Can I Wear Makeup If I Have Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive skin doesn't mean you can't wear makeup, but you may need to try a few different formulas before you find one that works for you.

Makeup exists to conceal the reactions people with sensitive skin know best: redness, discolouration, pimples, and rashes. Yet many people with sensitive skin find that concealing these reactions also tends to make them worse.

You don't have to choose between healthy skin and an even complexion. Even the most sensitive skin can usually tolerate some makeup. The key to success is choosing a formula designed for sensitive skin and then diligently monitoring for increased sensitivity.


Can I Wear Makeup If I Have Sensitive Skin?

The Problem With Sensitive Skin and Makeup

Makeup isn't inherently bad for your skin, but it does tend to clog pores. It can also trap whatever is already on your skin, so if you apply makeup immediately after using a product to which your skin is sensitive, a reaction is more likely.

Various makeup ingredients can also increase sensitivity. Steer clear of formulas designed to treat acne, since they often contain skin-sensitising ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

Understanding the Causes of Skin Sensitivity

To reduce your risk of a reaction when you use makeup, you need to know what's causing your skin's sensitivity. Your doctor can test you for allergies as well as hormonal imbalances and other health issues that may compromise your skin.

Consider keeping a detailed skincare log. List all the products you use and make a note of those that cause a reaction. Then check ingredient labels. If two products cause a similar reaction, it's likely that a shared ingredient is to blame.

Ingredients that commonly cause skin reactions include:

  • Retinol
  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Salicylic acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Mica
  • Talc
  • Antibacterial agents
  • Alcohol
  • Fennel
  • Peppermint
  • Phenol
  • Camphor
  • Ammonia

Ingredients at the top of a product's ingredients list are typically present in the highest quantities. This means that an irritant listed near the beginning is cause for greater concern.

Choosing the Right Makeup

Formulas marked 'hypoallergenic' or 'non-comedogenic' are less likely to irritate your skin but not guaranteed safe. You still must carefully review the ingredients list for chemicals that have a history of irritating your skin.

Sensitive skin can react even to ingredients that are considered harmless. So as a general rule, the fewer ingredients a product has, the less likely it is to irritate your skin.


Can I Wear Makeup If I Have Sensitive Skin?

Protecting Your Skin

The way you use makeup plays a role in whether or not your skin reacts. Try these tips:

  • Always wear sunscreen under your makeup to prevent UV-induced irritation. Try a formula for sensitive skin, such as Cosmedix Reflect Natural Sunscreen.
  • Use makeup only to when you absolutely need it. As soon as you're able, remove your makeup, eliminating all traces along your jawline, on the sides of your nose, and in your hairline.
  • Touch your skin with clean hands only, and use clean tools to apply makeup. A foundation brush may harbour less bacteria than a traditional makeup sponge.
  • Moisturise your skin immediately after cleansing or showering, since dry skin tends to be more sensitive.
  • Minimise your use of skincare products, since using too many products at once can increase sensitivity.
  • Wait until a skin reaction has completely disappeared before trying a new makeup or skincare product.
  • Be mindful of other beauty products that come into contact with your skin. If your skin tends to break out along your hairline, the problem could be with your shampoo or conditioner, not your makeup.