“[Hypoallergenic] is not a regulated term with respect to labeling laws,” says Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, dermatologist and author of “Beyond Soap.” “What it’s supposed to mean is the product contains fewer ingredients that could potentially cause an allergic reaction — something called allergic contact dermatitis.”
Hypoallergenic makeup is typically gentler on the skin, can often be fragrance-free (as
Sensitive skin is typically skin that’s having a reaction to an ingredient or a new climate. It’s not an official medical term. “Skin sensitivity in medical terms is irritant dermatitis or irritation: redness, stinging, burning, and, in extreme cases, flaky skin,” says Skotnicki.
One of the most common culprits of skin sensitivity and irritation is fragrance. “I recommend brands that are 100 percent fragrance free,” says Skotnicki. Fragrance, however, can be tricky. Some products can contain natural scents or essential oils, like lavender or ylang ylang, and they can still be labelled fragrance-free or unscented.
Ingredients that cause sensitivity or irritation are different than those that cause true allergy. “
If you suspect you have a true allergy to makeup, consider seeking out products that say “allergy-tested” on the label. “Allergy-tested [means] the brand must pass a 50-person Human Repeated Insult Patch Test,” says Ginger King, a cosmetic chemist.
The most common irritants in makeup include:
All skin is unique and something that irritates one person’s skin may be fine for someone else. However, King says ingredients that are generally pretty gentle for everyone include licorice, chamomile extract, and alpha bisabolol.
“For patients with sensitive skin, I suggest matte makeup, earth tones for eyeshadow (which are often made with minerals), pencils for eyeliner, and foundation without sunscreen or with only mineral sunscreen,” says Skotnicki.
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