Good sensitive skin makeup sounds like an oxymoron, right? (If you suffer from breakouts and irritation no matter what you try to use, you know what I’m talking about.)
Sensitive Skin Makeup for Everyday Wear
I think I’ve found it. And it is “good” sensitive skin makeup that I can actually put on my face every day without redness, itchiness, or a rosacea flare-up. All products can be found at Sephora, Sephora.com, and RareBeauty.com.
Is it perfect? Nah. I’ll explain why it’s not in a sec. However, Rare Beauty, the makeup line by Selena Gomez, is the best I’ve found for my dry, sensitive, rosacea-prone skin. I’m sold on the combo of Always an Optimist Illuminating Primer and Liquid Touch Weightless Foundation ($29.00).
Even my Clinique Redness Solutions sensitive skin makeup meant to be good for rosacea oxidizes (aka: turn orange) a little, doesn’t come in a shade that’s truly light enough for me unless I’ve got a light sunless tan going on, and can still be seen sitting on my skin (Rare Beauty’s is visible too, but the color match is better and it feels more lightweight).
Bonus: I’m super-pale and I found the perfect color match (that doesn’t even oxidize over the course of the day!)
Foundation for sensitive skin (primer, concealer, and setting spray too!)
It’s not every day that I get excited about a foundation. Or primer. Especially not primer. I usually keep my distance from that stuff. Thanks, sensitive skin. Makeup has gotten harder to manage since my face decided to become so high-maintenance over a decade ago.
So here’s what my sensitive skin makeup needs to be able to manage:
- Rosacea (not coverage, necessarily, since I’ve mostly gotten it under control with my skincare routine, but I do need something that won’t cause it to flare up again)
- Dry skin
- Flaky skin
- A little bit of aging (my skin’s not bad for 38, but I’m still 38…lol)
- Very fair complexion that most options are at least a little too dark for
- I hate feeling like I’m wearing a mask and have gotten especially spoiled sitting around without any makeup on…so now my standards are higher
First of all, WOW at the number of available shades. I’m impressed. I usually can’t find shades that are light enough for me (and then a lot of them go orange on me as the day goes by), and I’m not even the lightest shade in this one.
Selecting a shade
I chose 140C after doing the Sephora shade matcher based on other foundations I like and using the selector on the Rare Beauty site. I went with the lighter of the options it gave me. I was still worried because, again, I’m usually farther to the left of that first row of shades.
I would consider this foundation medium coverage, not full. It could probably be sheered out enough to even perform like light coverage with a damp sponge, but I’ve used the brush to apply it.
I’ve liked it so much that way, I haven’t really strayed from it (that’s saying a lot because I’m usually a hands/sponge kind of person when it comes to applying makeup).
You could probably build it to full coverage, but I imagine it would look cakey unless your skin is especially oily.
Feel, application, and appearance
It feels like there’s nothing on my skin, even on top of the primer. It’s incredibly lightweight. I just apply it straight from the giant doe-foot applicator to my face and then use the Rare Beauty foundation brush to blend it in.
It has a weird (in a good way) texture. It’s slick and easy to spread, but at the same time, it’s velvety. If you’ve tried the lip mousse, it’s like a watered-down version of that. It kind of feels powdery.
It looks amazing at first–glowy, youthful, bright–and continues to look good all day, at least in my opinion, from a distance and in photos. I can see the foundation on my skin up close and it gets a little worse as the hours go by. Still, all makeup does that on me so I can’t really count it against this one.
One day, I did have an odd separating issue on one side of my face. It was like the makeup decided to break apart just above my jawline and migrate out from there. It was just one time, though. I’ve never had that happen with other foundations.
By the end of the day, I still have that bright glow thing going on, but it’s highlighting the lines in my forehead and looking (but not feeling) a little dry on my cheeks. Again, there’s only one foundation I can think of that doesn’t do that (Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Wear), and if I wear it more than a day or two in a row, my skin starts to get irritated.
I’ll give this an 8.5/10. I wish I could get that totally smooth finish some ladies get from their foundations from it, but that’s probably more of an issue with my skin type than the foundation. I still say this is pretty darn good sensitive skin makeup, especially for those with rosacea or skin tone most brands don’t have shades for.
I think the foundation is great, but the real magic behind the overall look may just be in the primer. It’s a pale pink pearlescent shade that brightens and adds a youthful glow to the skin without looking shimmery.
It’s also the only liquid primer I can think of being able to use several days in a row without a huge rosacea flare-up, itching, and general misery. I usually won’t even bother with primers because I don’t trust them to work for me, but I wanted to give the whole line a chance together and this one’s silicone-free. Now I’m sorry I only bought the mini.
This gets a 10/10. I’m just ecstatic there’s a primer I can wear, and the fact that it’s so beautiful and effective at adding a glow? Totally sold, probably forever.
The Rare Beauty concealer is one product I can’t make my mind up about. It’s not so much about whether it’s good sensitive skin makeup, as much as how the coverage is.
On one hand, it’s definitely brightening, not drying, and lightweight. On the other, it creases more than some of the other brands I’ve tried and doesn’t cover all that well (it works best on top of my pink Urban Decay color corrector). I got the 140C, the same shade as my foundation.
I think it’s safe to get the same shade as your foundation because they’re meant to coordinate. The concealer seems a little lighter and brighter than my foundation, even though it’s technically the same shade.
How to use it
I would only use this on dark circles or other areas you want to bring light to, fill in, and bring forward (I’ve used it in my smile lines and that worked well). I wouldn’t use this on a pimple because it would have a spotlight effect.
I do like it on its own on non-foundation days. A lot of concealers are so opaque, they look unnatural under my eyes when I’m not wearing foundation, but this one’s sheer enough to blend with bare skin. It’s also the absolute best match I’ve found in concealer (NARS Creamy Radiant Concealer in Vanilla is close, too, feels almost as nice, and is just a bit more opaque).
Light coverage, lightweight feel, but it creases
Bottom line: It feels nice, it’s lightweight, but it creases. The coverage isn’t great but it’s brightening effect and wearability on days when I don’t want to bother with a full face of makeup might make it a keeper. It’s kind of hit or miss. Sometimes, it looks bright and I love it; other days, my dark circles don’t look much better.
I give this product a 6 out of 10, mostly because it seems to be a little unpredictable in how it’ll perform from one day to the next. If your circles aren’t as dark as mine, you’ll probably rate it higher.
I don’t think I’ve bought a makeup brush in over 10 years, other than a replacement kabuki brush for my powder foundation, so I went ahead and picked up the foundation and concealer brushes. I’m not disappointed.
These are densely-packed brushes with soft bristles that glide over the skin. They caress your skin while they let the foundation and concealer know they mean business.
I love the slanted tips because they make application in all the crevices of the face easy to manage. I hate applying foundation with a sponge and then seeing a big gap by my nose where it didn’t blend out right. I especially like how well the concealer brush gets into the area between my inner corner and nose.
These both deserve a 9/10.
This 4-in-1 Prime and Set Mist is not a sensitive skin makeup, necessarily, but it’s worth a mention since it’s part of the line, can help soothe your skin, and also helps the whole makeup look come together.
Here’s another Rare Beauty product I like but am hesitant to recommend. I like it because it helps my makeup look a little more natural and almost melts the layers into each other. It also smells like a spa and has soothing ingredients I appreciate in my skincare products.
The spray itself is a little weird, though. I almost feel like nothing’s hitting the middle of my face. I feel a gentle mist with a few larger drops around the outer edges of my face but not much in the middle.
I’m not sure what’s happening. I know it’s spraying out but it’s not an even mist, I guess? I feel like I need to spray more than average to feel like I did anything, so I’m burning through this product more quickly than others.
This is better than some similar products I’ve tried, but I wish it sprayed more like MAC’s Fix+, which I can use but it still makes me a little itchy. I may return it. I don’t know. I’m reluctant to send it back.
I still have some MAC, but I feel like the ingredients of the Rare Beauty one are better for my sensitive skin. If the gentler mist is still getting the job done, do I really need the feel of the MAC spray?
I’ll give it a 7/10.
I really hope to see a mascara and bronzing product (another one of those things that tend to irritate my skin). Is this the best sensitive skin makeup? Possibly, at least for me.
Is it perfect sensitive skin makeup? No. It still looks a little obvious and can highlight dry patches or pores, but they all do that to me, so it’s no real loss.
It looks amazing from a distance and in photographs, and my skin is still happy at the end of the day when I take it off. I can wear it several days in a row without trouble, too, which is rare, especially for a liquid.
There’s a separate Rare Beauty review on the eye, lip, and cheek products you can check out, too, if you’re interested (you can see some of the colors in the swatches above)!
What do you use to take off your eye makeup??
Hi Jody! That changes from time to time. I like Almay’s eye makeup remover pads and Clinique’s Take the Day Off the most, though. No matter what I use, I try to make sure I keep it only in the eye area and rinse well when I’m done. Depending on how much eye makeup I have on (and which products, since some mascaras are harder to remove than others), sometimes the cleanser’s enough.