Choosing a foundation for sensitive skin can often be a tricky process—as if we needed a harder time finding the perfect formula. Sure, it’s important to find a shade that matches your complexion and gives you all coverage you want. However, these concerns may need to take a backseat if you want to protect your sensitive skin. If you're like me, and are prone to breakouts, irritation, and are scared to cause a nasty flare up, then the quest for the best foundation for sensitive skin begins first with the ingredient list on the back of the bottle.
Ingredients to watch out for when looking for sensitive-skin friendly foundation
According to esthetician and founder of Practise NYC, Kristyn Smith, fragrances and mineral oil are the two big "no-no" ingredients when choosing a foundation. This is mainly because fragrances can irritate sensitive skin by causing itchiness and redness, while mineral oil (a petrolatum jelly derivative) is believed to clog pores.
“Mineral oils can suffocate and disrupt your natural skin barrier which stops your skin from absorbing the ingredients it needs to function properly and thrive,” Smith says. “These oils also throw off the skin’s natural pH balance which can trigger acne, form dry patches, and cause skin irritation as a whole.”
What ingredients to make sure your foundation has if you have sensitive skin
Smith recommends seeking products with nourishing ingredients like: squalane (for hydration), phytosphingosine (a type of fat in the skin’s barrier that has anti-inflammatory properties) and camellia seed oil (a plant-extract loaded with antioxidants). However, if you can't find those ingredients, look for formulas that are hydrating and smooth on the skin. This means using foundations with ingredients like "hyaluronic acid or glycerin" that help to draw in moisture and build up the skin's barrier, says board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Marisa Garshick, MD.
While there are dozens of foundations floating around the web, (some good and some not so good) we've narrowed down some of the best to round out your makeup routine if you've got extra choosy skin.
The best foundations for sensitive skin
No surprise here. Ilia has become a fan-favorite among beauty experts (and W+G editors) thanks to its skin care-first approach to makeup. From its lip balms to its powders, each product is chock-full of nourishing ingredients to set your skin up to thrive underneath all the glam. And the True Skin Serum Foundation is no exception. Its liquid formula contains a powerful blend of plant extracts including: aloe leaf, roseship, jojoba and marula oils that help target irritation and reduce redness. Although the coverage is light, it leaves the skin with a natural-looking finish that glows for hours.
“I have been a fan of this product ever since its launch…” Smith says. “l’ve had many clients with either eczema, rosacea or allergic contact dermatitis use it and all have found it to work well with their calming and healing skincare regimen.”
If you’re worried about potential flare ups, this Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick may be what your beauty cabinet needs. It’s a concealer and foundation all rolled into one. “I love how easy this product is to use, and think the fact that you can either conceal or use [it] as foundation’ makes it a great choice for sensitive skin types,” Smith says. “I often encourage clients with very sensitive and/or reactive acne prone skin to just spot treat where they need coverage.” Additionally, the formula contains phytosphingosine, an ingredient that helps calm and smooth the skin during break outs.
While SPF products can sometimes irritate sensitive skin due to an allergic reaction to chemical UV filters, this foundation’s formula is pretty trustworthy. “Normally, SPF can be tricky for sensitive skin types, but after recommending Cle for four years, I have yet to see a bad reaction,” Smith says. All in all, the foundation provides minimal coverage, yet is buildable enough that you can easily level up your look.
For those who struggle with redness, celebrity makeup artist Monika Blunder recommends the Lisa Eldridge Foundation. Available in 40 different shades, this foundation contains skin-friendly ingredients like glycerin, a type of humectant that draws in water and adds suppleness to the skin. Not to mention, the foundation is 100 percent buildable, in case you need a bit more coverage along your T-zone or another troubled area that’s prone to blemishes.
Unlike regular liquid foundations, mineral foundations like this are lightweight and less likely to clog your pores. Additionally, they often “contain less potential contact allergens such as fragrances and preservatives like parabens,” board-certified dermatologist Meghan Feely, MD, FAAD previously told Well+Good. The bareMinerals Original Loose Powder Mineral Foundation SPF 15 is easy to apply and provides light coverage. It also protects your skin from the sun, thanks to mineral blockers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide within its formula.
For those who have oily skin that gets irritates easily, consider adding this powder foundation to your beauty regimen. It’s an oil-free makeup powder that absorbs oil and helps improve the “appearance of redness, discoloration and melasma, which can commonly occur in those with sensitive skin,'” Dr. Garshick explains. However, its real strength is the amount of hyaluronic acid and aloe inside that helps to give your skin a major hydration boost.
While a little pricey at $55, this Colorscience Tint du Soleil SPF 30 Whipped Foundation is totally worth the extra coins. It’s like a vitamin solution for your skin in the form of makeup: Its formula has peptides and ceramides, two ingredients that help prevent irritation to the skin barrier and improve the appearance of uneven skin texture. The foundation is available in four shades and provides a natural-like finish that isn’t cake-y.
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