Everyone with sensitive skin reaches for the label that says "hypoallergenic." However, there are currently no regulations to oversee the use and application of this term, which can leave those with sensitive skin and allergies in a quandary. Fortunately, you can learn how to identify common allergens and opt for products that are free from these ingredients in order to find the ones that will work for you. Many products that carry the hypoallergenic label are indeed gentle enough for those with even the most sensitive skin.
What to Look for When Choosing Hypoallergenic Makeup
Truly hypoallergenic makeup should have few to no artificial ingredients that may cause a reaction. It should be made up of natural or organic products. Make sure the makeup is free of fragrance, dyes, alcohols, parabens, oils, mercury and mercury containing products, and talc. These are all skin irritants. Look for products with a short list of ingredients that you can pronounce.
Try mineral makeup and choose powder over liquid. The more oily the makeup, the more likely it will cause a reaction. Do not use anything waterproof. Waterproof makeup uses a solvent that is a common irritant to sensitive skin and tends to have more oils than regular makeup.
Most cosmetic counters offer "testers" of each product they sell so you can see what the shade will look like on your skin. If you have very sensitive skin, test the product behind your ear or on your forearm for at least a couple of hours and up to a couple of weeks. If you start to itch or break out, do not continue to use the product.
Check the expiration date. Just like food, cosmetics have a shelf life. Makeup past the product shelf life will have a greater chance of causing an allergic reaction.
Common Makeup Allergens
Everyone's skin reacts differently to different products and additives. Fragrance may not bother one person but cause another to break out in hives or blisters. Some of the most common ingredients that can be irritants include:
- Fragrance - Both natural and artificial fragrances can cause reactions, so it's best to opt for fragrance-free wherever possible.
- Parabens - Parabens such as methylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben, are preservatives in cosmetics. They are likely to irritate existing skin conditions.
- Lanolin - A common ingredient in moisturizing makeup, lanolin can cause allergic reactions due to it being extracted from sheep wool.
- Alcohols - SD alcohol, cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, ceteareth 20, and denatured alcohol can be drying and cause irritation for those with very sensitive skin.
- Mica - Mica is made up of silicates and ground minerals and is commonly used as a texturizer and coloring agent in cosmetics. While it has been tested to be safe, people with sensitive skin can have an allergic reaction to it because it may contain traces of heavy metals.
- Dimethicone - A form of silicone derived from sand, dimethicone is used in cosmetics for its lubrication qualities and to give cosmetics a smooth application and feel. Anyone with a silicone allergy should also avoid dimethicone.
Herbal extracts - While they are natural, people with allergies to certain plants will react to oils of those plants. For example, people who are allergic to ragweed should avoid anything made from chamomile.
Butters and oils - Cocoa butter is a common ingredient in cosmetics and could cause a reaction to those allergic to chocolate. Similarly, some oils and butters such as almond oil are derived from nuts and should be avoided by anyone allergic to them.
Hypoallergenic Product Recommendations
Allergies are complicated and vary widely from person to person. If you know which ingredients you have problems with you can easily avoid them. For others, it can be a process of trial and error to find makeup products that are allergen-free.
Foundation and Powders
Since these products cover the entire face, it's important to find a good quality foundation or powder that will not react with your skin.
- bareMinerals Original Foundation - A loose mineral makeup with a naturally luminous finish that does not dry the skin, bareMinerals is formulated without parabens, binders, fillers, or synthetic chemicals. Not only is it hypoallergenic, but this foundation also includes zinc oxide which can help soothe rosacea. bareMinerals foundation is a ten-time Glammy Award winner and can be found at select stores including Ulta and Macy's, and online for just under $30.
- Almay Smart Shade Smart Balance Pressed Powder - If you're looking for a less expensive brand of hypoallergenic powder, Almay is a "drugstore" brand that is widely available, and this particular product costs around $10. It's oil, talc, and fragrance free, contains no parabens, and all of Almay's products are tested by dermatologists. Reviewers at Total Beauty note that the product provides a light finish and doesn't cause break-outs or irritation.
- Lancome Teint Miracle - This is a liquid foundation available in eleven shades. The formula is light and moisturizing and contains rose extract which is meant to soothe dry or irritated skin. It is free of oils and fragrance, doesn't contain parabens, and will not clog pores. Reviewers at Nordstrom love the coverage, dewy look, and the lack of skin irritants. You can pick up Teint Miracle at any department store Lancome counter, or purchase it online for about $50.
- Jane Iredale PurePressed Blush - Jane Iredale offers ten shades of pressed mineral blush with subtle, natural colors. It is free of chemical dyes and irritants. PurePressed Blush is noncomedogenic and free of wheat gluten, and some shades are also vegan. Makeup Alley users love this product, giving it a 4.5 average rating (out of five) and noting the natural shades and the fact that this product does not contain talc, though several were surprised by the small amount of blush in the container. PurePressed Blush can be found at Nordstrom or bought directly from the manufacturer for about $27.
- Australian Beauty Award for Best Blush. Mirenesse blush is free from alcohol, fragrance, parabens, and oils, and it contains natural ingredients like jojoba and rose extract. If you allergic to nuts however, be aware that this product does contain macadamia oil. Pick up your favorite of the five available shades for about $35.
- VMV Hypoallergenics Skin Bloom Blush - Rated as one of Better Homes and Gardens' favorite hypoallergenic beauty products, Skin Bloom Blush by VMV Hypoallergenics is free of parabens, preservatives, and fragrances. Several of the available shades are also dye-free. These tints contain green tea extract to soothe skin, coconut oil to moisturize, as well as pigments that help to reduce sun damage. Skin Bloom Blush retails for about $40.
- Jane Iredale Jelly Jar Gel Eyeliner - This is a creamy, highly pigmented eyeliner that provides saturated color. This eyeliner is water resistant, hypoallergenic, vegan, and wheat gluten-free. All of Jane Iredale's cosmetics are also certified cruelty free. Jelly Jar Gel Eyeliner comes in a little pot and should be applied with a clean makeup brush. A review at the well beauty blog gives this eyeliner high marks for pigmentation and staying power. Jane Iredale cosmetics can be found at Nordstrom or online, and this eyeliner retails for about $28.
- Almay Intense I-color - These coordinated, easy-to-use shade collections offer a mistake proof application which complements and intensifies your eye color. It is a crease proof, all day wear formula. And of course, these shadows are hypoallergenic and won't irritate sensitive eyes. 80% of the users who reviewed the Intense I-color kits at Makeup Alley would buy it again and love the richness of the colors as well as how gentle it is. This product can be found at most cosmetic counters and online for about $5.
- Physician's Formula Organic Wear 100% Natural Origin Bigger! Better! Lashes Mascara - Another favorite of Better Homes and Gardens, this mascara promises big, bold, 24-hour wear. It contains 100% natural color pigments and preservatives and 70% organic ingredients. It's safe for both sensitive eyes and those who wear contact lenses, and the formula is also gluten-free. At about $15 a tube (it sells a for a bit less at drug stores), it's a great value as well.
- Hemp Organics HO Lipstick - All the Hemp Organics HO lipsticks are 85-100% organic and colored with mineral pigments. The ingredients are easy to read and understand, making this hypoallergenic product one that inspires confidence in those with sensitivities. The extensive line features 26 shades and is one of Good Housekeeping's picks for the best natural lipsticks. Order online for about $18, or try a sample shade for a little under $2.
- Cleure Natural Mineral Shea Butter Lip Gloss - Cleure's lip gloss is made with 100% natural blend of shea butter, minerals, and vitamin B5 that create either a subtle sheen or dramatic color. This gloss is free of parabens, salicylate, fragrance, and gluten. It is a vegan formula. This product is a top pick at Hollywood Life on their list of the hottest shades for summer. Cleure cosmetics are only available online from the manufacturer for around $25.
Simple Tips to Avoid Reactions
Even with the best hypoallergenic makeup products you may run into issues with skin irritations or breakouts. There are some things that you can do at home to avoid these reactions.
- Apply your foundation with a clean sponge or brush every day. This means if you use a powder, you will need to wash the brush after every application to reduce the bacteria. Most makeup brushes can be washed with hypoallergenic shampoo.
- Once dry, put your brushes away so bacteria and environmental culprits do not accumulate on them.
- If you continue to have problems, try changing your facial cleanser and moisturizer. The problem ingredient may not be in the makeup.
Natural Doesn't Have to Be Au Naturel
Getting a sun kissed or natural look does not have to mean one has to go without using cosmetics. Reading the labels carefully and looking past the marketing and advertisements will be beneficial in learning which products are truly hypoallergenic.