For those of you with fragile, easily irritated skin, you know how hard it can be to find a good makeup product, let alone the right foundation. Hence the reason we reached out to a few skin experts for their guidance on choosing the best foundations for sensitive skin that (fingers crossed) won't cause a reaction.
On our journey to finding the least agitating formulas, we asked dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, what to look for in a sensitive-skin foundation, to which she replied, "Opt for mineral or powder foundations, unless the formula specifies that it is hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and designed for sensitive skin."
Meet the Expert
While avoiding harsh ingredients that clog pores and cause unnecessary redness is important, Cover FX global ambassador Derek Selby says that it's equally necessary to look for a formula that contains anti-inflammatory properties that "reduce redness and inflammation in the skin." Selby suggests finding a foundation with ingredients like "bisabolol derived from chamomile or phytosphingosine, a conditioning lipid that has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties."
Keep reading for the best gentle foundations for sensitive skin.
Cover FX Total Cover Cream Foundation
According to Selby, Cover FX foundations, which come in numerous shades, are "developed in a dermatology clinic in a hospital for the most sensitive skin." Additionally, their products are "mineral oil free, fragrance free, paraben free, gluten free, and talc free," so skin irritation is likely not an issue. And, while a non-agitating formula is a must, it is just as important that the foundation works to cover redness, blemishes, and even out skin tone, which Selby says this cream foundation does thanks to its buildable consistency that can be "very sheer in areas where the skin is clear, and buildable in areas where you need more coverage."
BareMinerals Original Loose Powder Mineral Foundation SPF 15
This mineral foundation is a makeup artist favorite—not just for its complexion-blurring and smoothing effects, but also for its non-comedogenic and clean formula. One of our testers with sensitive, acne-prone skin loves it for how it left her skin looking naturally luminous.
Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full-Coverage Foundation SPF 15
Free of mineral oil, this hypoallergenic foundation provides a full-coverage matte finish that easily smoothes over blemishes and redness for a clear-looking complexion. The formula is made with Amazonian clay and works to prevent oil buildup. From my personal experience, I find that it does not clog pores, which is saying something, as I have very fair skin that's prone to irritation.
Elizabeth Arden Pure Finish Mineral Powder Foundation SPF 20
"Mineral and powder formulas sit on the surface of the skin and are less likely to get into the pores and cause irritation," says Engelman. She specifically recommends using this loose powder foundation from Elizabeth Arden, as it "contains sea water minerals that help support the skin's own natural mineral equilibrium," thus reducing the likelihood of skin irritation.
Jane Iredale PurePressed Base Mineral Foundation
When a product is at sold many dermatologist offices, you know it's likely good for your skin. This powder foundation is a great option for those of us who don't like the heaviness of a cream formula but still want a decent amount of coverage. If you tend to avoid pressed-powder foundations, don't knock it before you try it, as this formula glides on easily for a non-cakey, buildable, light-to-full-coverage finish.
If you experience facial redness, look for foundations that have a slightly green tint that counteracts the redness in rashes, blemishes, and any pink patches on the skin. If not, we suggest a green primer or color corrector underneath your foundation.
Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Powder Foundation
As the name says, this buildable powder diffuses across skin for a filtered, airbrushed finish, without irritating easily reactive skin. Best part: Its vast range of 50 shades. If you have sensitive skin that's on the oily side, this will help — it has a medium matte finish that looks like a filter IRL.
ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40
This Byrdie clean foundation is great for those with sensitive skin, as it's infused with anti-inflammatory niacinamide, along with moisture-retaining hyaluronic acid, and skin barrier-supporting squalane. It leaves behind a your-skin-but-better finish—one so good, it's award-worthy. To apply, you can use your fingers to gently melt it into the skin for a your-skin-but-better finish.
Cover FX Pressed Mineral Foundation
When in doubt, look to Cover FX for a sensitive-skin foundation. Engelman suggests this oil-absorbing pressed powder that comes in 40 different shades as an alternative to loose-powder formulas, as it provides buildable coverage without irritation thanks to its mineral oil–free, paraben-free, and fragrance-free formula. Even better — there are 40 different shades to choose from, so it'll be easy to find your perfect match.
Colorescience Natural Finish Pressed Foundation SPF 20
This non-comedogenic mineral powder sweeps onto skin with a lightweight, silky feel. Build it up for a complexion that looks more even in tone, and lit-from-within. Best part: It helps protect skin with SPF 20.
IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream with SPF 50+
Wave bye-bye to redness while covering up any pesky spots at the same time with this multi-use CC cream. This lightweight base is a a 6-in-1 product — it's a sunscreen, foundation, color corrector, moisturizer, hydrating serum, and concealer — yes, it really does it all. For best results, apply on clean skin with the brand's Heavenly Skin™ CC+™ Skin-Perfecting Brush #702 ($48).
When Life Gives You Lemons Hi-Function Foundation
If you have super reactive skin and clogged pores are your worst enemy, this foundation might change your life. It's vegan, cruelty-free, fragrance-free, and is clinically-proven to not clog pores. Why? Well, it's formulated with anti-inflammatory niacinamide and a blend of adaptogens like licorice root extract, goji berry, and Korean ginseng that help soothe and protect your skin.