For this 3-post series, we have Alana Mitchell, the founder of SkincarebyAlana.com. She’s the most suitable expert I know for this topic on makeup for sensitive skin, where we will be covering not just the basics of makeup, but very practical steps on applying and removing makeup and even how to mask the appearance of scars or pigmented skin. See last week’s post on Skin Types and Makeup
More on Alana – Alana acquired her esthetician license from the State Board of Barber and Cosmetology of California, allowing her to practice skincare in the California state in her spa business. Alana has worked in the beauty industry for over 15 years, and teaches advanced education classes for esthetician students.
There is no strict definition for sensitive skin but generally, it means being more prone to getting a hypersensitive reaction to ingredient/chemicals. You can find out which ingredient you’re sensitive to via a patch test and your patch test results can be entered into the CAMP (Contact Allergen Management Program) database in the US to obtain a list of products you can use.
Applying Makeup – Moisturizer and Foundation
MarcieMom: Alana, thanks for helping out this week with application and removal of makeup. We are getting into the specifics of makeup for those with sensitive skin this week.
Can you share with us how we can figure out our skin tone and choose the right foundation (color, texture)?
Alana: If I’m being totally honestly, there is a lot of guesswork that goes into finding your perfect shade. Foundation shades are typically crafted on the most common skin tones, and you will notice that there are usually only 10-20 shades in a typical range. Since everyone has their own unique skin tone, it is usually a matter of trying a shade that looks closest to yours. Another option is to buy one shade darker, and one shade lighter, so you can blend them to meet your exact skin tone.
For brands that label based on undertone, finding your exact shade might be much easier. The first step in figuring out your skin tone is knowing your skin’s undertone, which is a lot easier than many people might think! Simply look at the inside of your wrist and observe the color of your veins. If they appear to be blue, you are likely cool toned. If they appear to be green, you are likely a warm undertone. If you notice both blue and green, or something in between, you are likely a neutral undertone. Whichever tone you observe, you will want to lean towards that range (warm ranges are usually labeled with a W, cool with a C, and neutral with a N). After that, it is all a matter of finding the right shade. Just because it matches your undertone, does not mean it will be an exact match. It might still be too dark or too light – so trial and error will come into play yet again.
When in doubt, there are two things you can do: ask you local makeup artist or esthetician. They should be able to give you some recommendations, and might even be able to test products on you in an effort to find your exact match. When it comes to testing makeup, I am a huge advocate of doing so in a safe manner. If you head down to your local department store, see if they have small, sealed samples that you can test in-store or take home to test. If you feel comfortable allowing a makeup artist to test products on you in-store, make sure you understand the risks (those products are tested on many people, not just yourself) and watch them sanitize both the product and the makeup brush properly. I am not personally an advocate of using in-store testers, unless they are housed in an airless pump container, which most makeup products are not. But is very much a matter of personal preference.
MarcieMom: What about for those with sensitive skin? How can sensitive skin types choose the right foundation and what ingredients should sensitive skin types look for or avoid in foundation?
Alana: When it comes to sensitive skin, I always recommend seeking the advice of a dermatologist or medical esthetician. They are going to be able to give you the best recommendations for your skin type, because they have an understanding of the ingredients that go into skin care and makeup, and also have an understanding of sensitive skin in general.
As far as things to avoid: many sensitive skin types don’t do well with harsh chemicals, alcohol, artificial fragrances, and the like. However, each person is different, and an ingredient that does not irritate one sensitive skin user might irritate another. Brands like YoungBlood Cosmetics and Glo Minerals are fabulous options for sensitive skin users. YoungBlood Cosmetics, founded by Pauline Youngblood, delivers a range that can cover raw, inflamed or discolored skin while allowed it to breath and heal! So yes, most sensitive skin types can definitely use this ultra-gentle makeup range. Glo Minerals bills itself as being a “clinically advanced mineral makeup that covers, corrects, and protects”. They indicate on their site that they are suitable for “even the most sensitive skin,” and I have seen great success with sensitive skin clients using this brand.
MarcieMom: Moisturizing the skin and sun protection are important. How do these go with make-up? e.g. apply them all separately or it’s better to choose makeup that is both moisturizing and offers broad-spectrum UV protection?
Alana: While I am a firm believer in keeping moisturizing and makeup separate, you can definitely combine SPF protection with beautiful skin coverage. As I mentioned in my last post, I am a huge fan of tinted sunscreen. If dry skin is a concern for you, you can definitely reach for products that are more moisturizing.
There are many products that offer full coverage results with SPF foundation. I do urge users to be selective when it comes to picking out a brand and formulation, and to really consider if this option is best for them. Full coverage products are typically “heavier”, meaning most people will not want to reapply it throughout the day. Reapplying SPF every 2 hours (at least) is crucial for optimal sun protection, which is where product selection comes into play.
Lastly, powdered sunscreens make for a great and easy option! Though these are typically on the lighter side of the coverage spectrum, they do a great job of masking imperfections, while absorbing excess oil and mattifying the skin. I happen to be a huge fan of this method for touch-ups (after applying my tinted sunscreen in the AM).
Alana’s Makeup Removal tips for Sensitive Skin
MarcieMom: Alana, what would be your top makeup removal steps/ pointers for those with sensitive skin? (with a view to minimize skin irritation from the products, the beauty tools used e.g. brush and cross-irritation)
Alana: Makeup removal should always be a priority, but I personally like to keep it simple (and enjoyable) to make it feel less tedious at the end of a long day. First and foremost, be sure to remove any makeup around your eye area. There are many eye and lip makeup removers out there that are gentle enough for sensitive skin, and many that are actually indicated for sensitive skin. After you remove makeup in these areas, it’s time to cleanse your face. If you are not the proud owner of a skin cleansing device, make sure you cleanse twice a night to ensure you get any excess dirt, oil, and makeup off of your skin. That is about it! Of course, be sure to follow your cleansing up with your typical skin care routine.
Thank you so much for sharing the makeup basics for those with sensitive skin. It’d give those of us with sensitive skin so much more confidence when we approach makeup. Next week, we will focus on makeup for those with eczema, an area that many eczema sufferers struggle with.