Los Angeles’s lush and sunny climate has its benefits—less seasonal affective disorder, more perennially glowing tan—but it also means my allergies never quit. I’m as congested and bleary- eyed in a downtown bar as I would be in a hayfield; I’ve actually Googled whether it’s possible to be allergic to palm trees. (It totally is.) Thus, my makeup requirements verge on the impossible: my unicorn formula is gentle enough for my already super sensitive skin and eyes, but powerful enough to stick around if I do end up having an allergic reaction. Perhaps it’s a humble ask, but I just want to be able to make my #superbloom pilgrimage, and document it without my face melting off.
Luckily for all of us, my extensive research has led to a foolproof checklist of products and practices for long-lasting, non-irritating looks, even in the midst of superbloom blues. The secret? Working from the inside out. When consulting the experts, the advice I received, again and again, was to focus on my routine and prep to keep my skin and immune system healthy, in addition to ditching my harsher or heavier makeup for lighter, more botanical options. Keep scrolling for the lowdown on surviving allergy season without sacrificing your beauty routine.
In the past, I’ve often swapped out my eye makeup during allergy season, but I’d taken for granted that my primer and foundation would continue to work as predicted. Turns out, I was wrong. “For those with seasonal allergies, when the pollens attack, not only may the eyes, nose, and lower airway be affected, the skin may suffer as well,” explains Dr. LanAnh Do, a member of the Physicians Formula Physicians Coalition who specializes in the treatment of asthma, allergies and immune disorders. “The skin can become more dry, red, itchy, flaky, or puffy.” Do adds, “Allergy sufferers make the mistake of believing that their now impaired and inflamed skin during the allergy season will tolerate the same skincare or makeup routines that they normally tolerate during other seasons.” This makes sense; the skin, after all, is the largest organ of the body, and is as susceptible to allergic reactions as anywhere else. “When it comes to makeup, use minimal makeup if possible,” instructs Do. “Select hypoallergenic makeup from a trusted brand.”
“Protect the skin from the damaging pollens and pollutants,” counsels Do. “A healthy skin barrier will be less reactive to your makeup. Along with protecting the skin barrier by drinking plenty of water and topically moisturizing the skin frequently, protect the skin from sun damage with sunscreen.” My personal fave? Dermalogica's mineral-based sunscreen, which is specifically designed for skin that gets irritated by traditional formulas.
Clearing out your sinuses can have a major impact on your allergies for the rest of the day. Translation? Fewer runny noses, smeared foundation, and sneeze attacks. “When one is experiencing allergies, common symptoms include congestion, swelling, lethargy, a foggy mind and watery eyes,” explains Trudy Collings, Co-Founder of PAAVANI Ayurveda, adding, “The rituals of neti & nasya can help reduce these symptoms because they help expel excess mucous, reduce water retention and helps restore focus and clarity to the mind. Neti and Nasya also bring fresh prana, or life force energy, in while expelling harmful pollution, toxins and irritants out of the body, leaving you feeling refreshed, clear and balanced.”
In the midst of spring blooms, keeping your ingredients clean is key. “During this time, your now compromised skin may not tolerate the same ingredients in topical products that it would in other seasons,” explains Do. “Avoid products with fragrances and preservatives that tend to be allergenic, such as the isothiazolinones (methylisothiazolinone, methychloroisothiazolinone), formaldehyde/formaldehyde releasers, and paraben.” The botanicals in Dr. Jart’s Cicapair line are mega moisturizing and combat red, inflamed skin to boot, making the products a personal must-have.
It’s no secret that the Byrdie team are major fans of Ayurvedic medicine, but I was shocked by how effective an ancient Ayurvedic superfruit was in curing my very contemporary smog-and- pollen problem. The soothing substance in question? Triphala. “Take Triphala daily to support the body’s ability to gently cleanse itself and eliminate unwanted toxic build up, also known in Ayurveda as ama." Collings also advises, “Avoid caffeine, alcohol, dairy and processed foods. Think local, organic, seasonal fresh foods for a healthy and balanced system.”
Want to make sure your entire routine is allergy-sensitive? Do recommends skipping peels and exfoliants, even when you’re indoors and away from the threat of a pollen attack: “Be cautious of irritating ingredients such as harsh exfoliants and acids such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid.” Instead, opt for gentle ingredients that won’t strip away your skin’s natural oils or lead to over- drying.
Treating sensitive skin doesn’t have to break the bank. Do recommends this drug store cult favorite based on its super-soothing ingredients list: “Look for Moisturizing creams containing such ingredients such as hyaluronic acids, ceramides, lipids, and glycerin.” To make the most of your moisturizing, Do recommends applying after washing your face or showering. She counsels, "Apply the moisturizer to slightly damp skin to seal in the moisture."
My allergies mostly affect my eyes – one whiff of L.A. flora turns me into a teary, bleary mess. My holy grail? The one-two punch of botanical eye drops and super-sensitive organic, vegan mascara. “If you suffer from itchy, watery, puffy eyes or runny nose, treat those symptoms so they will not aggravate the skin surrounding the area,” advises Do. “That may include use of oral antihistamine, eyedrops or intranasal sprays. See an Allergist or Dermatologist if your allergy is not controlled as prescription of an oral or topical medication may be necessary.”
Next, read up on 5 home remedies for allergies that actually work.