Q. What is happening to my skin when it reacts to an irritant?

A. The skin will react in two ways to irritating ingredients. Some irritants cause irritant contact dermatitis, where the skin breaks down or is damaged due to contact with chemicals. On the other hand, allergic contact dermatitis is triggered when contact with a chemical causes an immune response.

Q. Are there makeup removers that are specially formulated for sensitive skin?

A. It’s recommended that those with sensitive skin avoid using solvents to remove heavy makeup (like waterproof mascara). If you do need to use a makeup remover, opt for a gentle formula like June Jacobs Gentle Creamy Eye Make-Up Remover.

by team
Whether your skin is prone to irritation or you have rosacea or eczema, finding beauty products that won’t irritate your skin or worsen symptoms can be quite a challenge. Fortunately, you can look your best without exacerbating your skin concerns. Here’s how to create an irritation-free makeup routine for beautiful skin.

General tips for sensitive skin

Many common cosmetic ingredients, including fragrances and preservatives, can irritate sensitive skin, causing a slew of unpleasant reactions. Avoid these irritating effects by creating a cosmetic plan that’s safe for your sensitive skin.

Get started with these easy tips:

  1. Identify problem ingredients. If a beauty product causes an allergic reaction or irritates the skin, create a list of its ingredients. Over time, you’ll be able to pinpoint the offending ingredients, which you can easily avoid the next time you’re buying makeup.

  2. Conduct a patch test. When trying new products, a patch test is an easy and effective way to protect your skin from potential problem ingredients. Simply apply a small amount of the product to your inner wrist, elbow or ears. After 24 hours, inspect the skin, and if no irritation is present, you’re in the clear.

  3. Check labels. In the cosmetic aisle, look for products with these labels:

    • Hypoallergenic. Choosing products that are hypoallergenic is a good place to start in your search for appropriate makeup for sensitive skin. However, keep in mind that there are no FDA regulations that monitor the term “hypoallergenic.” Not only does this mean that the interpretation may vary among companies, but companies aren’t required to show proof that their hypoallergenic products effectively prevent irritation.

    • Fragrance-free. Reach for cosmetics labeled “fragrance-free,” meaning they don’t contain fragrances or perfumes. Avoid or use extra caution when using products labeled “unscented,” because they might contain skin-irritating chemicals to cover up the scent of fragrances.
  4. Toss old products. Still clinging to your hot pink eye shadow from prom, just in case it makes a comeback? Milking the last of your year-old mascara? You might want to reconsider. Holding on to your beauty products after they’ve passed their prime can cause infections and irritate your sensitive skin.

    Here are guidelines for common products:

    • Face powder and powder eye shadow: two years
    • Foundation: six months
    • Lipstick: two years
    • Mascara: three to six months

    If you notice discoloration, odd odors or strange consistency in any of your beauty products, it’s best to let them go. Also, if you experience eye infections or cold sores, toss the makeup immediately.

  5. Reconsider color.

    • Black is best. For anyone struggling with sensitive skin, dermatologists suggest using black eyeliner and mascara, because they contain the fewest potential irritants. Also, opt for eye pencils in lieu of liquid liners, which contain latex and can be irritating.

    • But go light on the eyes. Eye shadow in earth tones, such as white, beige and cream, has fewer pigments than darker shades, so it’s less likely to irritate the eyes.

  6. Pick powder. Powder cosmetics have fewer ingredients than liquid counterparts and are less likely to upset sensitive skin. If you’re stuck on liquid foundation, however, be sure to select one that is silicone-based, which is known for not irritating the skin.

    • Product pick: bareMinerals Mineral Veil is recommended for all skin types and contains all-natural ingredients. Unlike other powders that contain talc, waxes, dyes and binders, this powder provides a luminous glow without irritating sensitive skin.

  7. Walk away from waterproof. Unless there’s a risk of waterworks, avoid waterproof cosmetics. That’s because removing waterproof makeup requires using makeup remover. Along with your makeup, this solvent also removes your skin’s essential oils, which provide a protective barrier against irritants.

  8. Keep it simple. Select products that contain 10 ingredients or less, so you reduce your chances of encountering irritating ingredients.

  9. Keep it clean. Good hygiene is essential for every makeup routine, but it’s especially important if you have sensitive skin. Make sure to wash your hands before applying makeup and keep your cosmetic tools clean. Also, don’t share your makeup, which can spread germs.

  10. Talk to a professional. By following these simple steps, you should have little trouble with adverse reactions. However, for some skin conditions, it might be tougher to find non-irritating products. Don’t hesitate to ask your dermatologist or other skincare professional for advice.

Tips for rosacea

Rosacea, also known as “adult” acne, most often afflicts middle-aged women and causes the appearance of blood vessels, redness, lesions or pimples. The biggest objective with rosacea is to effectively reduce the appearance of redness without irritating already sensitive skin.

Here are some tips from the National Rosacea Society:

  • Go green. Before applying foundation or powder, be sure to first use a green-tinted moisturizer, concealer or primer to counteract redness.

  • Choose well-formulated foundation. According to clinical dermatologist and researcher Zoe Draelos, M.D., a well-formulated gel or cream foundation is less likely to break down and irritate the skin. Add powder on top to keep your makeup in place all day.

  • Avoid certain ingredients. According to a survey conducted by the National Rosacea Society, these ingredients commonly cause flare-ups in individuals with rosacea: “alcohol, witch hazel, fragrance, menthol, peppermint and eucalyptus oil.”

Tips for eczema

Eczema includes a range of persistent skin conditions, characterized by dryness and frequent skin rashes. Typical symptoms include: redness, skin edema, itching and dryness, crusting, burning, cracking or oozing. And unfortunately, many cosmetics can exacerbate these symptoms.

To minimize irritation, try these tips:

  • Less is more. Individuals with eczema might be tempted to slather on heavy foundation to mask redness. However, experts warn that heavy formulas will only exacerbate the uneven texture and dryness that often accompanies eczema.

    Instead, it’s best to apply a small amount of light green base on red, problem patches of skin before applying your foundation, Terry Baber, of MAC cosmetics, tells iVillage.

  • Easy on the eyes. The skin around the eyelids is incredibly sensitive — especially in individuals with eczema. Avoid ingredients such as lanolin, which has been known to cause swelling, itching and redness of the eyelids. Look closely at labels, as many products labeled "hypoallergenic" still contain lanolin, according to the Eczema Awareness, Support and Education (EASE) program.

  • Keep it simple. Choose beauty products that are made with few ingredients. Make sure the makeup is hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic. Avoid complex anti-aging, lifting or oil-controlling products, suggests iVillage.

There you have it — essential advice that’ll help you create a cosmetic routine without the unwanted skin irritation. Keep in mind that it’s important to consult a doctor or skincare professional for advice in treating symptoms and reactions.

See also:

Acne Treatment for Dry and Sensitive Skin

Caring for Sensitive Skin

Understanding and Treating Rosacea


9 Habits for Healthy Skin & Hair

Yoga for a Healthy Complexion


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"The information provided on is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you have a medical question or concern regarding any news item or article on this news magazine, please consult your physician..."