They say you don’t truly understand something until you’ve experienced it yourself, and that’s certainly been true for me. After spending nearly a decade writing about beauty, I have only recently come to know how challenging it can be to find beauty products that won’t irritate sensitive skin.
Earlier this summer, I found myself facing eczema for the first time in my life. I suddenly had raised, rough patches on my cheeks and eyelids, and these never-ending flaky patches around my forehead that my dermatologist recently diagnosed as seborrheic dermatitis. Fun.
I went from using a varied regimen of serums and creams to a very pared down routine that’s so bland it blends into my white medicine cabinet. The same goes for my hair products and makeup, which is what we’re going to dive into now.
In the throes of another flare up, I had the chance to speak with Allan Avendaño, who is a celebrity makeup artist to Addison Rae, Vanessa Hudgens and Sarah Hyland among others. Though I’ve long admired his work on Instagram, I was especially excited to talk to Allan because he is also intimately familiar with the difficulties of navigating the beauty aisles with a skin condition; he’s had plaque psoriasis, which is a chronic autoimmune disease that appears on the surface of the skin as raised, red, itchy patches, since he was a kid.
LOOK OUT FOR FRAGRANCES
One of the top offenders when it comes to causing irritation is fragrance. (A few other culprits to watch for are parabens, formaldehydes and alcohol.) Fragrance is found in many, if not most, beauty products, so you’ll need to look carefully at the ingredient lists to make sure it’s not hiding there.
MOISTURE IS GOOD
On the flip side, some ingredients you want in your products are hyaluronic acid, glycerin and ceramides. These hydrating ingredients help draw in moisture and lock it in, which is crucial because dehydrated skin is more prone to inflammation.
So, before you proceed with any makeup, always make sure to gently cleanse (never scrub) your face and follow up with a layer of moisturizer to prep your skin.
DO A PATCH TEST
Finally, when you’re dealing with sensitive skin or skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, it’s always good practice to patch test any new products before you commit to a full face.
Whether it’s a new foundation or a blush, apply a small amount of it to the inside of your wrist and see if your skin reacts to the formula. If it causes any sort of irritation to your wrist, it’s likely going to do the same to your face. If there’s no reaction, you can proceed.
ELTAMD UV GLOW TINTED BROAD-SPECTRUM SPF 36
OK, so this isn’t technically makeup, but sunscreen is a must, and this derm-approved formula also has enough tint in it to even out the reddest tones on your skin. Plus, it’s very moisturizing and leaves a subtle glow behind. Most importantly, it doesn’t trigger a reaction thanks to its fragrance-free and zinc oxide-based formula. (Note: Physical sunscreens tend to work better for those of us with sensitive skin.)
MERIT THE MINIMALIST PERFECTING COMPLEXION STICK
On days where I want just a little more coverage—be it under my eyes or over any splotches—I’ll tap a small amount of this creamy stick wherever its needed. The formula is easy to blend and quickly blurs out any areas of discoloration to create a more even-looking finish. Currently it’s available in 20 shades and is formulated to EU standards, which are among the strictest, and eliminates any ingredients that might trigger inflammation such as artificial fragrance.
TOWER28 BEAUTY BEACHPLEASE LIP + CHEEK CREAM BLUSH
With a tagline that states: “Designed for sensitive skin, made for all,” I had high hopes that this would be safe for me to use. Thankfully, it passed the patch test and I’ve been able to enjoy this buttery blush without any issues. The six shades can be sheered out or built up to your desired level of color and the results are always natural looking.
RMS LIVING LUMINIZER
This highlighter has won many awards (and picked up many celebrity fans) over the years thanks to the soft, never sparkly glow it leaves on your skin. With a streamlined ingredient list that’s mostly made up of castor seed and coconut oil, you can put it on your skin without having to worry about aggravating it.
TARTE TARTELETTE 2 IN BLOOM CLAY EYESHADOW PALETTE
Eyelid eczema makes it difficult to wear most eyeshadows, which is why I was ecstatic when this palette passed my patch test. As it turns out, many of Tarte’s products are mineral-based, which is often recommended for people with sensitive skin. Each of the 12 shades in the palette are also infused with Amazonian clay to give them a creamier consistency and better color payoff. From a warm taupe to a chestnut brown (and multiple shades of bronze, tan and peach in-between), you can easily create different looks to fit any occasion.