Makeup Tips

Sensitive Lids? These 10 Eyeshadows Are Perfect for an Irritation-Free Pop of Color

Saanya Ali

Photo: Getty Images/Maskot
Putting on eye makeup is a fun way to express yourself, add a pop of color to an otherwise neutral fit, and give yourself a few moments of me-time before a busy day. However, if irritation comes along with it, the process can be significantly less enjoyable. Since the skin on your eyelids is so delicate, using the wrong products may leave you with redness, burning, itchiness, and flakes—which isn't exactly fun.

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

Burt's Bees Eye Shadow Palette with 3 Shades — $13.00

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.

bareMinerals Gen Nude Eyeshadow Palette — $29.00

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.

Urban Decay Cyber Eyeshadow Palette — $49.00

This vegan, cruelty-free, 12 shadow palette is versatile, colorful, and perfect for fall. The set also comes with a soft, synthetic brush for easy, irritation-free application.

Huda Beauty Nude Obsessions Eyeshadow Palette — $29.00

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.

Ciate London Astrolights Eyeshadow Palette — $35.00

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.

Jane Iredale Eye Shadow Kit — $59.00

This five-shade palette of neutrals can be used to create any day-to-night look. The matte finish is minimal and versatile, and the product is formulates with both minerals and botanical extracts.

Charlotte Tilbury Luxury Eyeshadow Palette — $53.00

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.

M.A.C. Eyeshadow X 9 — $32.00

This dermatologist and ophthalmologist-tested formula can be used wet or dry without irritation for sensitive eyes. It’s free from most common allergens and has nine perfect shades for fall.

Younique Moodstruck Beloved — $52.00

Think pink. This 4 shadow palette is not tested on animals, is buildable and blend-able, and filled with bright shades.

Tarte In Bloom Clay Eyeshadow Palette — $39.00

This paraben-free palette has over 300,000 “loves” on Sephora and has the perfect neutral shades that you can make into many different looks and combinations.

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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