Eczema, another name for dermatitis or inflammation of the skin, is a challenging beauty problem. With its dry, red patches, scales, and flakes, face eczema can be especially hard to manage â€” itâ€™s difficult to find makeup that camouflage your skin without making an eczema flare-up worse. In fact, when it comes to cosmetics, less makeup may draw less attention to your eczema when you're having a flare.
Facial skin is the thinnest skin on the body and it reacts more easily to triggers, explains dermatologist Jessica Wu, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California. With face eczema, you may find that your eyelids and the area around your mouth are even quicker to respond to irritating ingredients in skin care and makeup products during an eczema flare. For instance, both your upper and lower eyelids may become swollen, red, and flaky. So you need to be doubly careful about which products you use, both to avoid a reaction and to avoid worsening any flare once it happens.
Ingredients That Help and Hurt Face Eczema
Because makeup usually stays on your skin all day long and even into the evening, choosing the right formulas is a must, and not just for foundation and blush, but for eye cosmetics and possibly even lipstick. You want to carefully read labels to avoid many of the ingredients that are taboo in skin care products when you have eczema. In general, steer clear of:
- Lanolin. Despite the fact that lanolin is often used in hypoallergenic formulas, it can cause a reaction, especially around the eye area.
- Fragrance. Synthetic scents are potent triggers that can aggravate skin. Look for products marked fragrance-free rather than just unscented â€” unscented products could actually have fragrance ingredients added just to neutralize the odor of the productâ€™s other ingredients.
- Preservatives. Of course, preservatives keep products fresh and resistant to bacteria and fungus, but some can bother your sensitive skin. Because cosmetics that contain water will have preservatives, working with a dermatologist may help you pinpoint preservatives that provoke the least reaction in you.
- Sloughing agents. Retinol, alpha hydroxy acids, and salicylic acid, all common in exfoliating cleansers and masks, can be especially irritating to skin prone to face eczema. Watch out for these ingredient in some foundations, moisturizers, and other cosmetics as well.
Good Makeup Choices When You Have Eczema
With a finicky condition like face eczema, itâ€™s impossible to generalize about cosmetics that are side-effect free. You may need to investigate a variety of choices and, when you find ones that donâ€™t irritate your face, become a loyal devotee. However, to minimize trial-and-error testing, which could lead to a flare, ask your doctor for product recommendations and get advice on the best way to test a cosmetic. Usually youâ€™ll dab it on a small area of clear skin along the jaw line and wait at least 24 hours to see if you get any kind of reaction before applying it all over.
Here are other tips to try:
- Look for makeup products specifically formulated for sensitive skin, which tend to be free of ingredients that aggravate eczema, including fragrances, says Wu.
- For a more natural look, Wu suggests skipping green-tint moisturizers that are supposed to neutralize redness. â€œThey end up making you look like a Smurf,â€ Wu says, adding that itâ€™s better to use a tinted moisturizer or liquid foundation in a natural shade.
- Oil-based or creamy formulas may look and feel better and guard against itchy dryness. If your face eczema is in a flaky or red rash stage, powders may end up looking blotchy.
- One helpful ingredient is hyaluronic acid, found in some lipsticks and moisturizers. â€œIt holds moisture against your skin without being irritating,â€ says Wu. If you have eczema around the lips, avoid matte lipsticks, which tend to be drying.
- Avoid iridescent and other shimmery flecked eye shadows, which can cause irritation. If you have difficulty with the ingredients in makeup removers, skip waterproof eye makeup, which is harder to take off.
A Better Makeup Application
Makeup looks most natural on smooth skin, so the most important makeup application tip is to keep skin moisturized. Use a rich moisturizer, especially at night; to help naturally ease off flakes. Keep in mind that the more oil a moisturizer contains, the more effective it will be at creating a moisture barrier on your skin, giving you a better canvas for your foundation. When the weather gets colder, especially in lower humidity both indoors and out, you should use a richer moisturizer.
If your skin is very irritated or oozing, skip makeup entirely until your complexion has calmed down. Though it can be difficult to get through days with serious flares, the less makeup you put on inflamed skin, the sooner the eruption should resolve.
The makeup solutions that work for you when you're having an eczema flare will be unique to your skinâ€™s needs. Work with your dermatologist to come up with an eczema skin care and makeup plan that works for you.
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