Make-up for sensitive skin: 7 best hypoallergenic make-up brands dermatologists recommend

It can be tricky to find make-up for sensitive skin – here's everything you need to know to get it right

Skincare for sensitive skin: woman with glowing skin touching her face and smiling
(Image credit: Getty)

Is your skin a little touchy? Around half of us suffer from sensitive skin, and it’s only getting worse. A sharp rise in use of skincare acids, stress and pollution (air pollution in UK cities often exceeds safe levels) is responsible for weakening the skin barrier, leading to a surge in ‘sensitised’ complexion types. There are of course those of us who are simply born with sensitive skin, but thanks to these environmental factors, more and more of us will experience redness, swelling, inflammation and tightness. 

It comes as no surprise then that the products we put on our skin have the ability to pacify or aggravate, including make-up. Trying even the best foundation or eyeshadow can feel a little risky as you hold your breath and wait to see how your skin reacts. But luckily there are some amazing make-up brands designed to keep sensitive skin healthy and happy. 

Of course, whatever make-up you’re applying, it’s important to keep all your brushes and tools clean. Make-up brushes can harbour bacteria, so wash them in a gentle baby wash once a week, rinse with lukewarm water and allow to air-dry. If you’re in the market for a new brush or two, we’ve rounded up the best make-up brushes to suit you. 

When it comes to make-up, as long as you choose the right formulations with kind-to-skin ingredients, and no nasties, your skin will be winning. With these dermatologist-approved make-up brands for sensitive skin, you can look great, while keeping temperamental skin cool, calm and collected. 

How sensitive are you?

First things first, there are a few practical tests you can do to find out whether your skin is classed as sensitive. 

1. Brush your fingertips along your cheek with light to medium pressure. If the skin turns pink where you’ve tracked, it’s sensitive.

2. Spot test a product on the inside of your upper arm and cover with a plaster. ”This area mimics the skin on the face in terms of sensitivity,“ says Dr Murad, board certified dermatologist. If you experience redness and itching, wash off immediately – you have sensitive skin.

3. Wash your face with a cleanser (not soap) and warm water. After five minutes, note how your skin feels. If your face feels normal, not tight, red or hot, you can count yourself as non-sensitive.

 Sensitive skin rules

As we head into the cooler months, sensitive skin will be on red alert thanks to icy winds and stuffy central heating, but what can you do to avoid a skin meltdown?

  • Keep your cool. Hot baths can aggravate sensitive skin so turn the water as cool as you can bear it – tepid at best.
  • Don’t stress. Sometimes it’s easier said than done but try to cut out stressful situations if you can. It can trigger sensitivity. Find a few quiet moments for yourself every day to unwind and reset the mind.
  • Avoid retinol. Or anything equally harsh on your skin. Over-exfoliating can also irritate so use a mild enzyme-based exfoliator to gently slough skin.
  • Slash your skin regime. We’re all guilty of using far too many skincare products in our day-to-day routine, but this can be particularly detrimental if you have sensitive skin. Stick to the basics – cleanser, serum, moisturiser, and of course, daily SPF.

Make-up for sensitive skin

These gentle giants are the cosmetic equivalent of a big hug for your face!

BareMinerals Original foundation SPF15, £29,

BareMinerals Original foundation SPF15

(Image credit: Bare Minerals)

The OG kind-to-skin foundation is made with only five ingredients and is completely free from irritants that will clog pores. In fact, this award-winning mineral make-up actually encourages clearer skin from within over time. With buildable coverage, the secret to a flawless finish is all in the buffing. Sprinkle some powder in the lid, swirl around with your brush, tap off the excess then buff into skin in small circles. 

Vichy Dermablend 3D fluid foundation, £23,

Vichy Dermablend 3D fluid foundation

(Image credit: Vichy)

This ace base deserves a medal for its ability to inject confidence in those with red, bumpy, blemish-prone skin. It delivers twice the coverage of traditional foundations without feeling like a mask or causing irritation. Spots, redness, scars and dark circles are no match for its thorough, long-lasting formula that smoothes and resurfaces skin texture, as if airbrushed. 

La Roche-Posay Toleriane volume mascara, £16.50,

La Roche-Posay Toleriane volume mascara

(Image credit: La Roche Posay)

The skin around the eye is the thinnest and most sensitive part of our face – if your eyes are constantly watering then try this allergy-tested mascara, created in partnership with dermatologists. It’s suitable for contact lens wearers and those with irritable eyes. The hypoallergenic formula feels comfortable to wear, and it’s even enriched with a strengthening serum to bolster lashes from within. 

Burt’s Bees All Aglow lip & cheek stick, £12.99,

Burt’s Bees All Aglow lip & cheek stick

(Image credit: Burt's Bees)

This high street brand is a tonic for irritable skin. It’s 100% natural and formulated without parabens and sulfates, which can dry out the complexion. This is a great product for your handbag, with dual functionality as a cheek cream and lip colour. Swipe the stick along your cheekbones and blend with your fingertip for a fresh, outdoorsy glow. 

Tarte shape tape concealer, £24,

Tarte shape tape concealer

(Image credit: Tarte)

Say bye-bye dark circles, and hello to fresher, younger-looking eyes. The innovative tape technology helps smooth over and blur the appearance of lines and wrinkles with 12-hour crease-proof coverage. The vegan, non-comedogenic formula is enriched with cosseting mango and shea butters that nourish the delicate under-eye.

Jane Iredale Dream Tint tinted moisturiser, £33,

Jane Iredale Dream Tint tinted moisturiser

(Image credit: Jane Iredale)

Like a flattering Instagram filter, this lightweight tinted cream delivers a soft-focus finish that helps to disguise fine lines, uneven skin tone and enlarged pores, without setting off a skin tantrum. The blend of minerals and algae extract actually helps to soothe skin and prevent trans-epidermal water loss, so it’s ideal for rosacea and eczema sufferers.

Honest Beauty Magic Beauty balm stick, £20,

Honest Beauty Magic Beauty balm stick

(Image credit: Honest Beauty)

Created by actor Jessica Alba, this line combines hard-working, results-driven formulas with safe, vetted ingredients. As the name suggests, this is a brand based on transparency. Blurring the boundaries between skincare and make-up, this moisturiser-in-a-stick delivers topical hydration and a lit-from-within glow. Use on the lips, around the eyes or across the tops of the cheekbones.

Stephanie Maylor

Stephanie Maylor is a Beauty Editor working across five national magazine titles, with almost 15 years' experience in the industry.  She has written for many brands, including woman&home, Grazia, Now, More!, Fabulous, NW, Woman, Woman's Own, Woman's Weekly, Essentials, Best, Chat, and OK! online. 

In 2010 she launched her own beauty blog, which was shortlisted for Best Beauty Blog in the 2011 and 2012 Johnson & Johnson Beauty Journalism Awards. She has interviewed many high profile industry experts and celebrities including Alesha Dixon, Twiggy and Christina Hendricks.