Foundation is great: cream, powder, liquid, it all works wonders on most of our skin.
Most of us, at least. There are tons of foundations that have skin irritants in the ingredients that allow it to spread on your skin, and that doesn’t do us any favors.
Sensitive skin. It can be a pain in the rear end, but thankfully, there are tons of foundations out there (that we’ve been able to track down and pin to this list) that are here to help.
This isn’t just a list of sensitive skin foundations, but the best foundation for dry skin as well. We’re going to help you reduce irritants, and get back to that fantastic, smooth glow without hurting your skin in the process.
Best Foundation For Sensitive Skin – Reviews & Buying guide for 2021
Best Overall: Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation
- Size: 1.7 oz
- Shade: Light-Medium Beige
- Type: Full coverage + SPF 15
Nobody wishes for sensitive skin, yet here we are, forced to find alternative cosmetics as a result of it. That’s okay, because Tarte made a full coverage foundation that anyone would be happy to have regardless of skin type.
As the best foundation for sensitive skin with acne, this ultra sensitive foundation applies smoothly to your skin and produces a clean, perfect surface with the built-in applicator.
You have twelve hours of coverage from the time of application, though if you asked us, we would assume it could last for a full eighteen.
That being said, once you apply it, the active titanium dioxide begins to set rather quickly, ensuring that it won’t be long before you can apply whatever you need over your foundation.
You get 1.7 oz in total for a moderate cost. Everything comes in the original bottle, which is protected from UV rays due to the light blocking characteristics, ensuring your product stays perfect from the time you buy it until every drop is used up.
The only major downside here is that this is only available for medium skin tones with no alternative purchase options. We often see multiple skin tone types available, but here you’re stuck with one option and nothing more.
Tarte included SPF 15 coverage, and if we’re all being honest with ourselves, we often don’t apply sunscreen to our faces because of how it would interfere with cosmetics. This gives us the perfect opportunity to be safe from harmful UV rays without sacrificing cosmetic quality or aesthetic appeal.
Ideally, most use this with a very fine amount of powder on top to make a complete look. Tarte took the top spot on this list because they truly provided an all-in-one package that makes you forget you’re shopping for sensitive skin-exclusive cosmetics in the first place.
Runner Up: Maybelline Fit Me Liquid Foundation
- Size: 1 fl oz
- Shade: 40 shades from 102 porcelain to 380 espresso
- Type: Liquid foundation
Maybelline is a top-tier company, and even if you haven’t cared for their products in the past, we believe they’ll reel you back in with the Fit Me Matte liquid foundation lineup.
We say lineup because it’s actually a collection of over forty different shades of foundation packaged alongside one another. While you only have the choice to get 1 fl oz bottles, you can choose from their numbered system to pick the right skin tone for you.
Lower numbers enter the porcelain skin range, while higher numbers enter darker skin categories such as espresso and deep golden.
Maybelline actually ended up being the best foundation for sensitive oily skin. The application isn’t very thick, and when you apply it, it spreads evenly without being abrasive.
Having sensitive skin means that you have to be careful about every ingredient that you allow into your cosmetics cabinet, and thankfully, Maybelline chooses high-quality ingredients in each one of their Fit Me Matte colors.
The customizable of being able to find your own skin tone is brilliant, and they’ve made it simple, but one of the best dares here is the extremely low cost.
Even when you consider that this is by the ounce because they sell one ounce bottles, you’re still getting an excellent deal, and the ability to choose multiple skin tones in a similar range to test what works best for you, all without breaking the bank. Maybelline went above expectations on this one.
Alternative: Covergirl Age Defying Liquid Foundation
- Size: 1 oz
- Shade: Classic ivory
- Type: Wrinkle and line remover; matte
You might be surprised to find Covergirl near the top of the list, and that’s okay – so are we. You have to give credit where credit is due, and Covergirl ended up being the best foundation for dry skin over 40.
Thanks to the inclusion of ingredients to fight back against wrinkles and sagging skin, Covergirl’s advanced formula is safe for all skin types, ensuring that their coverage allows anyone and everyone to enjoy this age defying liquid foundation.
In total, there are eight different tones to choose from. Those are more options than some brands give you, but compared to over three dozen shades from our #4 spot on the list, it looks a bit lackluster.
These shades are simply called medium-light or medium without much explanation in between, so you have to go through each color and decide what will work best for you.
While a single percent drop from 6% to 5% titanium dioxide isn’t huge, it still feels like a slight step down from other foundations in this category. The price difference is glaring, which is another major benefit in Covergirl’s corner: they save you plenty of money compared to the likes of Cover FX and Maybelline.
Covergirl is better for wrinkles and fine lines, especially if you need to go over those areas more than once.
However, it’s not the number one foundation out there when you see that Tarte can do all that and more. You should definitely have more than one foundation in your cosmetic cabinet, and personally, being able to choose between Covergirl or Tarte would be a blessing.
Alternative: Cover FX Total Cover Cream Foundation
- Size: 0.33 oz
- Shade: 38+ shades from ivory to ebony
- Type: Cream foundation
Not sure which tone you need?
Cover FX decided to give you a library to choose from. Right off the bat, you get access to over 38 different color and shading options from their extensive lineup of Cover FX foundations.
Apart from being impressive solely due to the mere choices they give you, Cover FX also gives you an antioxidant shield built right into the formula.
After applying this to your face, antioxidants help protect your skin throughout the day for six to ten hours depending on UV exposure and the amount you put on.
This helps to make Cover FX the best foundation for sensitive combination skin, as well as the smooth oil-free cream foundation that applies smooth, and leaves a sheer coating that feels smooth right after the first application. It’s not easy to find full coverage like this.
One key string of ingredients to keep dark spots at bay and really even out your skin is a blend of vitamins C, E, and F. Not only are each of those in Cover FX, but they’re also persistent in thinner applications, so you don’t have to leave a thick layer on your skin to reap those rewards.
So what’s the main appeal for Cover FX?
If you’re someone who’s absolutely sick and tired of that heavy, weighted feeling at the end of the day, Cover FX is right up your alley.
Easy to apply, easy to remove, and designed to be a one-stop shop for cover-ups if need be. It’s a foundation that covers and amplifies, depending on what you want, with more tone options that most major brands out there.
Alternative: Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Powder Foundation
- Size: 0.34 oz, 2 pack (total of 0.68 oz)
- Shade: 20 ivory up to 80 tan
- Type: Powder; oil-free
Last but not least, this best foundation for sensitive dry skin comes from Neutrogena, one of the leaders in foundation and bronzer on the market today.
This fragrance-free, oil-free mineral foundation isn’t the cheapest thing you’ll ever add to your cosmetics cabinet, but it might be one of the best.
As a complete powder-based foundation, Neutrogena helps trap oil and dirt throughout the day while using their foundation, as well as creating the perfect base layer to apply additional cosmetics to with their 6.6% titanium dioxide base.
Neutrogena is all about making mineral-rich, lightweight cosmetics that you can enjoy no matter what, which is exactly what they’re done here. You practically feel like this isn’t even on your skin; everything feels lightweight and doesn’t get that heavy cakey layer on your skin like many other foundations get.
With multiple tones available, choose from seven shades to pick out your very best match.
While we understand that materials and costs vary from shade to share, it does run us the wrong way that certain lighter shades here are less expensive than their darker counterparts on the list by up to 15% or so.
With a powdered design and a non-comedogenic application, Neutrogena didn’t make the top of the list, but they came close and still prove to be one of the best foundations available on the market today. For a sheer finish, regardless of skin type, they’ve got your back.
Foundation for Sensitive Skin FAQ
Is Liquid or Powder Foundation Better for Sensitive Skin?
You can have the best foundations for sensitive skin that’s critically acclaimed by everyone from here to the moon, but the base that it uses determines whether or not it’s good for your sensitive skin. If your moisturizer is powder based, it’s better for:
- Pore Protection: Powdered foundation doesn’t clog your pores like a liquid-based foundation will. It sits on top of your skin and doesn’t clog anything up, meaning that you won’t have to suffer two to three days of acne after washing this off. You’ll notice that this is more beneficial to those with oily skin, and those who are prone to acne.
- Shine Prevention: Oil is what gives your skin a glossy, unkempt look, which is what we want to avoid from dawn until dusk. With powdered foundation, you’ll reduce shine and keep a nice, even matte finish on your skin that stays strong throughout the entire day.
- Oil Reduction: Do you have oily skin? Powdered foundation will actually absorb oils from your skin throughout the day, so as sebum seeps from your pores, your foundation is working like a net to catch it, contain it, and not let it build up on your skin. This helps add on to the last point of shine protection.
That being said, powdered moisturizer can’t do everything. If your moisturizer is liquid-based, it has a few benefits as well, such as:
- Dry Skin Protection: With dry skin, powder shows up easily in cracks and flakes. Liquid foundation helps to fill in those areas and smooth them out. If you normally have dry skin and it’s very sensitive, liquid-based foundation helps build a temporary protective coating on your skin to prevent damage from environmental aggressors. It works better throughout the day, and locks in moisture properly.
- Fresher Appearance: Powder absorbs oil throughout the day, but with liquid-based foundation, it keeps that slightly matte finish on it throughout the day without sebum production being a cause for concern. You get a look that’s often described as “dewy”, as if you just applied your foundation before you walked into the room. Your look stays fresher throughout the day.
- Smoother Look: Liquid foundation goes on nice and easy, and doesn’t require constant adjustments. You spend less time getting ready, and look more put-together even if applying foundation isn’t normally your strong suit.
Keep in mind that anyone with normal skin types (anything that isn’t dry, oily, or combination) will have the luxury to choose which one they prefer, not which one has the better benefits. If you just feel more comfortable with a liquid foundation, then go for it. You have options.
Should Foundation be Lighter or Darker Than Your Skin?
By definition, a foundation goes beneath something else, and the same goes for applying makeup.
You should use a foundation that is no more than three shades lighter than your current look. Two shades lighter is usually the sweet spot.
The reason for this is because when you apply bronzer on top of your foundation, the tones will meld together and give a nice even look to your face that matches your natural skin tone much better.
Is BB Cream Better Than Foundation?
Some claim that the best foundation for sensitive skin is actually BB cream, or beauty balm cream. It all depends on what you’re using it for.
BB cream has its place. If you have what you would describe as flawless skin and you’re simply applying makeup to get ready for an event, BB cream may actually be better.
For full coverage, BB cream has a light, even spread. That means complete coverage at a (usually cheaper) cost per container as opposed to most foundations.
Foundation is better at helping to cover up imperfections and blemishes. BB cream usually has a limited capacity, but foundation gets your skin ready for an even application of bronzer and other makeups, whereas BB cream should normally act on its own without anything added on top.
It doesn’t have the ability to hold anything else like foundation can.
In short, BB cream is only better than foundation if you’re starting with flawless skin. You can’t apply anything on top of it, so nine times out of ten, foundation is the go-to option.
Can Moisturizer be Mixed With Foundation?
Yes, you absolutely can mix the two, but you have to know what you’re doing. Chances are, if you just mix the moisturizer and foundation you have right now, something is going to go amiss.
You can mix the best foundation for sensitive aging skin with the best moisturizer in your cabinet, but only if they’re both water-based, or if they’re both oil-based. You can’t mix them.
Mixing the two will result in a runny, terrible foundation that comes right off of your face, and does absolutely nothing to help you feel that enhanced beauty that you were going for.
The secret here is to add two parts foundation and one part moisturizer. If you try to do a fifty-fifty on it, you’ll just end up with a clumpy mess.
Last Minute Foundation Tips
Before you go, use these quick tips to help you apply foundation better, and get more use out of it going forward.
- Start by exfoliating your skin. You don’t have to do a deep exfoliation, but an exfoliating scrub will do wonders. You want to start off on a clean slate, and when your skin comes out of exfoliation, it’s much more likely to hold onto the foundation with ease.
- Shave your face. Yes, it sounds crazy, but all those little white hairs that we all have will get in the way of your foundation. Use a nice five-blade razor and colored shaving gel (because you can’t really see the hairs with clear gel), and just shave your entire face. It’s like starting on a blank canvas when you apply foundation.
- Stay moderate with how much foundation you use. It’s contradicting when people say foundation is only to even out your skin tone. Yes, that’s the primary purpose, but it also does help cover up blemishes and other issues with your skin at the same time. It can be used as both, but be careful: too much of a good thing is not a good thing.
- Apply with a handheld mirror. It’s easier to manipulate its position to see spots that you might have missed versus areas with a healthy application. Structured bathroom medicine cabinet mirrors lie, because you end up focusing on your dominant side more often than not. A handheld mirror ensures you have to pay equal attention to both sides.
- Start from the middle. Begin applying primer or foundation from the middle of your face and working your way out. It sounds simple, but it helps you avoid certain pitfalls with lines, creasing, and other issues that amateur foundation applicators end up in.
- Try a primer. While this isn’t in everyone’s makeup repertoire, it works well and gives your foundation something to hold onto. Primers can be a little sticky, so if you can, follow our second tip as well.
Should My Foundation Have UV Protection?
While it’s not a requirement, it’s certainly a bonus. UV ray protection is listed in SPF volumes, so you may see SPF 15 (low strength, commonly included in hybrid foundations) for low levels of coverage.
This helps your skin stay protected against damage from the sun, which can not only cause dark spots, but also types of skin cancer.
If you aren’t using a foundation with some form of UV protection, that’s okay; just be sure that you’re getting UV protection from something in your cosmetics cabinet.
It can be difficult to apply sunscreen with foundation or bronzer in any situation, so it might not hurt to have separate foundations for specific occasions. Have an indoor use foundation, and an outdoor-exclusive foundation to lock in that protection.
Foundation That Doesn’t Sting Your Skin
Foundation is supposed to make you look your best, not take away from your appeal with dry, flaking skin or bumps from irritation and allergic reactions.
We found the best makeup foundation for sensitive skin, some solid alternatives, and enough ways to use foundation without hurting your already sensitive skin in the process.
They say beauty is pain, but that’s a bunch of bull – your foundation shouldn’t be hurting you. You have sensitive skin, and now, you have the perfect foundation to combat it.