Yes, You Can Wear Makeup If You Have Eczema — Here’s How

It’s all in the products you use.

by Alanna Martine Kilkeary
makeup for eczema

Itchy, bumpy eczema patches have always crept their way onto the crooks of my elbows, between my fingers, and even behind my knees throughout my adolescence and adulthood thus far. It wasn’t until I reached my twenties that I also began experiencing flares on some areas of my face, particularly on my cheeks and along my jawline. This feat has made me particularly cautious when it comes to choosing makeup products for my eczema-prone skin, and it has completely altered what I look for when shopping for new foundations, blushes, powders, you name it.

According to Dr. Hope Mitchell M.D, a board-certified dermatologist based in Ohio, I’m not alone. “Choosing makeup products when you have eczema can feel daunting, but a few thoughtful tips can make a big difference,” she says. It’s true, opting for fragrance-free or hypoallergenic formulas made with sensitive skin in mind has calmed my flares and kept my skin looking smoother, patch- and itch-free. But it took some time to get there. Here, I spoke with multiple experts to define eczema, share tips on how to choose the right makeup products for the skin condition, and application tips. Let this be your eczema-friendly makeup guide, one that I’ve yearned for since my very first flare-up.

First, What Is Eczema?

Let’s start with the basics. According to Dr. Dendy Engelman M.D., a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City, eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that manifests as patches of dry, itchy, red, and irritated skin. “For those with eczema, choosing cosmetics with nourishing, non-irritating ingredients is crucial for preventing flare-ups and minimizing irritation,” she says. While eczema can be triggered by general seasonal allergies, rhinitis, or genetics, it can also flare up if your skin is sensitive to particular skin care or cosmetic ingredients.

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Is Your Makeup Causing Eczema?

According to the experts, it’s possible for makeup to cause eczema. “Look out for increased redness, itching, or a burning sensation in areas where you apply your makeup,” says Mitchell. You may also see small bumps, swelling, or dry, flaky patches developing shortly after application.

While this wasn’t the case for me personally, the experts recommend to immediately stop using the product you might suspect is causing your eczema flare-up. Engelman also recommends patch-testing the product on another area of your body, like the inner forearm, and waiting 24 to 48 hours to determine if it’s causing an adverse reaction. If so, soothe the affected area with a calming moisturizer or emollient designed for sensitive skin, or apply over-the-counter hydrocortisone.

No matter the root cause of your eczema, Mitchell warns to avoid scratching the area to prevent further damage and infection. “If a flare doesn’t improve or gets worse, consult with a dermatologist who can help you identify which ingredients to avoid in the future,” she says

How To Choose Makeup For Eczema-Prone Skin

Choosing makeup for eczema-prone skin all comes down to the right ingredients. “Look for ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid because they help hydrate and protect the skin barrier,” says Mitchell. Foundations or skin tints that are hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and made for sensitive skin also get the green light from the experts — especially anything that’s approved by the National Eczema Association, like the Tower 28 SunnyDays Tinted SPF 30.

Consistency and format are also important when it comes to choosing makeup for eczema-prone skin. “Avoid gel-based products with alcohol, as they can strip your skin of moisture and worsen dryness and itchiness. Opt for liquid, cream, or mousse foundations as well, since powders can highlight texture issues and dryness,” says Mitchell.

Makeup Ingredients To Avoid If You Have Eczema

There are also a handful of makeup ingredients to avoid when you have eczema-prone skin. “Steer clear of synthetic preservatives — like methylparaben and butylparaben, which are commonly used in cosmetics — as these can exacerbate eczema-prone skin,” says Engelman. She also shares that chemical colorants, which are often labeled as “FD&C” or “D&C” followed by a color and number, can be irritating as well. Because fragrance can exacerbate flare-ups, it’s important to always opt for fragrance-free makeup whenever possible.

Mitchell also recommends staying away from sulfates, formaldehyde releasers, and lanolin, all of which may cause adverse reactions in sensitive skin. “Lastly, be cautious with essential oils and botanical extracts, as they can sometimes lead to irritation,” she adds.

How To Apply Makeup If You Have Eczema

Once you’ve determined what products to use, there are also a few things to be mindful of during application, according to Brielle Pollara, a New Jersey-based makeup artist. “The best approach is to start by hydrating the skin really well before applying any makeup,” she says. The dermatologists echo this sentiment and share that you should always begin your makeup routine with a rich, hydrating moisturizer like the Embryolisse Crème Concentrate or the Dieux Skin Instant Angel Lipid-Rich Barrier Repair Cream with Ceramides.

Next, apply an eczema-friendly skin tint, like the Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Skincare Foundation or the CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 Face Sheer Tint, which is one of Dr. Mitchell’s favorites. If you have eczema bumps or patches, Pollara recommends applying your makeup with a brush. “Gently pat over the areas with a dense brush to help avoid texture [from showing] underneath the makeup,” she says. For blush or bronzer, opt for formulas that are talc and silicone-free, like the Kosas Blush is Life Baked Talc-Free Dimensional + Brightening Blush and the Saie Dew Bronze Soft-Focus Effortless Liquid Bronzer.

“To set your makeup, choose a hypoallergenic setting powder to reduce shine without heavy layers,” says Mitchell. Personally, I love the Ami Colé Skin Melt Talc-Free Loose Setting Powder, and Engelman also recommends the Glo Skin Beauty Pressed Base Powder for a weightless finish.

All in all, applying makeup to eczema-prone skin is possible with the right formulas and techniques. Reading labels carefully, patch-testing, and opting for hypoallergenic and fragrance-free products are the methods that have tamed my eczema’s madness. With the right makeup regimen, you too, can kiss those itchy, bumpy patches goodbye albeit, temporarily.