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The Eczema Files: How to wear makeup when you’re scaly

September 19th 2016 / Ali Hunter / 2 comments


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Skin more ‘flaky shortcrust’ than smooth and dewy? You’re not alone; here’s how to navigate the makeup counter when you’ve got eczema

Like most girls I love to paint, powder and paste my face with the beauty industry’s finest playthings. Like most lizards my scaly epidermis makes this somewhat challenging. The world of makeup can be far from fun for eczema sufferers. All of those pots of pretty, colourful, glittery fun seem to turn to dust on less-than-smooth skin. But it needn’t be so: I asked Dr Sam Bunting and makeup artist Lou Dartford for some tips to help even the grittiest gator get the most out of makeup.

It really is all about that base

Time and time again we’re told that the key to flawless, natural-looking makeup is a good base. The problem is that eczema-prone skin is often more like sandpaper than satin. Dr Sam says that “treating [eczema patches] is really the only option – rough, dry skin will look terrible if make-up is applied over the top.” She advocates a simple skincare regime: “this skin type needs to skip irritating foaming cleansers, physical exfoliants, cleansing brushes and harsh toners and focus on replenishing the skin’s protective lipid barrier. This will translate into smoother, healthier skin which will naturally look better when make-up is applied.”

She recommends Avène Recovery Cream, £9.35, as a base for makeup and La Roche-Posay Toleriane Teint Fluid, £10.05, as it “gives good coverage, won’t clog pores and is fragrance and preservative free.”

Lou recommends mineral brands such as W3LL PEOPLE or Alima Pure and avoiding brands that contain bismuth oxychloride as this can be very irritating.

Finger Painting

Even if they’re cleaned regularly, makeup brushes can harbour all sorts of nasties which can irritate and infect eczema patches. Lou recommends “applying your products use a ‘patting’ or ‘dabbing’ motion – rubbing or brushing can disrupt dry skin and makeup can get caught underneath dry patches again highlighting problem areas – also causing more irritation.”

As an avid finger painter, I clean my fingers with a cotton pad soaked in Avène Micellar Lotion, £9.35, between products.

Cream over crumble

After a few too many experiences of crumbly concealer and blusher, I’ve converted from powders to cream formulas. Lou advises choosing “creamier formulations for drier skins as these will sit better and help to add a healthy glow.” Creamy products can be combined with moisturiser to go on smoother and you can re-apply your moisturiser later without risking creating short-crumb pastry on your face. Lou suggests “If you are very dry and don’t want to use powder which can sometimes get caught in dry patches, try mixing a little of your regular moisturiser into the mineral powder and voila you have a cream foundation.”


The makeup world is getting savvy at combining skincare and makeup with many health-conscious brands now on the market. RMS Beauty is dedicated to creating products that heal and nourish the skin, using food-grade natural ingredients. They list and describe all of their ingredients on their website, so you know exactly what you’re putting on your face. I’ve been an addict of their Living Luminizer, £30, for a while now and according to Lou “it is made from skin healing ingredients such as jojoba and coconut oil so will nourish rather than irritate. Dry and sensitive skin can lack radiance, this will add it without adding a shimmer which other luminizers often have. Apply it onto cheekbones to lift and brighten. It’s also great dabbed onto the centre of the eyelid and the inner corners of the eyes to brighten instantly.” Lou also recommends RMS Eye Polish, £19, and Vapour Organic Beauty Solar Translucent Bronzer, £31, which is made using shea butter and soothing calendula.

Keep it simple

Even the tiniest amount of product can make all the difference- just listen to Lou:

“For simple definition around the eyes without a lot of product, try using a flat liner brush and a gel liner – using a gel rather than a pencil means you’re not pulling or dragging the delicate skin. Use the brush to ‘push’ the liner into the lashes, this will help to make lashes look longer and thicker and give your eyes definition. Build up the liner to your desired thickness and shape. The thinnest line in the lashes will make a huge difference though and minimal irritation.”

Neutralise red patches

Lou has some great tips to draw attention away from irritated skin:

“Sometimes if you are red from sensitivity, blusher might be the last thing you want to use. Try a bronzer to help add a healthy glow and to balance out any redness. Apply it where you would naturally catch the sun.”

“Brown colours are softer than black but be wary of any brown that has too much red as this can make eyes look sore and tired – especially if skin is already sore from sensitivity. Black mascara can make eyes look whiter.”

“Avoid anything too shimmery as it can highlight problem areas such as dry patches. Also, shimmer can be irritating.”

Play to your strengths

Many people with eczema find that it centres around one part of their face or body, leaving other areas comparably flake free. My big problem area is around my eyes. My sister, GTG’s very own Makeup Maniac, clocked this early on and on Christmas Day 2011 I unwrapped my new signature warpaint: Mac lipstick in Viva Glam, £15.50. A strong lip is now my go-to look and even on my most reptilian days it detracts attention away from my scaly, puffy eyes. Whether it’s lips, lashes, cheeks, even your brows, accentuating your good bits hides eczema far better than a brown paper bag.

How do you manage your eczema and wear makeup? I’d love to hear your thoughts, tips and experiences- tweet me @Ali_C_Hunter or comment below

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  • Fiona Knight
  • June 18th 2015

My challenge is to hide the red scaly psoriasis patches on my body. A self tan tends to even up my skin colour (as long as you meticulously wipe off any lotion on particularly sore/scaly bits) and then I apply either a BB cream to individual blotches (Boots No7 Beautuful Skin doeaen't irritate me). Or, if the scaly bits are particularly bad, a well blended concealor takes the redness down. Top marks to the assistant at the Mac store in Brighton, who spent an age with me finding the right colour to blend into my chest area (Pro Longwear Concealor). I wouldn't try and cover up every day - clothes do that mostly - but on nights out when the flesh is on show I can usually just about pull it off!

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