“Last summer saw one million new hayfever sufferers due to super-strength pollen,” says Dr Rekha Tailor of Health & Aesthetics Clinic in Surrey. “And these figures are set to rise this year.”
Of course, as anyone with hayfever already knows, allergic rhinitis (as it’s known in medical circles) can leave your skin looking less than its best. “Pollen – whether you’ve inhaled it, or it’s touched your skin – can damage the skin’s barrier function, leaving you looking puffy with red, itchy blotchy patches or even hives,” explains Dr Tailor.
The skin’s barrier (aka the outermost layer of the skin) is important because it’s your first line of defensive against environmental aggressors such as pollen and pollution.
“Constantly rubbing the eyes may cause frictional hyperpigmentation, or even Dennie-Morgan lines (prominent creases below the inferior eyelid),” says Dr Bhavjit Kaur, EV Expert and aesthetic medicine specialist. “Pollen can also cause some people to develop dark under-eye circles, which are known as allergic shiners.”
According to one study, this allergen related inflammation can be just as damaging as the sun – resulting in accelerated signs of ageing that lasts far longer than just allergy season.
This premature ageing of the skin is due to the disruption of the skin barrier as “when the skin barrier is disturbed, the skin is more susceptible to breakouts, fine lines and wrinkles,” says Dr Kaur.
Dr Rekha adds, “it can also be responsible for conditions such as rosacea, acne and even pigmentation disorders.”
But that’s not all. “It’s believed that pollen can restrict collagen production, leaving skin looking slack, deflated and lacking in volume and elasticity,” warns Dr Tailor.
Plus, damage done to the top layer of the skin by pollen can leave it feeling especially dry and itchy. It can also increase skin sensitivity, and that in turn has an impact on what products you can use from your skincare arsenal.
“If the skin’s barrier function isn’t working as it usually does, this can even result in you having adverse reactions from your usual products, too,” says Dr Tailor.
So if you feel your skin barrier is compromised, now is definitely the best time to ditch sulphates such as sodium lauryl sulphate. “They’re responsible for making products lather but also increase trans-epidermal water loss,” says Dr Tailor, meaning it’ll dry out your already dry, inflamed skin even further.
Now’s also a good time to bench exfoliants and your heavily fragranced products (including ones with essential oils), as well as any alcohol-containing skincare, as “these can all further aggravate the skin,” says Dr Tailor, who also suggests avoiding chemical sunscreens until your skin calms down.
Instead, focus on humectants (moisturisers that draw moisture aka water into the skin) and ceramides (fatty acids that reinforces the skin’s barrier protection), as hydration is key to getting your skin on the path to recovery. This is especially important for those taking antihistamines, as these medications can dry out the skin even further.
“Use products with high concentrations of hyaluronic acid as this active helps to retain moisture,” explains Dr Tailor. “Other ingredients known for hydration such as shea butter, as well as soothing ingredients like aloe vera and chamomile can all help too.”
And to counteract all the inflammation headed your way during allergy season, add anti-inflammatory ingredients to your skincare roster too.
“Resveratrol has great anti-inflammatory properties because by decreasing certain proteins it increases the production of anti-inflammatory molecules,” says Dr Tailor. While Dr Kaur adds: “Non-irritating antioxidants like Vitamin C will help prevent or slow down collagen breakdown too."
Here’s how to calm your pollen-irritated skin
You’ve got… DrynessElizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum
Fragrance and preservative free, these capsules deliver a concentrated dose of hydrating ceramides to protect the skin’s barrier and lock-in moisture.
You’ve got… PuffinessZO Skin Health Growth Factor Eye Serum
Neuropeptides in this gorgeous serum will improve the appearance of fine lines and smooth out wrinkles. While the ZPRO antioxidant complex will boost collagen and hyaluronic acid production in your skin.
You’ve got… Dark circlesIS Clinical C Eye Advance+
Containing skin brightening vitamin C to treat pigmentation, this targeted eye serum also helps thicken the skin by increasing collagen production thus making dark circles – caused by thin skin – less apparent. It’s also packed with Copper Tripeptide Growth Factor to smooth fine lines.
You’ve got… RednessZO Skin Health Rozatrol
Milk protein, lactose and brassica oleracea italica (commonly known as broccoli )extracts, help to soothe and hydrate skin to minimise redness. While plant stem cell complex ZO-RRS2, works to provide powerful antioxidant protection. It’s also full of the humectant glycerin to majorly plump skin.
Bhavjit Kaur, Aesthetic Doctor
An aesthetic physician with over 26 years of clinical experience, Dr Bhavjit Kaur is the co-founder and director of...Book with Bhavjit Kaur