PSA: Seasonal Allergies Might Be Cause Of Your Dry, Irritated Skin

Plus, products to soothe & hydrate.

by Natasha Marsh
Originally Published: 
seasonal allergies
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As amazing as it is to crawl out of frigid winter temperatures and enter the warmer seasons, for those with seasonal allergies, the changing of weather can be posed as a double-edged sword. “An allergy is our body's immune system response to rejecting an unknown substance,” says Jordyn Oakland, NCEA certified licensed esthetician at ZitSticka. “The interaction causes a person's immune cells to overreact and go into defense mode to fight off the foreign invader — altering the skin barrier function.” During the spring there is an influx of more pollen, dust, and allergenic proteins in the environment that cause reactions, which means that seasonal allergies can seriously affect your skin.

If you’ve never had a runny nose or puffy eyes as a result of the changing seasons, you might not know how much it can wreak havoc on your complexion. “About 80% of people who have seasonal allergies will experience some skin symptoms,” says Dr. Hadley King, a New York-based board-certified dermatologist. Unfortunately, during the spring and summer, this can trigger rashes, eczema, and hives, and your overall complexion can become red, puffy, and inflamed

Luckily, however, the skin is not completely defenseless against seasonal allergies. Turns out there are expert-approved tricks and techniques to follow through the seasons. Keep reading to uncover more about the connection between seasonal allergies and your skin — plus, how the experts recommend soothing your skin all season-long.

The 411 On Seasonal Allergies & Your Skin

Understanding the root cause of your allergies can play a pivotal role in managing them. You can opt for an allergy test with your doctor, which involves pricking your skin with various allergens to gauge your response and subsequently develop a treatment plan.

“Pollen count increases in the spring because this is when trees, grasses, and weeds release pollen into the air,” shares Dr. King. Dust and pollen, the two main culprits, can cause a chain-like skin reaction. The reaction then alerts the immune system to protect the body — causing it to produce antibodies that stimulate chemicals like histamine into the bloodstream. Histamine then causes inflammation, which unfortunately, can cause the skin to become more sensitive.

How Does The Skin React To Allergies?

It varies from person to person, but seasonal allergies can display over time anywhere on the skin, not just the face. As your body navigates through the stress of an allergy attack, the stress responses may present outwardly as puffiness, redness, irritation, swelling, itching, and potentially eczema, says Oakland. “Seasonal allergies cause more stress onto our skin, depleting normal healthy cell function — leading to dehydration, inflammation and irritation, depleting the [moisture] barrier allowing irritating substances into the skin,” the expert continues.

And Dr. Karan Lal DO FAAD, a double board-certified adult and pediatric dermatologist agrees: “Allergens like pollen cause certain cells to release histamine which opens up blood vessels causing blood to rush to the surface of your eyes and skin — compromising the skin microbiome and barrier,” he shares about the susceptibility to other allergens and infections. In fact, according to Dr. Jessie Cheung, board-certified dermatologist, “The increase of histamine in your skin will make your skin hyper-reactive and prone to hives and itching.” Symptoms can also include nasal congestion, watery eyes, wheezing, and rashes.

How To Manage Skin Irritation From Seasonal Allergies

There are certainly precautions to lessen your exposure to allergens, like staying indoors or keeping your windows closed when inside. But if you cannot avoid the outside, stick to fragrance- and dye-free products, as they won’t cause allergic reactions. According to Oakland, if you are experiencing skin irritation from allergies, you should avoid acids like AHAs and BHAs that can further irritate already inflamed skin and damage the barrier. “In general, any product that is causing you discomfort or stinging that typically does not, should be stopped,” she says. Rule out harsh detergents, retinoids, and alcohols as well to minimize irritation.

Dr. Lal recommends using products that create a barrier — for example occlusives like petrolatum — as these can prevent allergens from coming in contact with your skin, specially on your eyelids and eczema prone areas. “Consider an over-the-counter antihistamine such as fexofenadine or cetirizine which reduces your risk of developing symptoms by preventing the release of histamine upon being exposed to allergens,” the expert tells TZR.

In addition to over-the-counter and topical drugstore products, Oakland also suggests a manual lymphatic drainage massage to de-puff the eye area. “When you wake up, use a cold eye serum or cream with peptides, and apply light pressure,” she says. “The cool compress will help with redness and swelling. And finally, all the experts stress the importance of wiping your face, rinsing your eyes with cold water, washing your hands, and avoiding touching your face.

Coppola also recommends allergic pillow covers that can help reduce allergic symptoms, as well as an indoor air purifier or humidifier with cool mist. “It’s better to choose coolness over warm mist as this will reduce the incidence of mold proliferation,” the expert tells TZR. “This can help to clean the air of allergens while you're sleeping as well as promote moisture in the air to reduce dryness.”

Dora Lazarevic / EyeEm/ Getty Images

A Skin Care Routine For Allergy Season

Since allergens can damage the skin barrier, it’s crucial to design a skin care routine that strengthens it. According to Vanessa Coppola, APN-C, FNP-BC, cosmetic aesthetic specialist and founder of Bare Aesthetic, the most important thing is to keep the skin moisturized, as to seal in moisture, and reduce the itch so that you don't have the urge to scratch. “The act of itching and scratching can cause mechanical physical tears in the stratum corneum leading to greater incidence of transepidermal water loss, as well as a higher risk of infection.” Any opening or break in the skin is a vulnerable area for pathogens to enter causing increased inflammation and possible infection — making it even more important to keep the skin hydrated. It's also important to use daily sunscreen so that you prevent sun damage (which can further dry out and irritate skin).

As an everyday ritual, Oakland recommends selecting a gentle cleanser to avoid irritation and humectants like glycerin, sodium PCA, or hyaluronic acid to replenish loss of hydration within the skin. She recommends The La Roche-Posay Thermal Spray to replenish hydration midday, and La Roche-Posay Cicaplast B5 to repair the barrier. “These will not completely repair your barrier but they can alleviate discomfort while preventing bacteria from entering cracked skin and water escaping, creating more irritation,” says Oakland.

Below, find the experts’ favorite and most effective suggestions for products that can help soothe allergy-prone skin and strengthen your skin barrier for calm, glowy skin all year-round.

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