How to Apply Foundation When You Have Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin, often the simple act of applying a foundation is a real challenge. Your skin likes to be makeup-free or at least a-few-particular-irritants-free. However, while you do need to find out what triggers your foundation sensitivity eventually if your skin starts to tingle, you have a problem with redness, or you are prone to breakouts, there are a few steps you can take to help protect your skin without sacrificing your beauty regimen.

If you are trying to pick a foundation that doesn’t cause flare-ups, there are a few tips that can help even the most sensitive faces thrive.


Choose a Foundation for Your Sensitive Skin Type

This is something you need to know when picking foundation even if you have glorious normal skin. Every single person has a skin type that fits into one of four categories: oily, dry, combination, or normal. As people with skin sensitivities don’t have what would be considered normal (i.e. perfect) skin since flare-ups often result in dry or oily skin, we will cover how to choose a foundation for the other three.

  • Oily Skin – Oily skin will always have a sheen to it, and because of the oil, there is a good chance of acne scars or pigmented areas. To combat this and not incur flare-ups, choose a water-based liquid foundation or a mineral powder. Always make sure the foundation is non-comedogenic so that it is less likely to clog up your pores. To get rid of shine on oily skin, choose a finishing power made from rice powder. It is effective and non-irritating.
  • Dry Skin – Dry skin is more prone to feeling tight, but also has the unfortunate habit is flaking away, which can be a problem if you want a smooth layer of foundation. Those who suffer from dry skin want their foundation to be all about keeping their face hydrated throughout the day. This means definitely no alcohol productions or anything too chemically that will dry you out. Instead, choose cream foundations or stick foundations to keep your skin hydrated.
  • Combination Skin – The unlucky few with combination skin have an unfortunate lot in life that causes them to suffer both oily and dry skin. Typically those with combination skin will have heavy oil during the summer and dry flaking during the winter. Combating this is actually pretty easy. You need to have a mineral powder or water-based foundation for oily summers while having a cream foundation for those dry skin winters.

Prep You Skin Beforehand

Applying a primer or moisturizer beforehand not only helps foundation bond to skin for smoother and longer-lasting coverage, but a non-irritating primer can provide your skin some extra protection against the chemicals and irritating minerals in some foundations. Of course, if you have dry skin, you want to use a moisturizer while oily skin wants to stick a nice mattifying primer that doesn’t add more oil or moisture, but rather preps and protects the skin while keeping shine to a minimum and shrinking up your pores.

Many of these pre-foundation products come with SPF, and that is fine if you are sure you are not sensitive to the iron oxide or titanium dioxide that provides such products with sun protection. If you are unsure, it is best to go without. Ideally, you want a primer with as little chemicals as possible as well as no synthetic fragrance or dyes. Those are some of the number one irritants for those without specific skin allergies.


Color Correctors Next

If you have redness or pigmented areas, you will want to invest in a non-irritating color corrector. When it comes to simple redness, many primers offer good redness reduction, but spots will need to be spot treated. The best options are to stick to color correctors. The key to keeping foundation from agitating your skin is to keep it as light as possible. You want a foundation that layers well and to use as few layers as you can. Unfortunately, dark spots require more layers to cover up without spot treatment.

If you think you can skip the color corrector and just cover it with foundation, just keep in mind that even normal skin will be ravaged if it has a half-inch of makeup covering it all day.

Avoid these Foundation Ingredients

Common irritants present in foundations include:

  • Fragrances
  • Preservatives
  • Synthetics dyes
  • Lactic acid
  • Glycolic
  • Benzoic acid
  • Alpha hydroxyl acid
  • Vitamin C additives
  • Propylene glycol
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Essential oils like chamomile and calendula
  • Mica


The last item on the list, mica, isn’t actually bad for you. It is a natural mineral that is added to almost all foundation for shimmer. The problem is that it is processed down so small that the sharp particulars leave tiny cuts and irritate the skin. If you have problems with almost all foundation, you might have a problem with mica, but it is damn near impossible to find a foundation without it. Another way to combat it is to try using primers beforehand for just a touch of protection.


Prefer Brushes Over Sponges

Yes, certain foundations, like cream and other liquid foundations, are only really evenly spread with sponges, but sponges are magnets for bacteria and any dirt on your makeup counter. Brushes can be easily cleaned off after use, making contamination more difficult. However, if you need to use sponges, find some cheap disposable ones so you don’t irritate your face with ten tons of germs and another particulate.

Look After the Products That Look After You

If you find a foundation that really works for you, then it is a gift. Normies with their glorious normal skin often take it for granted and allow their makeup to sit in squalor. If you have a product that doesn’t irritate your skin, make sure the cap or cover is on firmly after each use, the exterior is kept clean, and you always use a clean brush or sponge with each use. This keeps the opportunity for contamination to a minimum. What many forget is that contamination can be an irritant too.

Our Top Picks for Foundations for Sensitive Skin

Best Primer for Oily Skin – BECCA Ever Matte Poreless Priming Perfector

61ih1QdLFAL._UX679_-150x150Free of silicone, oil, alcohol, and fragrance, this primer by BECCA is the perfect choice for those with oily skin or a problem T-zone. Made with only a handful of ingredients, this primer is the perfect way to not only give your face a matte finish and shrink your pores, but it provides weightless protection to your sensitive skin allowing the foundation to set, but not irritate.


Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin – Elf Hydrating Face Primer

elf-hydrating-primer-150x150While you can easily find a nourishing face moisturizer, finding a hydrating primer is another story. The Elf Hydrating Primer is a refreshing gel infused with a series of skin-nourishing vitamins that actually have some noticeable anti-aging benefits while locking in the natural moisture of your skin. The major benefit of this moisturizer is the same natural ingredients it uses for its anti-aging effect actually work great to ridding you of flaking throughout the day.


Best Color Corrector – Aesthetica Color Correcting Cream Concealer Palette

aesthetica-color-corrector-150x150When it comes to color corrector, most people go for a stick, for the obvious reason that it is easy to use. Unfortunately, many stick products contain synthetic dyes and other ingredients that irritate skin, that is why this four-color palette is out top pick for color correction. Not only does it use very few ingredients, but it can fix both redness and hyperpigmentation in one package. For those that are daunted by the artistry, the best part it comes with simple to follow instructions on how to fix and combine colors in order to correct whatever imperfections you have on your skin.

Best Liquid Foundation – Natural Coverage Liquid Mineral Foundation


When it comes to anything that completely covers your skin, the more natural it is, the better. While you have to watch natural ingredient skin allergies, this Natural Coverage foundation is perhaps the least likely liquid foundation to irritate your face. Made with almost exclusively organic ingredients, you not only get the nourishing ingredients your skin needs to lock in moisture but an easily layered foundation that looks great.


Best Mineral Foundation – Jane Iredale PurePressed

jane-iredale-purepressed-150x150If you love mineral foundations because of how light they are on your face, then PurePressed is sure to thrill. This pressed powder compact goes on matte and weightless to pamper both sensitive and oily skin. Made completely out of micronized minerals and other natural ingredients, you don’t need to worry about any synthetics irritating your face. You just reap the benefits of the natural minerals as well as added antioxidants like pomegranate and pine tree extract.