The good news? Having sensitive lids doesn't mean you have to give up on having the perfect smoky eye or colorful cut crease altogether. If you know the right application techniques and the best products to use, there's no reason you can't make all of your eyeshadow dreams come true. Scroll down for the 10 best eyeshadows for sensitive eyes, plus a few pro tips for irritation-free application and removal.
Shop eyeshadow for sensitive lids
This easy-to-blend trio is long-lasting, doesn’t crease, and contains 100 percent natural ingredients like bamboo honey and jojoba. Use it to create a no-fuss smoky eye that won’t irritate your lids.
This neutral palette is supremely versatile. It contains mattes, satins, and metallic finishes for a full look, and it’s made with highly pigmented mineral-filled ingredients. Dermatologist, Meghan Feely, MD, FAAD, previously told Well+Good that mineral makeup products “often contain less potential contact allergens such as fragrances and preservatives like parabens,” which makes them great for sensitive lids. They are also non-comedogenic, so they don’t clog pores.
With nearly 200,000 “loves” on Sephora, this rose gold mini palette is easy to pack away for travel, matches with any skin town, and is very buildable so it won’t suffocate your lids.
This pink-toned palette is very (and I mean, very) pigmented. The brand’s signature formula allows for smooth, easy application, and is made without any common irritants.
This bronze-toned palette is easy to toss in a purse for a crease-free day to night look that you can apply on the go.
How to choose an eyeshadow for sensitive lids
Knowing what to look for (and what to avoid) in an eyeshadow starts with knowing your sensitivities. "The eyes are more likely to react sensitively to products than other areas of the face, so I recommend choosing products that are hypoallergenic, organic, and fragrance-free," says Brittany Lo, professional makeup artist and founder of Beia. She suggests doing a deep dive on the ingredients list, and staying away from products that contain sulfates, perfumes, added color, preservatives, or cadmium. Additionally, cheap shadows, old products, waterproof formulas, and shades made with red dye or large chunks of glitter are some of the most common culprits for irritation, so it's best to avoid these altogether.
That said, everyone is different—which means they have different allergies—so as a baseline, pros recommend looking for cruelty-free brands that have patch-tested their product and are transparent about their ingredients. The FDA has a list of the most common allergens found in cosmetics, which can be a good guide to refer you if you aren't sure about what you should be using.
Tips for using eyeshadow on sensitive lids
1. Be gentle
It may seem obvious, but it's very important to be gentle with the sensitive skin around your eyes. Don't pack on pigment forcefully. Be cautious with your application, and lightly pat or dust the shadow onto your lids instead of aggressively rubbing.
2. Use the right brushes
"Blending eyeshadow with poor quality brushes can leave sensitive eyes feeling sore," says makeup artist Jamie Greenberg. She recommends opting for soft, synthetic brushes that have been properly washed and dried prior to use. If the brushes aren't cleaned properly, the "buildup of bacteria or skin cells could cause a reaction," says Terri Bryant, a celebrity makeup artist and the founder of Guide Beauty. To ensure they're bacteria-free, fill a mug a third of the way with water, and add a drop of cleaning liquid, soap, or detergent. Swirl the brushes around until there's no more color coming off of them, then rinse them thoroughly in warm water and squeeze them dry with a washcloth.
3. Remove properly
When it comes to avoiding irritation, how you take off your eye makeup is just as important as how you apply it. Not removing makeup properly can clog your pores, dehydrate your skin, or even cause rashes and eczema on your lids, so make sure to get all of your pigment off before bed to let your skin breathe. Opt for a gentle, oil-free cleanser or micellar water, then follow up with a moisturizing eye cream for additional soothing.
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