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The 8 Best Foundations for Sensitive Skin (Cruelty-Free Options)

by Aly Laughlin

May 26, 2018

As someone who almost never uses foundation because of how sensitive my skin is, I can completely relate to the struggle of finding a good foundation for sensitive skin. If I use the wrong product, my face can literally break out in hives!

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But in the name of science, I've tried out many foundations over the years to narrow down the best options for those of us that have been burned too many times before by products that are supposed to provide flawless looking skin.

Shopping Tips for Sensitive Skin

As a general rule of thumb, there are some ingredients that are best to avoid when you have sensitive skin. The most common skin irritants are alcohol and fragrance, and yet they are so commonly found in makeup! Because of this, for the most sensitive skin types, I would definitely recommend avoiding products that contain alcohol and fragrance.

Other ingredients to look out for are mineral oil and talc. Aside from mineral oil, other oils like jojoba oil and coconut oil can actually be beneficial for sensitive skin. For those with gluten allergies, it is obviously also a good idea to look for gluten free formulas. And lastly, while there isn't much science to support its importance as of yet, most products geared toward sensitive skin are also formulated without parabens.

All of this being said, there is truly no one answer as to what ingredients are guaranteed to work for those with sensitive skin, just as there is no one answer as to what ingredients will not work. The best advice I can give is to pay attention to the ingredients in the products that you know work well for your skin and make a note of any products that cause irritation.

You may start to notice a pattern in the ingredients of products that do not interact well with your skin. For example, my skin always reacts poorly to products which contain salicylic acid, but I have no problem with products containing benzoyl peroxide. It is truly an individual process in which only you will be able to determine what the best and worst ingredients are for your skin.

If your skin is truly sensitive and reacting poorly to everything you try, it might be a good idea to consult a dermatologist or physician, as reactions in the skin can often be related to other issues happening internally. This could include something as simple as an allergy to dairy or gluten, or a more serious reaction to medications you are currently taking.

The Best Foundations for Sensitive Skin

Upon searching far and wide, these are the BEST foundations I have found for sensitive skin.

As always, all brands mentioned here are cruelty-free, but companies which are owned by parent companies who aren’t cruelty-free will be indicated with an asterisk.

1. Too Faced Born This Way Foundation

The ($39 for 1 oz) is described as an "oil-free foundation that masterfully diffuses the line between makeup and skin" and is said to provide "coverage so undetectable, you can't see the makeup and you can't see imperfections".

For the most part, this is an accurate description. It looks gorgeous on the skin, and while it does look different than completely bare skin, it provides a very skin-like finish. Most importantly, it doesn't irritate my skin at all and doesn't cling to or exacerbate any spots or dry patches as so many foundations do.

I personally like to apply it with a little moisturizer mixed in, blended out with a beauty sponge for the most natural coverage. For areas where I need more coverage, I find that it is very buildable. It also layers well with most concealers, including my all time fave OCC Skin: Conceal.

  • Price: $39
  • Quantity: 1 oz
  • Coverage: Medium (buildable)
  • Finish: Dewy

2. OCC Skin: Conceal

Speaking of the OCC Skin: Conceal ($23 for 0.3 oz), it also functions beautifully as a full coverage foundation. The shade range covers a variety of skin tones and it doesn't cause any skin irritations. It has a hydrating vegan formula with cocoa extract, aloe leaf extract, and vitamin E which feels very nice on the skin. It is also free of parabens, silicone, and fragrance.

It is also versatile as it can be used for spot concealing, highlighting and contouring. Another benefit of this one is that a little bit goes a very long way.

  • Price: $23
  • Quantity: 0.3 oz
  • Coverage: Full
  • Finish: Dewy

3. Cover FX Natural Finish Foundation

The ($40 for 1 oz) is a water-based oil-free foundation that comes in an impressive range of 40 shades! It has a silky hydrating formula with skincare ingredients like vitamin C and vitamin E. As for sensitive skin ingredients, it is clinically tested, vegan, and free of fragrance, gluten, mineral oil, and talc.

  • Price: $40
  • Quantity: 1 oz
  • Coverage: Medium (buildable)
  • Finish: Semi-Matte

4. RMS Un Cover-Up

The Un Cover-Up Foundation by RMS Beauty ($36 for 0.2 oz) is another foundation hybrid which doubles as a buildable concealer. It has a creamy consistency, formulated with coconut oil and shea butter, making it ideal for those with dry skin. In terms of ingredients, it is marketed as paraben-free, phthalate-free, sulfate-free, gluten-free, GMO-free and soy-free.

It should be noted that this product is not vegan as it contains beeswax. While beeswax should be fine for sensitive skin, I would avoid this one if you have any allergies to beeswax or honey. The shade range is a bit limited and I think RMS could benefit from adding more shades for darker skin tones.

  • Price: $36
  • Quantity: 0.20 oz
  • Coverage: Light
  • Finish: Natural

5. Physicians Formula Nude Wear Touch of Glow Foundation

It can be a challenge to find good gentle foundation formulas from the drugstore. But the ($14.00 for 1 oz) is hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, oil-free, paraben-free, gluten-free and dermatologist tested. It has a nice illuminating lightweight finish and buildable coverage. It's currently only available in light and medium shades, and Physicians Formula should really add more shades to the range for darker skin tones.

  • Price: $14.99
  • Quantity: 1 oz
  • Coverage: Medium (buildable)
  • Finish: Radiant

6. Tarte Rainforest Of The Sea Water Foundation

The Tarte Rainforest Of the Sea Water Foundation ($39 for 1 oz) is hypoallergenic and dermatologist tested and formulated with parabens and phthalates. It is also mineral oil-free and gluten-free. As an added bonus, this foundation has a built-in chemical free sunscreen (SPF 15), which is a great feature since sunscreens typically contain chemicals which can irritate sensitive skin.

  • Price: $39
  • Quantity: 1 oz
  • Coverage: Full
  • Finish: Natural

7. BH Cosmetics Blooming Radiance Mineral Powder Foundation

For the price, this powder foundation can't be beat! While it might seem strange to recommend a powder foundation for sensitive skin, well-formulated powder foundations can actually be somewhat hydrating and soothing.

This BH Cosmetics Blooming Radiance Powder Foundation ($9.99 for 0.12 oz) is formulated with coconut amino acids to provide added hydration and softness to the skin. On the downside, BH Cosmetics seems to be sold out of many of their shades at the moment, so I do hope they restock their full range soon!

  • Price: $9.99
  • Quantity: 0.12 oz
  • Coverage: Full
  • Finish: Natural

8. Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Airbrush Foundation

Another great powder foundation for sensitive skin, the Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Airbrush Foundation ($36 for 0.247 oz) has a talc-free formula which provides long lasting buildable coverage.

It is also vegan and hypoallergenic and is formulated without parabens and phthalates. The shade range is a tad limited, and they could definitely benefit by adding more shades for darker skin tones.

  • Price: $36
  • Quantity: 0.247 oz
  • Coverage: Full
  • Finish: Natural


Overall when shopping for foundations (or any beauty products for that matter) for sensitive skin, the most important thing is to trust what works best for you! Everyone's skin is different and something that works for me might not work for somebody else, and it can take some trial and error to find out what that is.

I highly recommend requesting product samples when possible at stores like Sephora and Ulta, so you can try out a product before making a purchase, to get a sense of whether the product will interact well with your skin.

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+ Show Comments (20) - Hide Comments (20)
  • Lisa says:

    I tried Born This Way and its cakey af. I have a dry skin and it totally didnt work.

  • Susan Stein says:

    Sensitive skin and skin prone to allergic reactions may not mean the same thing to the beauty industry. In my experience there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic fragrance and if it say clean scent don’t buy it. PAI is an expensive line for sensitive skin, but they use rose oil in most of their products and I am very allergic to roses on my skin and they make me sneeze. They also seem to think that only people with pale skin and red hair have sensitive and allergy prone or sensitive skin. They also think that only dry with no acne can be sensitive.

  • Susan Stein says:

    Sensitive skin and skin prone to allergic reactions may not mean the same thing to the beauty industry. PAI is an expensive line for sensitive skin, but they use rose oil in most of their products and I am very allergic to roses on my skin and they make me sneeze. They also seem to think that only people with pale skin and red hair have sensitive and allergy prone skin.

  • Lizzie says:

    Although it is a nice product for light coverage, Charlotte Tilbury is scented and making my face break out. Thanks for the tips. I think I’ll try Born This Way first.

  • Alisha Ramballee says:

    I have super sensitive and dry skin, I react to nearly all make up and facial products.the only that’s worked for me so far is the tarte rainforest of the sea foundation.
    Has anyone tried the tarte shape tape foundation on reactive skin?

  • Great post! I am a huge fan of the Too Faced “born this way foundation” and RMS “un-cover up” ♥️ Will be testing the physicians formula one soon!

    Check out my cruelty free beauty blog:

  • meme says:

    Hi, I’d like to try the “Too Faced Born This Way Foundation” but I can only get it online and I need help with the colour. I use face atelier porcelain and Cover FX Natural Finish Foundation N10 (I think, the sticker with the number got a little blurry).
    Help would be appreciated.

  • I really appreciate your efforts and the way you explain everything on your blog and make it so simple to understand. All these foundations smell great, but a too faced foundation is my all time favorite.

  • Kristi says:

    I have INSANELY sensitive skin, and I’ve only ever found Urban Decay Naked Skin to be nice to my combo/acne prone skiN!

  • Heather says:

    I have dry/oily/rosacea skin & have yet to find anything that provides a balance. Any suggestions?

  • Amber Young says:

    Too Faced seems like it’s right up my alley. I never knew that talc could be a problem, and I definitely have dry patches on my nose that never seem to cover up properly. I just wish the foundation wasn’t so expensive. *sigh*

  • Kacey Le says:

    Charlotte Tilsbury Magic Foundation has been the best foundation I found for my sensitive skin.

  • cyndee says:

    Regarding The Tarte Rainforest by the sea foundation. Shouldn.t it be formulated without parabens and phthalates?

  • Susan Campbell says:

    How do I buy in GBP please? I am looking for foundation. Thanks.

  • I love how in depth this post is! I really love the L.A Girl Pro Coverage Foundation! I cannot stop using it lately! A great illuminating alternative for us cruelty-free shoppers!

  • Brigit says:

    Thank you! I also love the body shop foundation in powder form. It’s not specially made for sensitive skin but it works perfectly for my skin

  • Tamara says:

    Thank you for your hard-research work!!

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