What cosmetic brands are *really* hypoallergenic?
March 23, 2007 9:01 AM   Subscribe

My wife has fairly severe contact dermatitis on her face. She has tried several different types of "hypoallergenic" brands of makeup, including Almay and Neutrogena, but they all give her hives. Are any made-up MeFites familiar with brands/lines that will not cause her allergies to flare up?

Sunscreen recommendations would be good, too. Availability in New England is a plus, as is low cost. Incidentally, I am asking this at her request -- this is not unsolicited advice.
posted by Rock Steady to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (32 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What about Merle Norman? That's what my mom uses, and she has allergy problems.
posted by SpecialK at 9:10 AM on March 23, 2007

(Oh... Merle Norman misses on low cost, but ... a little goes a long way.)
posted by SpecialK at 9:11 AM on March 23, 2007

There's a book called The Beauty Bible that she might find very useful as it tells what items contain what harmful ingredients.

As an aside: Has she visited a dermatologist for the problem? I've had flare ups with what was first considered contact dermatitis and then later considered excema(sp?) and both times the doctor has been able to give me steroids and creams that kept it at bay for years.
posted by drezdn at 9:12 AM on March 23, 2007

My mom (who has very sensitive skin) swears by Clinique.
posted by cosmic osmo at 9:16 AM on March 23, 2007

Here are free online reviews of various beauty products, describing what ingredients they contain.

At the same site, informational columns on different topics including:
- why "hypoallergenic" claims are meaningless
- how to be gentle to your skin, including ingredients to avoid
- steps to take if you have allergic skin reactions
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:33 AM on March 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

My wife swears by Clinique.
posted by COD at 9:37 AM on March 23, 2007

I have very sensitive skin and Clinique is like acid on my face.

I like Bare Minerals.
posted by essexjan at 9:37 AM on March 23, 2007

One of this years big beauty trends seems to be mineral makeup, like the Bare Minerals stuff that essexjan linked to. There are a bunch of different brands, at a bunch of different price points, and the big draw is that it won't bother sensitive skin. I can't vouch for it, because my skin isn't sensitive at all, but it might be worth looking into.
posted by craichead at 9:44 AM on March 23, 2007

I think it's possible that "cheap" is right out when you're talking truly gentle/non-comodegenic/etc makeup. My mother and I have pretty sensitive skin/eyes and I've never had any problems with Lancome. It's almost summertime, and I'm about to go back to this stuff which has never given me trouble. Origins, which you can get at any Macy's, might be a good choice as well. Bare Minerals is awesome for some people, but it made my mom's life hell - it crept into her eyes and it was all over from there.

If she chooses the makeup counter route, I would recommend choosing a time when the counter is not terribly busy and spend some time talking with the consultant. If you feel pressured, find the same counter at another store. A good consultant is knowledgeable and helpful -- and at Lancome, you stand a decent chance of actually getting a makeup artist, too.

In any case, I would second the dermatologist visit if she hasn't had one already. I also can't stress enough-- this is your face. If it's sensitive, then you need to be willing to spend the money and take the time to ensure that whatever you put on it isn't going to scar you for life. Some people can't wear cheap make up -- I'm one of them -- and that's just an expense I've come to accept.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:46 AM on March 23, 2007

Like Essexjan I have very sensitive skin and won't use Clinique as I have reacted badly to Clinique products. I know 2 other women who won't use it either, so I would caution your wife against trying it. I've got Lancome, Bobby Brown, Benefit and Clarins in my makeup bag at the moment (cf Medieval Maven, none of these are cheap). It seems to me that different people are irritated by different products and trial and error has been the only method that's worked for me.

A further thought. A friend of mine recently had very bad contact dermatitis caused by an eyeshadow. She threw out the eyeshadow but continued to have problems. She found that this was because she had not washed her eyeshadow brush properly and so was still being exposed to minute amounts of the irritant.
posted by boudicca at 10:06 AM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have her go to one or more cosmetics counters to try a good brand of mineral makeup, as suggested above. Make very sure that a high quality, soft, preferably natural hair brush is used, as coarse brushes can irritate when the minerals are brushed and buffed on the face.

I'd suggest trying one brand, then going bare-faced for a couple of days, and going on to another brand. The right makeup and the right brush are probably out there.
posted by maudlin at 10:07 AM on March 23, 2007

Mineral makeup often has an SPF value of 12-20, too. I couldn't use most sunblock for several years because it was so irritating, but the mineral makeup I use does protect me from UVA and UVB.
posted by maudlin at 10:10 AM on March 23, 2007

Just a quick caution regarding mineral makeup, including Bare Minerals--although it is supposed to be better for your skin, some people (myself included) are allergic to one of its ingredients and develop red splotches or hives in reaction to it. See this thread for recommended alternatives, and note that it looks like other people have problems with Neutrogena as well. I recommend a splurge on department store makeup--personal recommendations from an allergic person are Estee Lauder for foundation, Bobbi Brown for powder, Chanel for eyeshadow (other brands make my eyes itch).
posted by ubu at 10:19 AM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have skin that super sensitve, even to the mica that is put in many mineral makeups. Cory Cosmetics has relatively inexpensive mica-free mineral makeup that does nothing to bother my skin. Another good source for less expensive mineral makeup is Aromaleigh, but I can't remember if they use mica.
posted by MsElaineous at 10:33 AM on March 23, 2007

I'm another sensitive-skinned girl recommending Bare Minerals. I switched four years ago, and have used it every day since then with no irritation. I have since converted two cousins, a co-worker and my roommate, who all swear by it as well.

The application technique took awhile to finesse, but now it's like second nature. If there's not a Bare Essentuals store near you, Sephora now carries Bare Minerals, and they're great about teaching you how to use the brushes, etc.

The foundation is in the $30 range, but one container has lasted me up to six months.
posted by non sum qualis eram at 10:48 AM on March 23, 2007

Ditto on Clinique.

I have very sensitive skin and I love Aveeno's sunscreen.
posted by radioamy at 10:51 AM on March 23, 2007

Ixnay on the minerals for every skin type. My own experimentation with it resulted in a horrible rash (not to mention an unnatural coloring).

Just because it's natural doesn't mean everyone can tolerate it. I second/third? a visit to the dermatologist to find out exactly what the irritant is. I've discovered mine is talc and any derivative of that.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:01 AM on March 23, 2007

my mom has horribly sensitive skin and uses Arbonne with great success.
posted by domino at 11:10 AM on March 23, 2007

Have you thought of getting a mud bath or going to a hot spring? my friend with a bad case of psoriasis does this, she also goes tanning, which helps a lot. But Dead Sea Mud is apparently the best in the world for dermatitis, get some of that, lather it on your face and wherever else and then spend a night in watching tv. rinse and repeat when necessary.
posted by parmanparman at 11:53 AM on March 23, 2007

I swear by Clinique, too. I usually start with "goddamn," and get worse from there.

Another vote for mineral what-not. Philosophy makes a nice one.
posted by kmennie at 12:37 PM on March 23, 2007

Also, if she's leery of getting pressure-saled visiting a specific department store cosmetics counter -- do you have a Sephora or Parfumerie Douglas store near you? Each carries a wide range of higher-end lines including many that have been recommended here like Clinique, and the sales staff work with all the lines instead of only selling a single brand -- so you'll be able to compare, say, Clinique to Clarins side-by-side without having to deal with competing sales staff.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 12:41 PM on March 23, 2007

Skip the make-up entirely and wear a hat.
posted by Carol Anne at 2:01 PM on March 23, 2007

Burts Bees makes great all natural organic cosemtic & skincare products that dont bother my excema
posted by jonnygemini at 2:31 PM on March 23, 2007

I wear mineral makeup. I'm a big fan of Everyday Minerals. I have very sensitive skin and love this stuff. It's a bit more affordable than Bare Minerals, and a lot less drying.
posted by discokitty at 2:41 PM on March 23, 2007

I just ordered this sunscreen today after hearing great things about it so I can't give a full recommendation, but like I said I hear very great things about it. It is fragrance and PABA free, in case either of those are irritants for her.

I've used Paula Begoun's makeup to good effect. She is after all the cosmetics cop.

(My skin is super sensitive, just had a nice 4 day long rash on my face last weekend even.)
posted by birdie birdington at 2:43 PM on March 23, 2007

Seconding the site LobsterMitten linked to. In addition to providing good information about cosmetics, they also produce them for sale. I've had really good experiences with the Paula's Choice line, as they are careful to avoid possible irritating ingredients. In my experience, their products do what they're supposed to, and don't aggravate my sensitive skin. It's all easily available online, and they also send out samples, if your wife wants to try it out first (always a good idea.)
posted by gingerbeer at 2:43 PM on March 23, 2007

No for the mineral make-up for me. I have very dry skin and an eczema problem. I had gotten it because I had heard it was good for sensitive skin, but I had a bad reaction to it, in that it made the skin around my eyes more itchy (a flare-up of a previous problem). I talked to my dermatologist who told me she thinks the minerals are very drying and to avoid using on already-dry skin.
posted by hazyjane at 2:48 PM on March 23, 2007

I don't know if you can get hold of La Roche Posay products easily where you are, but I have dermatitis (as well as rash) and my dermatologist has always advised me to use these products.
posted by celine at 3:22 PM on March 23, 2007

I use Aromaleigh mineral makeup. They use no bismuth, which has been found to be an irritant for many people trying mineral makeup. You can purchase samples of all their products, which is great- I hardly ever buy full-size eyeshadow or blush, but I have dozens of samples.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:04 PM on March 23, 2007

For very sensitive skin, there is nothing like "mineral" make-up. Many brands are available, depending of course on what you want to spend and where you want to shop. The important thing here is that true mineral cosmetics do not contain added filler ingredients like talc. The gold standard for mineral makeup is still Jane Iredale. If you try to "find an outlet near you" you will find a variety of dayspas, medspas, and actual doctor's offices. Why? Because it's that much better for sensitive skin than anything else out there.

Please do not let your wife neglect basic skin care. Considering the sensitive skin issue, seek out a doctor's office that carries Skin Medica. Their sunscreen product is the same as their light duty moisturizer, but with an SPF of 20 (I was told this by the local sales rep, don't let an aesthetician tell you otherwise). Fewer products on the face is always a good thing.
posted by ilsa at 8:29 PM on March 23, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers everyone. It seems like the reactions to various brands/types of makeup are very individual (Clinique, for example, is the brand that sent Ms. Steady to the Emergency Room one time, but seems great for some people here). Sounds like it's time to find a good dermatologist.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:43 AM on March 24, 2007

bare minerals are supposed to be good for this, but i don't know from personal experience.
posted by ifjuly at 11:08 AM on March 24, 2007

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