Make-up for sensitive skin: the problems it can cause and how to avoid them

To apply make-up to sensitive skin you need to choose special make-up.

Sensitive skin is a skin type that reacts strongly to external stimuli, generally due to changes in the skin’s barrier function, which make it more exposed to potentially irritating factors.
Thus, it is a skin type with extremely fragile defences, which can benefit from the use of special cosmetic products, ranging from your cleanser to your make-up.

Furthermore, sensitive skin is often more prone to redness, marks and small imperfections and therefore it is likely that people want make-up products capable of hiding these things and evening out the skin .

So, if you have sensitive skin and want to wear make-up, it is crucial that you choose the right products.

Make-up: what problems does it create for sensitive skin?

Make-up can be a problem for sensitive and hypersensitive skin, especially in regards to certain ingredients or, sometimes, poor quality products.
Therefore is it extremely important to choose make-up that has been formulated with selected ingredients, which have been thoroughly and specifically tested.

The fragrance, some preservatives, and lanolin and rosin derivatives are often a source of allergic skin reactions, so make-up that is designed for sensitive skin generally does not contain these ingredients.

What’s more, make-up products contain a considerable amount of mineral pigments, the ingredients that give them their colour: titanium dioxide for white, iron oxides for black, brick red and yellow, aluminium silicate for blue, and so on and so forth.
As they are mineral in origin, pigments can “bring” significant traces of heavy metals with them.
Some of these, and especially – nickel, chromium and cobalt – are the culprits behind many cases of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD).

Nickel is a metal that is commonly found as an impurity in objects and raw materials, such as pigments. It is the primary culprit responsible for allergic contact reactions, so much so that a regulation (Regulation EC No. 1907/2006) has been in force in the European Union for many years, which limits the content, as well as the release rate of nickel for objects that are in contact with the skin (jewellery, buttons, etc.). The manufacturing and sale of non-compliant products is obviously prohibited. Nickel and its compounds are also prohibited in cosmetics (Regulation EC No. 1223/2009), but - as this impurity cannot be completely eliminated - current legislation allows its presence in technically unavoidable trace amounts. With current technology, we cannot make nickel-free products, however we can select the base ingredients, check the product to ensure that the traces of nickel are as low as possible and then produce nickel-tested products

Chromium and cobalt are much less common metals as impurities compared to nickel, however some pigments are based on these elements. To prevent allergic reactions occurring, in make-up for sensitive skin it is best to avoid the use of these pigments and, in any case, check the chromium and cobalt content, in addition to nickel content.

Facial make-up, namely foundation, powders, bronzers and blush, can dry the skin out too much or be poorly tolerated in relation to their heavy metal impurities.

Even lip make-up – pencils, gloss, lipstick – can cause a few problems, especially in the case of a carmine intolerance, which is a pigment of natural (animal) origin.

Eye products, such as eye shadows, eye pencils and mascara, especially, can irritate the mucose membranes of the eyes, as well as cause reactions in the eyelid area with reddened, flaky skin, and burning and itching sensations. It is also a good idea to avoid potentially irritating (fragrance) and/or allergenic (preservatives) ingredients for these cosmetics also, because the eye contour area is particularly delicate.

So, choosing the right make-up is extremely important, especially for anyone with sensitive skin and very delicate eyes.


To find out more, please read: Allergic Contact Dermatitis and Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Choosing make-up for sensitive skin

In the case of sensitive and intolerant skin or even if you have had reactions to make-up in the past, we recommend getting familiar with specifically formulated products by following some simple tips:

  1. check that they say they can be used for sensitive skin on the box, generally you will see “sensitive and intolerant skin”
  2. for the eye area, choose specially tested products (ophthalmologically tested)
  3. for particularly sensitive skin, it is best to use a few products, trying one “new” product at a time
  4. before purchasing a product, ask - if available - for a sample and test it on a small area of skin (e.g. inner forearm). Allergic reactions generally appear within 24 hours.

What’s more, it is important to remember that make-up has been developed to stay on your skin for a long time, so even if it seems to have “faded” by the evening, it is crucial that you remove your make-up thoroughly