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5 Essential (and Easy!) Makeup Tips for Sensitive Skin

Living with occasional flare-ups and redness doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with makeup we spoke with makeup artist and green beauty expert Maria Velve for her top tips for sensitive skin.

Anyone who has ever dealt with sensitive skin — whether it’s psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, or even hives — knows how much a flare-up can disrupt even the simplest of daily routines. Often we don’t know what triggered the most recent reaction, let alone how we can move through our day without making it worse. And applying makeup on sensitive days? Talk about daunting. 


Just as your skincare routine requires careful consideration and accommodation, especially during its most sensitive moments, there are tips and tricks to navigating makeup application as well. Putting makeup over (or even around) sensitive or redness-prone skin simply needs a few thoughtful techniques to help with discoloration and to highlight areas that are feeling less fussy.


Iremia Skincare founder and CEO, Elaine Li, sat down for a fun and informative chat with Maria Velve (@greenbeautycurator), a certified makeup artist, green beauty expert, and founder of Green Beauty Curator in Toronto, Canada. 


"You can’t fix things with makeup, it’s designed to enhance," Velve states, emphasizing that skincare should be your primary tool when dealing with sensitive skin. That being said, she gave us some smart (and affordable) ways to switch up your beauty routine for a calmed and clear complexion.

Why is skincare important for makeup?

Especially for sensitive skin, skincare is always the top priority to get the most confidence and glow from your makeup routine. With skincare, you are creating the type of base that your makeup will sit on top of and interact with, which means thatprepping your skin is one of the top things that will determine how you look and feel while wearing makeup.


“Skincare is the buffer that you put your makeup on top of,” says Velve. Applying skincare before you put on makeup creates separation between your skin and the makeup, and for sensitive skin,what is between the layers is important. You’ve spent time curating your skincare routine, discovering which products are the most supportive of your skin needs. These products can continue to provide healing and soothing benefits underneath your makeup, while makeup can work to adjust the visual effects.


And remember: you can’t fix skin issues with makeup. At best, makeup can only temporarily blur problem areas, however, if you suffer from dryness or redness, makeup may not sit well on top and will actually highlight those areas instead. Instead, focus on skincare as a long-term strategy for improving the look of skin, and use makeup strategically to instead draw the eye where you’d like it to go.

5 makeup tips for sensitive skin

1. Keep foundation light and minimal

For those with sensitive skin, a light coverage foundation or tinted moisturizer with its own hydrating ingredients is the way to go to best support irritation. Matte or fuller coverage foundations tend to be heavier and drying, and Velve also cautions against powder foundations for the same reason — even with the proper skincare hydration underneath, anything heavily pigmented increases the dryness of the skin, and long-wear foundation can block pores and prevent your skin from breathing.


If you’re in the market for a sensitive skin-friendly tinted moisturizer, Velve recommends Pure Anada Tinted Moisturizer — it’s a light and sheer-coverage option with a radiant finish, and a great option for those with dry or dehydrated skin. 


But remember, getting conscious about your makeup doesn’t necessarily mean tossing out your entire makeup bag: if your foundation has ingredients you are happy with but is a little matte or drying, try mixing a couple of drops of your favourite facial oil into a dollop of your foundation, then apply with a makeup sponge. Et voilà, you’ve created a lighter foundation boosted with skin-supporting antioxidants and vitamins from your facial oil. 

2. Conceal with care

When experiencing a flare-up of redness or irritation, it can be tempting to cover up the areas with concealer to even things out. But Velve stresses that piling concealer on top of problem areas is unlikely to help: “If someone has redness or a flare-up on their cheeks, caking concealer on may not be helpful - tinted moisturizer would be more hydrating.”


Start with a well-hydrated base (such as our Soothing Lotion) on areas you would like to conceal — dark circles, hyperpigmentation, acne scars, etc. — and then apply your tinted moisturizer. “Apply foundation first: the minerals in the tinted moisturizer will even out skin tone for discolouration or redness, including around the eye area, and then apply a small amount of concealer where needed,” says Velve. 


Why not start with concealer? Using concealer first may tempt you to conceal your entire face and concealer is generally thicker (aka more pigmented and drying) than foundation. Use your tinted moisturizer for the first pass, which will allow you to be more minimalist with your concealer. Applying concealer only where you need it lets the rest of your skin glow and take center stage, resulting in a more natural look.

3. Use powder sparingly

Though powders are common in makeup kits — setting powders, finishing powders, powder foundations — they should be used with caution if you have sensitive skin. “Powders are designed to whisk away shine and oil, and even if they have iridescence, that is from mica, not because they are providing hydration,” warns Velve. While powders can be applied sparingly with a small brush over areas you have concealed (such as dark circles), their drying nature is not ideal for skin that needs all the moisture it can get.


An exception to the no-powder rule? Velve recommends a green colour correcting powder to cut redness in problem areas. A tiny amount can be applied on well-primed skin where needed, and if your green powder is loose (rather than pressed), try mixing it into our Soothing Lotion or even your tinted moisturizer to see if it cuts redness for you. 


And if you often feel dryness creeping up on you, try spritzing theAll-Calm Face Mistthroughout the day over the top of makeup and powder — a quick mist will boost hydration and revitalize your skin without upsetting your makeup.

4. Stay away from pinks

Working with colour on your eyes or cheeks can feel daunting when you’re dealing with redness. While there are a few tips to work with colour, the general rule is: stay away from pink and purple hues. “Pink or purple eyeshadow [and blush] will make your skin — as well as the whites of your eyes — look redder. Plus, not only will pink not stand out, it may make you look more swollen,” says Velve.


Not to worry, there are many other colours to play with to maximize personal expression while supporting your skin.

Eyes

Many people deal with sensitivity or redness around their eyes — allergies, dry eyes, disturbed sleep, to name a few.  To deflect and neutralize this redness, Velve recommends trying a navy eyeliner: it makes the whites of your eyes pop and look whiter, which can tone down the appearance of red eyes.


If you’re experiencing a flare-up in the eye area, however, it may be best to leave the rest of the eye area alone. “Don’t cover [redness] with anything iridescent because it will just highlight the issue - so try the navy liner and mascara and nothing else if you’re dealing with a flare-up,” suggests Velve.

Cheeks

If you experience irritation on your cheeks, try swapping out your blush for bronzer instead. “Placement is important - if your flare-up is on apples of cheeks, go higher up on the cheekbone/sides/temples to lift - don’t bring [bronzer] all the way down to the apples and flare-up areas,” recommends Velve.


If using a highlighter, avoid the red areas, but feel free to use a small brush to apply to the high points of the face: on top of cheekbones, brow bone, and the tip of the nose. The small brush will allow you to have control and keep your application both minimal and away from irritated areas. 

5. Have fun with your lip colour

A little redness doesn’t mean that you need to avoid lip colour! Similar to eyes and cheeks, a general rule is to stay away from pinks (especially hot pinks), as they will only accentuate any areas of irritation. 


Peachy-nudes are a great daytime option for flare-up days, as they are flattering without adding additional pink to your face, and darker shades in the evening are always a glamorous option as long as you’re shade-conscious. While skin tone is a huge factor in picking out the right lipstick for you, Velve notes that a neutral red can look amazing on everyone, such as Tin Feather in the shade Voltage.

Makeup tip roundup

  • Always start with skincare - makeup is ultimately for accentuating, not for healing, your skin.
  • Keep face makeup (foundation, concealer) light and hydrating, and apply only where needed.
  • Use powder sparingly, as it’s designed to whisk away moisture (and sensitive skin needs all the moisture it can get!)
  • Be conscious about your makeup colours (especially pink and purple hues), but don’t forget to have fun and express yourself!

Maria Velve (@greenbeautycurator) is a certified makeup artist, green beauty expert, and founder of Green Beauty Curator in Toronto, Canada. For the full chat and even more makeup and skincare tips, check out the full video with Elaine and Maria here!