5 Tips for Wearing Makeup if You Have Eczema
Last updated: March 2022
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) can affect the skin on many different areas of the body, including the neck, hands, face, and eyelids. Because atopic dermatitis causes damage to the skin barrier, creating cracks or openings in the outer layers of the skin, it can be sensitive to certain substances, including cosmetics. Make-up or other moisturizers make cause irritation to the sensitive skin on the face or cause burning, stinging, and a worsening of symptoms.
Choosing the right makeup for eczema
If you have atopic dermatitis and wear cosmetics, even if it is just every so often and not on a daily basis, you don't have to write off wearing make-up. We've got some tips for choosing the right makeup, choosing the right combinations, and checking for specific ingredients and products that can be generous to the skin and those to avoid.
What ingredients should you avoid?
When selecting the make-up products that you will be putting on your skin it can be good to avoid products that have added fragrances and preservatives. Preservatives such as butylparaben or methylparaben can lead to additional skin inflammation and irritation. Looking for products that contain an oil like neem oil, is a natural preservative can be a good alternative.
If the product contains salicylic or glycolic acid, these are ingredients that can dry the skin out and dry skin is often a trigger for an atopic dermatitis flare. Products that are labeled as hypoallergenic and or good for sensitive skin can also be helpful to use as they tend to have limited ingredients. Testing out makeup on a small patch of skin before applying to the face can be a good way to gauge if the product is irritating to the skin or not.
Using moisturizer as a base layer
Applying a base layer is an important step in applying makeup. For those who have atopic dermatitis, a base layer that has quality moisturizer is key. Just as you read ingredients for any makeup you purchase reading ingredients for your moisturizer is key also. Products that contain shea butter or ceramides are good as they provide moisturizing properties.
Hyaluronic acid and SPF
While we talked about salicylic and glycolic acids drying out the skin, there are moisturizers with hyaluronic acid, which actually hold moisture against the skin without being irritating. If you are prescribed a topical medication for atopic dermatitis on your face, this would be something you would apply before using any makeup. Having an SPF is another ingredient that you want in your base, no matter the time of year (winter, spring, summer or fall) you always want to have protection from the sun's harmful rays.
Apply makeup with fingers instead of brushes
While you see lots of brushes of varying sizes and shapes being sold alongside cosmetic products, when it comes to applying makeup when you have atopic dermatitis, it turns out that your fingers are your friend. Applying makeup with clean fingers, not brushes can make all the difference. Brushes can often contain hidden bacteria, even if you clean them regularly. Dabbing makeup on instead of spreading or smearing is also a good way to not further irritate the skin. Irritated skin will likely flare-up if you’re spreading makeup and bacteria on it, so instead, wash those hands thoroughly and use your fingers to apply makeup to freshly cleaned and moisturized skin.
Try color correcting concealer
If you go back to your school days when you learned about the color wheel, you may recall that green is opposite to red on the color wheel, which means that they are complementary colors. Essentially complementary colors cancel each other out, so in makeup terms, green will be able to help conceal red! Dry, red patches are common symptoms when a flare-up occurs. Having a green color-correcting concealer for times when you might want to cover up those patches can be a great addition to your cosmetic bag. Color correcting concealers come in various shades and typically are built to address certain complexion concerns, so as always read the labels for ingredients and patch test before you apply to your face.
Use a gentle makeup remover
To prevent irritating existing symptoms, it’s essential that you remove your makeup at the end of the day. Makeup removers can be tricky as some have ingredients that actually will dry out the skin more, so finding a gentle makeup remover that won't impact the skin's pH level or its lipids is key.
Ingredients to avoid
If using a facial cleanser look for one that is fragrance-free, preservative-free, soap-free, and formaldehyde-free. It can be important to avoid products with surfactants as well, which help bind oil and dirt, but can in turn strip the skin of its natural lipids which help hold in hydration.
The National Eczema Association has a list of NEA approved products1 which can be a good starting point for looking at facial cleansers that are friendly to the skin of those living with atopic dermatitis! You don't have to break the bank on products either, there are many over-the-counter options that are affordable.
What tips do you have for wearing (or removing) cosmetics when you have atopic dermatitis?
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