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Finding the right sensitive skin foundation

How to find the right coverage for your skin.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Sep 29, 2023 • 5 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
makeup products on biege background
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Sep 29, 2023 • 5 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

How do I know I have sensitive skin?
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Finding the perfect foundation for sensitive skin can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. You’re not just looking for a product that matches your skin tone and provides the right level of coverage; you also need something that won’t irritate your skin or trigger flare-ups. And let’s face it—the beauty market is flooded with options, each promising to be the ultimate solution for your skin concerns. 

So how do you navigate this overwhelming landscape to find a foundation that is both effective and sensitive-skin friendly?

We asked Curology’s licensed dermatology providers to go over the key factors we should consider when picking out a foundation for sensitive skin and share some tried-and-true options.

How do I know I have sensitive skin?

Wondering if you have sensitive skin? Some tell-tale signs are feelings of tightness, stinging, burning, tingling, pain, or itchiness.¹ These symptoms aren’t just confined to your face; they can occur in other areas of your body as well. The interesting thing is, if you have sensitive skin, you might experience these unpleasant sensations even when exposed to stimuli that usually don't trigger such reactions in others. And these sensations are not linked to a specific skin disease, either.²

What you should know before buying a foundation if you have sensitive skin 

If you have sensitive skin, you should be cautious when shopping for foundation. Notably, cosmetics are one of the primary triggers for sensitive skin flare-ups, especially among women.³ And it’s often not just about the amount you use, but what’s in the product. 

Some foundations contain potential irritants like alpha-hydroxy acids, alcohol, and fragrances that may make your skin react. To keep your skin happy, it’s best to opt for makeup products that are free from these potential troublemakers.⁴ Doing a patch test before going all-in can be a skin-saver!

5 foundations that may work for sensitive skin 

Finding the proper foundation that doesn’t irritate your skin can be a real challenge, but we’re here with a few of our favorite recommendations to make the process easier! Here are five options that might give you the coverage you’re looking for, while keeping your sensitive skin in mind. Plus, these all come in various shades to match your skin tone.

1. Clinique Even Better Makeup SPF 15: This one is a two-in-one—not only does it give you buildable coverage, but it also offers SPF 15 to protect your skin from the sun. Keep in mind that the minimum recommended SPF is 30, so relying on SPF 15 in your foundation is not enough. Make sure you also apply an SPF 30 sunscreen beforehand for optimal UV protection.

2. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Teint: This foundation is allergy-tested and non-comedogenic, so it’s designed with sensitive skin in mind.

3. Jane Iredale PurePressed Base: If you’re a fan of mineral makeup, you should check out this powder option. It’s non-comedogenic, provides SPF, and gives you a semi-matte finish without drying your skin.

4. Almay Clear Complexion Makeup: Struggling with acne? This foundation contains salicylic acid to help you control breakouts, all while giving you lightweight coverage.

5. Cover FX Natural Finish Foundation: This foundation is free from common irritants like fragrance, and reviewers say it’s buildable, so you can get more coverage without looking cakey.

Remember to patch-test first to ensure these options work for you—happy foundation hunting!

What can I do to take care of my sensitive skin?

Managing sensitive skin is a balancing act, but knowing your triggers is half the battle. Whether allergies, environmental elements, or, as often is the case, cosmetic products, identifying what makes your symptoms worse can help you avoid flare-ups.⁵ Using products with a simple ingredients list can also help because ingredients that disrupt your skin’s natural pH balance or contain irritating substances can make things worse.⁶

So, why is pH so crucial? 

Well, a healthy skin barrier usually maintains a pH of about 5.5.⁷ This barrier keeps irritants out and hydration in. Mess with it, and you’re inviting a host of issues, including inflammation.⁸ So, make sure you opt for products that help maintain your skin’s pH balance and keep those irritants at bay.

Keep a simple 3-step skincare routine  

Maintaining a simple yet effective skincare routine is an important part of managing sensitive skin. We recommend a straightforward three-step routine, especially before bed, as this can make all the difference! Your skin uses the overnight hours to repair and rejuvenate,⁹ so why not give it a helping hand?

1. Cleanse: Start by washing your face with a gentle cleanser to remove any dirt, oil, and makeup. If you’re a makeup wearer, consider using Curology’s Micellar Makeup Remover, formulated to be gentle on all skin types.

2. Treat: After cleansing, it’s time for targeted treatment. Apply your custom Curology formula as directed by your licensed dermatology provider. 

3. Moisturize: Last but not least, lock in the moisture. Curology offers two fantastic options depending on your needs. There’s the original Gel Moisturizer, which has a lightweight consistency that’s great for everyday use. If you need more hydration, opt for the Rich Moisturizer.

Curology 3-step skincare routine products

Sticking to this simple, three-step Curology routine can help you wake up with clearer, more hydrated skin without overwhelming it with too many products. And remember, less is more with sensitive skin.

Sign up for Curology and start on your personalized skincare journey 

Ready to take the next step in your skincare journey? Sign up for Curology! With personalized formulas tailored to your skin’s unique needs, we take the guesswork out of skincare. Take advantage of the chance to give your skin the attention it deserves. 

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FAQs

What is the best brand of foundation for sensitive skin?

While there's no one-size-fits-all here, there are a few brands that are known for being particularly gentle. Your skin is unique, however, so what works wonders for one person might not be the perfect fit for you. It's always a good idea to sample a few to find your perfect match. As always, consult a dermatology provider if you have specific concerns regarding your skin and which cosmetics to use.

What makeup can you use for sensitive skin?

First things first, look for keywords like “hypoallergenic," “non-comedogenic,” and “fragrance-free” on the packaging. Remember, what’s gentle for most may not be for you, so it doesn’t hurt to do a patch test first.

What is the best foundation for people with eczema?

If you're dealing with eczema, you know how real the struggle is to find a foundation that won't irritate your skin further. What you need is something made specifically for sensitive or eczema-prone skin. According to research, products with low allergenic potential are your safest bet.¹⁰ Also, you want a foundation that isn’t drying, because eczema and dry skin go hand in hand.¹¹

Is Bare Minerals makeup good for sensitive skin?

Bare Minerals is a mineral-based brand, and these can tend to be less irritating than their non-mineral counterparts. They usually skip the fragrances and other irritants, a win-win for sensitive skin.

But—and it’s a big but—skin can be unpredictable. Even if a product is labeled as “sensitive skin-friendly,” it might not work for you. When in doubt, do a patch test and consult with a dermatologist.

Can I use foundation with SPF as my only sun protection?

Keep in mind that the minimum recommended SPF is 30. So, relying solely on the SPF in your foundation is usually not enough for optimal UV protection. It’s best to always apply an SPF 30 sunscreen to adequately protect your skin from the sun.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Wollenberg, A. and Giménez-Arnau, A. Sensitive skin: A relevant syndrome, be aware. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. (April 2022).

  2. Wollenberg, A. and Giménez-Arnau, A. Sensitive skin: A relevant syndrome, be aware. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. Ibid.

  3. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. (July-August 2017).

  4. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. Ibid.

  5. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. Ibid.

  6. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. Ibid.

  7. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. Ibid.

  8. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. Ibid.

  9. Lyons, A.B., et al. Circadian Rhythm and the Skin: A Review of the Literature. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (September 2019).

  10. Levy, L.L. and Emer, J.J. Emotional benefit of cosmetic camouflage in the treatment of facial skin conditions: personal experience and review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. (2012, November 1).

  11. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Skin care for eczema. (2017, February 23).

Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO. * Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Meredith Hartle, DO

Meredith Hartle, DO

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