The best foundations for sensitive skin to help you avoid irritation

We asked dermatologists for the best foundations for sensitive skin—including picks from Dior, NARS and IT Cosmetics

Selection of the best foundations for sensitive skin from EX1 Cosmetics, NARS, IT Cosmetics, bareMinerals and L'Oréal Paris
(Image credit: Future/brands pictured )

Rare and precious finds on the beauty market, the best foundations for sensitive skin will provide good coverage to your desired finish without causing irritation. It's no easy undertaking, as products need to pass strict tests to be deemed suitable for the most sensitive complexions. But, from bareMinerals to NARS, we've found the formulas that dermatologists and doctors (and their patients!) love.

When browsing the best foundations to suit your sensitive skin, you need to take into account several factors, including shade range, price point, and finish—as well as your skin's reactive nature, of course. Slather a potential contender onto the skin without taking the necessary precautions, and you run the risk of triggering a flare-up. We probably don't need to remind you that this understandably undermines your confidence in shopping for makeup.

But don’t be disheartened just because this has happened to you before. We’ve asked dermatologists and skin experts for their top recommendations with an emphasis on sensitive skin. Whether you suffer from conditions like eczema, acne, or rosacea, or if you simply have skin that's reactive generally, we've compiled picks for every texture preference and budget.

Meet the experts on foundation for sensitive skin

  • Dr. Justine Hextall (opens in new tab) has over a decade of experience as a consultant dermatologist and is the medical director of the Tarrant Street Clinic. 
  • Dr. Justine Kluk (opens in new tab) worked as a consultant dermatologist for the NHS before opening her own private practice on London's Harley Street, and is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. 
  • Dr. Sam Bunting (opens in new tab) is the founder of an eponymous clinic on Harley Street and skincare brand, and was a presenter on TLC’s Extreme Beauty Disasters. 
  • Dr. Ifeoma Ejikeme (opens in new tab) is the founder and medical director of London's Adonia Medical Clinic, with an MD and Board Certified Internal Medicine, among other qualifications. 
  • Dr. Thivi Maruthappu (opens in new tab) is a consultant dermatologist with over 10 years of experience in dermatology. All of the above experts have advised My Imperfect Life readers on foundations that they recommend for those with sensitive and reactive skin types. 

How we tested the best foundations for sensitive skin

After listening to the recommendations from our group of experts, our tester used each formula and took into account the following factors to compile this selection of the best foundations for sensitive skin. 

  • Finish
  • Ease of application
  • Coverage
  • Range and number of shades
  • How it wore on the skin
  • Any additional skin benefits, e.g. SPF
  • Cost

The best foundations for sensitive skin that dermatologists recommend

NARS is one of the best foundations for sensitive skin

(Image credit: NARS)

1. NARS Sheer Glow Foundation

Best sensitive-skin foundation for those with eczema

Specifications

RRP: $47/£35
Coverage: Sheer, buildable
Shades and inclusivity: 40
Added extras: Vitamin C derivative, antioxidants and turmeric extract

Reasons to buy

+
Non-comedogenic
+
Hydrating and light-reflective
+
Fragrance-free
+
Large shade range

Reasons to avoid

-
Could make skin look shiny and may need blotting
-
Coverage may be too light for some

This glow-boosting base, which is one of the best non-comedogenic foundations on our list, ticks a variety of boxes in terms of texture and finish. "I love this foundation as it is light, fluid, and hydrating," says consultant dermatologist Dr. Justine Hextall. And it's this combination that makes it ideally suited for eczema-prone skin: "Because skin that has eczema is dry, it can look dull," she continues. "Heavy, matte foundations can exacerbate this appearance." 

This foundation also excels when it comes to formula. It's brightening, protective and moisturizing, like uncapping fresh, dewy skin in a bottle. But that's not all as, perhaps more importantly, it doesn't include ingredients that are likely to be problematic for reactive skin. "It is not perfumed, which is important for dry, sensitive skin that can be easily irritated," Dr. Hextall adds. She also loves that it's light-reflective, a handy add-on for feigning a hydrated glow and smoother skin. Plus, because its shade range is so extensive, she has no problem confidently recommending it to her patients because they should be able to find a perfect color match. 

Bare Minerals is one of the best foundations for sensitive skin

(Image credit: Bare Minerals)

2. bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream

Best foundation for dry sensitive skin

Specifications

RRP:: $37/£30.50
Coverage: Sheer to medium
Shades and inclusivity : 18
Added extras: Mineral SPF30, vegan

Reasons to buy

+
Non-comedogenic
+
Contains moisturising ingredients glycerin, squalane and sodium hyaluronate (a form of hyaluronic acid) 
+
Lightweight gel-cream texture
+
Dewy, radiant finish
+
Fragrance-free

Reasons to avoid

-
Not great for covering blemishes—separate concealer required

Providing makeup, skincare, and suncare in one squeezy tube, it’s easy to see why this lightweight and hydrating base is consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk’s top pick for sensitive skin that’s also dry. Both buildable and easy to remove, it spreads like a dream and gives a dewy, fresh finish that’s ideal for creating an everyday glow. “It’s perfect for evening out your complexion for a natural, airbrushed look,” she tells us.

Although it's a tinted moisturizer, it provides a nice amount of coverage that it's great for everyday wear and, unlike a powder foundation, it won’t soak up any moisture that you do have or cling to flaky patches of skin. In order to get the most out of it, Dr Kluk recommends prepping the skin well. “Cleanse, then follow with a gentle exfoliator such as Medik8 Press & Glow tonic with PHAs and a moisturizing primer to create a smooth, even base," she advises. 

EX1 Invisiwear is one of the best foundations for sensitive skin

(Image credit: EX1)

3. EX1 Cosmetics Invisiwear Liquid Foundation

Best foundation for sensitive acne-prone skin

Specifications

RRP : $13/£12.50
Coverage : Medium to full
Shades : 16
Added extras: Vegan

Reasons to buy

+
Non-comedogenic
+
Semi-matte finish
+
Fragrance-free
+
Great shade range

Reasons to avoid

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The packaging isn’t quite as premium as the product itself

Finding a base for reactive skin that’s also acne-prone is a true challenge. Ideally, a the best foundations for acne-prone skin need to offer a good level of coverage, and not be too thick or heavy (so as not to clog the skin and make breakouts worse) or hard to remove. It’s a fine balance to strike, but this non-comedogenic and fragrance-free formula does so, according to skincare expert and founder of Dr. Sam’s Skincare, Dr. Sam Bunting. “This feels like a premium foundation with a really luminous second-skin finish, but without the price tag,” she explains.

Dr. Bunting is also particularly impressed by the shade range, especially with regard to how it caters to complexions with yellow undertones. “It’s actually really hard to find a foundation with this number of shades that's also free from common irritants and allergens, like fragrance,” she continues. The EX1 Cosmetics website has a useful virtual shade matching tool to help you find the right match. Once found, Dr. Bunting recommends using a Beautyblender or similar sponge to apply it instead of a brush or fingers, which are more likely to unsettle any dry patches on the skin. 

L'Oreal is one of the best foundations for sensitive skin

(Image credit: L'OREAL)

4. L’Oréal Paris True Match Liquid Foundation

Best affordable foundation for sensitive skin

Specifications

RRP : $10.95/£9.99
Coverage: Full
Shades : 40
Added extras: Aloe vera

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable
+
Contains multiple moisturizing ingredients
+
Wide shade range
+
Non-comedogenic
+
Long-lasting but lightweight

Reasons to avoid

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SPF17 is too low to rely on as sole form of sun protection
-
Colors can be different slightly to expectations

With a finish that seem like a foundation twice its price, this affordable base is packed with benefits. As well as being lightweight, consultant dermatologist Dr. Justine Kluk tells us that its hydrating formula containing hyaluronic acid, glycerin, vitamin B5, and vitamin E is ideal for dry skin types. What’s more, its buildable texture allows for a more customized, natural-looking, and glowy finish. 

Its shortcomings? There aren’t many, but Dr. Kluk recommends exercising caution when it comes to the SPF rating, which alone won't provide you with sufficient sun protection. You'll need one of the best sunscreens for face with a rating of at least SPF 30. And secondly, take extra care when color-matching, as some of the shades can look a little different on the skin once applied. 

IT Cosmetics is one of the best foundations for sensitive skin

(Image credit: IT Cosmetics)

5. IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream with SPF 50

Best sensitive-skin foundation for those with rosacea

Specifications

RRP: $44/£33
Coverage: Medium to full
Shades : 14
Added extras: SPF 50

Reasons to buy

+
Moisturizing formula
+
Full yet non-cakey coverage
+
Radiant finish
+
A little goes a long way

Reasons to avoid

-
Colors aren't always as expected

Yes, this base makeup product has "CC" in its name, but for all intents and purposes it’s a foundation. It's loved by beauty fans all over the world, but it's a particular hit among those with rosacea. "Rosacea can be really troublesome as although it can be more obvious in lighter skin types, it also affects skin of color,” explains consultant dermatologist Dr. Thivi Maruthappu. As well as the recognizable redness, our doctor says other signs include skin-flushing and a burning sensation. "You can also have whiteheads (pus-filled spots) and red lumps (papules) and while it typically affects the cheeks and nose, it can also affect the forehead," she adds. 

For this complex skin condition, Dr. Maruthappu recommends this multitasking base. "It contains niacin, hyaluronic acid (which helps to retain moisture in the skin), calming aloe leaf extract and antioxidants, as well as all-important SPF 50—sunlight is aggravating so year-round high factor SPF is essential. It’s also fragrance-free."

With a creamy texture that’s both blendable and buildable, it’s no wonder that her patients love it. While the shades are quite flexible, some reviews point out that they come up lighter or darker than their names suggest, so it's worth getting color matched IRL or trying a sample before you buy. That said, IT Cosmetics has a helpful selection of photos to use as references, as well as options to upload a photo and have a video consultation. You can also read our guide on how to match foundation to your skin online for more tips. Overall, this is excellent coverage that's never cakey and a tube will last you ages. 

Dior is one of the best foundations for sensitive skin

(Image credit: Dior)

6. Dior Forever Matte Foundation

Best matte foundation for sensitive skin

Specifications

RRP: $54/£45
Coverage: Medium to full
Shades: 36
Added extras: Skin-smoothing rosehip extract

Reasons to buy

+
Non-comedogenic
+
Great for combination and oilier skin types
+
Impressive shade range
+
Oil free

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive 

If you have sensitive skin and a T-zone that's prone to shine, then this matte foundation could be the base for you, layered over one of the best moisturizers for oily skin. “It’s a great all-rounder,” says Dr. Ifeoma Ejikeme, skin expert and medical director of London's Adonia Medical Clinic. “I love that it’s lightweight, oil-free, non-comedogenic, and has added ingredients to hydrate the skin.”

What’s more, Dr Ejikeme points out that this formula balances a matte finish without looking mask-like or flat—a rare find in our experience. Plus, its far-reaching shade range makes it a great choice for a variety of skin tones. In terms of application, a little goes a long way on the skin, which ensures that you get your money’s worth when you invest. Providing excellent coverage on any "problem" areas, we're sold on it. 

How to choose the best foundation for sensitive skin

  • Choose the right type of coverage—Opting for lighter, buildable formulas over thicker and longer-wearing buys is a good starting point. The reasoning is two-fold: firstly, you'll have greater control over coverage and, building on those areas that need more, for a finish that's never cakey. It’s worth widening your search to include the best BB creams, CC creams and tinted moisturizers. Secondly, they’ll be easier to remove. Heavy and thick-textured foundations can clog pores and require more elbow grease to get rid of every last scrap—and the more rubbing required, the greater the risk of irritating your skin. 
  • Look for brands that cater to sensitive skin or that offer hypoallergenic/non-comedogenic products—Treat shopping for makeup like you would skincare, specifically seeking out those brands that cater for reactive skin types. If you’ve found a brand whose skincare products work for you, see if they also offer base makeup. If not, seek out products marked as hypoallergenic or non-comedogenic. These will typically have been created using ingredients that are far less likely to cause an allergic reaction or clog pores. However, this terminology isn't necessarily regulated, so make sure there's nothing on the ingredients list that you know has caused your skin to flare up in the past before buying. 
  • Seek out ingredients that support other skin concerns—For example, if you ave dry skin, look for ingredients that will help boost moisture levels. Dr. Kluk recommends “hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and vitamin E (also known as tocopherol or tocopheryl acetate". Calming ingredients like Aloe vera can be helpful for soothing inflammation. 
  • Always do a patch test—Important for added peace of mind, because everyone’s sensitivities and tolerances differ, but also because it's better to be safe than sorry and not have to deal with a reaction. Apply a small amount of the product onto a clean area of skin such as the upper forearm or behind the ear and if there’s no redness, burning, or itching after 24 hours, you are most likely good to go. Many brands now offer handy sample sizes of foundations that are great for a pre-purchase patch test.