doesn’t need any sharpening. After 60 seconds, this stuff will stay put until you swipe it off at the end of the day.
RMS Beauty Eye Polish
If you have dry skin around the eyes, opt for a cream shadow. This one from RMS beauty gives skin a drink with coconut oil, jojoba oil, and cocoa seed butter.
The colors come from minerals, not synthetic dyes or other sketchy pigments. However, keep in mind cream shadows aren’t crease-proof.
Honest Beauty Eyeshadow Palette
This is a versatile palette with tons of ~lewks~ in it and without scary eye irritation.
You’ll love this palette for its value — eight gorge shades for $20?! — and we love it because it’s derm-tested and free from parabens, paraffins, talc, mineral oil, silicones, and petrolatum. The EWG gives it a 1, which is pretty great.
Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleansing Towelettes
Find us a better feeling than wiping off your makeup at the end of the day. You can’t! It just doesn’t exist. But if you’ve ever suffered the consequences from a perfumey, oily wipe, you’re totally right to feel a little anxious about ever using one again.
Don’t be afraid of these. They’re dermatologist and ophthalmologist tested and free from fragrance, parabens, and other nasties. And they are so, so fresh. You don’t have to scrub with these, and the extra dose of cotton extract helps calm any irritation.
Neutrogena Makeup Remover Melting Balm
If you haven’t used a melting balm to take your makeup off yet, you’re not LIVING. The warmth of your skin turns this balm into oil, clinging to your makeup. Wipe away with a damp cloth and — boom — a makeup-free face that doesn’t feel dry or stretched.
This one from Neutrogena has a nice short ingredient list and is dermatologist-tested. Reviewers with sensitive skin love it, too!
Too Faced Mr. Right Brushes
Cheap synthetic makeup brushes can be irritating. But unless you’re willing to pay for the cruelty-free bristles, animal hair feels icky in the soul.
High-quality vegan brushes, like these from Too Faced, are made to be super soft on sensitive skin. Synthetic fibers aren’t as porous as natural hair, so they don’t soak up as much product and lead to an overall more hygienic experience — and that’s good news for your skin.
Plus, these are literally called “teddy bear” brushes and they feel just like that. It’s the little things…
Everything EcoTools has your wellness in mind, and that includes makeup brushes. Their cruelty-free synthetic makeup brushes are super soft and gentle on sensitive skin, plus they’re seriously affordable.
There’s a kit or configuration for anything you could ever want to use on your face, but this simple kit is a great place to start.
Users with sensitive skin rave about their gentle softness, lack of weird synthetic smell, and how the bristles seem to stay put more than other brushes.
Thrive Causemetics Blend + Blur Sponge
If you’re allergic to latex, beauty sponges and other applicators can be difficult to navigate. This one from Thrive Causemetics is made from a high-grade, latex-free foam.
And for anyone who’s sensitive without a latex allergy, you can trust this fragrance-free, antibacterial foam will help you achieve a flawless finish without irritation.
Users love this little egg for the airbrushed effect it leaves behind. And the price is comparable to other name-brand blending sponges.
There are so many great beauty brands who offer hypoallergenic or sensitive skin-friendly products. But some brands? Total. Hypoallergenic. Rockstars. Here are a few you can feel safe to shop.
Helloooo, it’s in their name. These guys go above and beyond in the name of ingredient transparency. You can track your allergens on their website, and they’ll even review your patch test results to give you a customized list of VMV products safe for you to use. Wild.
Nothing like a quarter century of experience to turn a brand into a mineral makeup giant. All their products are free of parabens, talc, phthalates, synthetic fragrance, fillers, and GMO ingredients.
They claim to be dermatologist and allergy tested, and rely on only natural preservatives. Plus, their stuff is pretty and, maybe most importantly, it actually performs.
Every single one of their products are EWG-verified to be nontoxic, free of any concerning chemicals and are safe for your body. And they’re built for legit beauty performance, so you don’t have to sacrifice quality to get something clean and gentle. They’re also an easy-to-find specialty brand.
All of Almay’s products are dermatologist- or ophthalmologist-tested, and fragrance-free. According to their website, they keep their products as hypoallergenic as possible by limiting their ingredients.
Out of 10,000 possible ingredients, they stick to 500. Finally, it’s just comforting to know you can walk into any drugstore and find something safe.
It’s mineral-based, uses minimal ingredients, and offers a wide-range of products to carry you through any beauty situation. Every bareMinerals product is clinically tested and free from formaldehyde, parabens, mineral oil, coal tar, and other nasties.
And while the foundations continue to absolutely crush it in every form, their other color cosmetics like blushes, eyeshadows, and mascaras are killer in their own rites. I mean, their tagline is “Makeup so good you can sleep in it.” Come on.
Navigating the makeup scene with sensitive skin or skin allergies is no walk in the park. “Hypoallergenic” isn’t even a federally-regulated term, so it can feel impossible to guess which products might cause a negative reaction.
The best way to avoid a reaction is to avoid key irritants in makeup, including fragrances, parabens, sulfates in cleansers, and irritating chemicals or dyes. Look for products that are dermatologist-or ophthalmologist-tested.
When in doubt, do a patch test on your inner arm to see if your skin reacts to new makeup.
The Environmental Working Group is a good source for ingredient transparency and product research.
There are some great brands on the market who do “hypoallergenic” makeup really well. They include VMV Hypoallergenics, Almay, Jane Iredale, bareMinerals, and W3LL PEOPLE.