There’s a reason why cosmetics is a billion-dollar industry in the United States alone — because purchasing (and trying out) modern-day beauty products makes us feel good. So many shades, so many brands, so many options! However, if you have eczema, your choices become limited as certain ingredients can irritate, inflame or trigger the condition. Thankfully, there are a lot of good, safe makeup options for eczema-prone skin on the market made with gentle ingredients that not only won’t worsen the condition, but can help heal it as well. Keep scrolling for the doctor-approved picks.
What exactly is eczema?
“Eczema is a broad term that describes when the skin becomes red, itchy, dry and sometimes flaky — it can affect any part of the body,” says Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. “The most common form of eczema is called atopic dermatitis, which is a skin condition marked by red, dry and itchy skin that impacts infants, children and adults.” While eczema may appear anywhere, adds Dr. Garshick, it commonly affects the flexural areas of the arms, legs, especially behind the knees, hands and areas on the face, such as the eyelids and around the mouth. “While there are no cures, there are ways to manage it.” (Speak to a dermatologist about skincare management for eczema.)
According to Dr. Morgana Colombo, a board-certified dermatologist based in Reston, Virginia, eczema can appear on your skin at any age. “It’s very common due to the hormonal changes, such as menopause, us women go through before we hit fifty.” Plus, as we age, she explains, so does our skin. “It becomes thinner and more prone to flare ups.”
What to look for in makeup if you have eczema
Since those with eczema tend to have (very) sensitive skin, Dr. Garshick recommends applying hypoallergenic makeup that will be less likely to cause a reaction.
Makeup for eczema: Look for moisturizing ingredients
“Opt for makeup that is hydrating and soothing on the skin. Formulas that are especially good for those with eczema prone skin may include ingredients like hyaluronic acid or glycerin, which are humectants, meaning they draw moisture in to help boost hydration in the skin.
Additionally, she adds, some formulas may contain squalene, “which mimics the skin’s natural oils, serving as an emollient on the skin.” Plus, it contains ceramides to support the skin barrier, and niacinamide, “which can be soothing.”
Dr. Colombo agrees that choosing products with natural ingredients is “crucial.” She also suggests looking for products that are gentle for all skin types, she says. “Besides hypoallergenic, seek out makeup that bears the labels ‘non-comedogenic’ and ‘fragrance-free.'”
Makeup for eczema: Look for products made with zinc oxide
“The most important ingredient to look for in makeup for sensitive skin is zinc, particularly in the form of zinc oxide,” says Amy Wall, an award-winning licensed esthetician, who knows first-hand what it’s like to have eczema. “It’s wonderful for people with eczema-prone skin. A powerful trace element, zinc eases discomfort, curbs inflammation and assists in restoring the skin to its normal condition.”
However, she stresses, it’s important to remember that everyone’s skin has unique sensitivities and responses to different ingredients and products. “It’s always best to perform a patch test when introducing new mineral makeup containing zinc oxide to your skincare routine.”
One of her personal favorites? illuminare Moisturizing Mineral Makeup (Buy from illuminare Cosmetics, $33). “I’ve suffered from eczema for years and love this brand,” raves Hall. “I’ve worn it for over 15 years. It’s the best of the best.”
Speaking of zinc, if you have eczema, don’t neglect the sunscreen (even in the winter!), says Vanessa Coppola, a board-certified and licensed family nurse practitioner who specializes in facial aesthetics. “Look for mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as they are less likely to irritate sensitive skin.”
Her advice is this: First, apply a gentle moisturizer to the skin to provide a protective barrier. Let it dry and sink in, “and then apply your sunscreen on top of that before your makeup. According to Coppola, this layering technique can help to minimize a flare up, “but you will have to play trial and error to see what products work best together as you don’t want to have too much of an oily buildup on the surface of the skin.”
Makeup for eczema: Use *this* makeup brush
Additionally, if you have eczema, you’ll want a makeup brush that won’t irritate the skin. Hall recommends a “freshly washed, synthetic bristle brush or fingers, so any contact dermatitis from cross contamination, or irritation from natural fibers, is not aggravated.” One to try is the illuminare foundation brush (Buy from illuminare Cosmetics, $20).
Is eye makeup safe to wear if you have eczema?
“Eye makeup is safe even for those with sensitive skin,” says Dr. Garshick. “That said, if you are experiencing an eczema flare up around the eyes, it is best to avoid makeup to minimize further irritation.” In some cases, she adds, applying a petrolatum-based ointment like Vaseline “can be helpful to provide a protective barrier and minimize irritation. “
Coppola says to “select eye products labeled hypoallergenic or ophthalmologist-tested to minimize the risk of irritation.” She likes the Clinique High Impact Zero Gravity mascara (Buy from Clinique, $27), which is “really good for sensitive eyes and washes off with just water.”
“You want to avoid getting blepharitis (an irritating eye condition which causes dandruff-like flakes on your lashes), which can sometimes co-occur in an individual with eczema,” adds Coppola. “People who tend to have an allergenic profile can often have more than one allergic manifestation.”
Ingredients to avoid when you have eczema
Avoid heavy, oil-based skin products, advises Dr. Colombo. “Also, avoid alcohol-based products — they will strip your skin and make it even more sensitive. Search for lighter, water-based foundations, creams, blushes and highlighters.”
If you’re at a department store or cosmetics shop such as Sephora, ask an employee for samples, says Dr. Colombo. “Test certain makeup at home with small patches to start. Circle any areas that seem to flare-up and omit those beauty items moving forward.”
Expert-recommended skin makeup for eczema
ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF40 (Buy from Sephora, $48)
“Because no anti-aging regimen is complete without sun protection, this lightweight serum provides broad-spectrum SPF 40 coverage using zinc oxide, as well as a blend of hyaluronic acid, squalane and niacinamide to help hydrate and soothe the skin,” says Dr. Garshick. “It also comes in so many shades, making it easy to find a shade that matches your skin tone.”
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint (Buy from CVS, $21.79)
Dr. Colombo’s a fan of this concealer for those prone to eczema. “It’s hydrating, great for sensitive skin, oil-free and non-comedogenic.”
Voodoo Coconut Cream Foundation (Buy from Voodoo Makeup, $45)
This cool indie brand sells a cream-based makeup with all-natural properties. “It’s free of mycotoxins and allergens,” explains Dr. Colombo. “It’s also buildable, so depending on your skin that day, you can get very light coverage.”
Should I go bare-faced if I have an eczema outbreak?
If you happen to have an eczema flare-up on the face, Dr. Colombo says it’s best to avoid makeup until the skin calms down. “Do your best to go makeup-free and only use moisturizers that are recommended for women with eczema.”
How to remove makeup if you have eczema?
“Use gentle cleansers that are hypoallergenic such as micellar water,” advises Coppola. “Test everything before you fully dive-in. Remember: be very conscious about reading labels and stick with ingredients and trusted brands that have a good track record and labels that state the product is hypoallergenic.”
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