"Allergy Face" Is Real — & Here's What To Do About It

illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Welcome to the season of red eyes and sniffles, where the constant anxiety that your friends will stop hanging out with you because you sneeze 17 times a minute is alive and well, unlike your immune system. This is something that the roughly 20 million allergy sufferers in the U.S. alone know all too well. Some of them may also have noticed that, in addition to turning you into a social pariah who should probably start buying Kleenex wholesale, allergies can also make your skin look like shit.
The defining feature of "allergy face" is puffiness, not unlike the kind of swelling you'd get after eating too much soy sauce with your sushi, accompanied by a nose that's in a never-ending state of chafe. It's not pretty — and, in even better news, it's only going to get worse. "Pollen can travel for up to 50 miles," explains allergist Tania Elliott, MD, chief medical officer of the preventative health company EHE. "Now, with global warming, we're seeing 'super pollen' that is a lot more buoyant — meaning it travels even further."
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Since your skin is the first line of defense against environmental aggressors, it's on high alert during the season — so you're more likely to get rashes or irritation from products or ingredients that may not normally cause a reaction. "Aside from these local reactions, people also get systemic reactions where your immune system responds, producing many inflammatory factors that cause your skin cells to react," says Robb Akridge, PhD (better known as the beloved inventor-turned-beauty entrepreneur Dr. Robb).
That doesn't mean you're destined for four straight months of itchy skin and puffy eyes, though; adopting a few of these doctor-recommended, allergy sufferer-approved strategies is a good start. The more you know, the sooner you can save yourself from the misery.
Dark Circles
When seasonal allergies come on, under-eye swelling is likely to follow. "Allergies trigger mast cells, which release histamine [the culprit behind all that itching] that causes the blood vessels to swell," says dermatologist Michelle Henry, MD. "These engorged vessels cause puffiness and dark circles."
Prevent it by taking an over-the-counter antihistamine like Zyrtec, or pop some caffeinated eye gels (like the Soap & Glory Puffy Eye Attack Hydrogel Patches) under your eyes to reduce inflammation. Then, sleep on an extra pillow at night to keep the blood from pooling around your eyes.
Rashes
The most common external reaction to stem from allergies: contact dermatitis, which manifests as red, itchy, scaly rashes when a product comes in contact with your skin. Your best bet? "Avoid wearing hairspray, which can make your hair sticky for pollen," Dr. Elliott says. Steer clear of fragrances and essential oils during these months, and give your skin a rest from any chemical exfoliants or other strong, sensitizing acids.
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You'll also want to reach for soothing moisturizers. "They are less reactive with your skin and form a barrier between your skin and the pollen and other environmental elements," Dr. Robb says. Dermatologist Shari Marchbein, MD, says to look for hydrating ingredients such as glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid, which hold moisture in. (She recommends the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream.) See your derm if a reaction occurs; you may need a prescription topical cream.
Red, Inflamed Nose
When you've blown your nose raw (it happens), you'll find instant relief from occlusive moisturizers, which form a film on the skin to keep pollen and allergens out. Aquaphor Healing Ointment is a time-tested go-to, and Dr. Marchbein says you can also use Vaseline or Vaniply. To tone down any redness, try using a green-tinted primer, like the Clarins SOS Primer, on the affected areas before applying the rest of your makeup.
Also recommended: an air purifier, like the Dyson Pure Cool. "They're helpful for the allergens that are suspended in the air, like pollen and pet dander," says Dr. Elliott, adding that you should keep in mind they won't work as well for dust mite allergies.
Puffy Face
Julianne Moore's "sushi face" is everyone else's face come allergy season. Whether it's caused by the sinus pressure or airborne allergens, you want to tackle the inflammation head-on. First, you'll want to cool the skin and get flares under control as soon as possible. You can do a DIY cold press, or reach for products with redness-reducing ingredients, like the Simple De-Stress Sheet Mask (which has aloe vera) and Dermalogica Barrier Repair Moisturizer (which has oat extracts and vitamin E).
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"I advise my patients to avoid inflammatory foods," says Jeanine Downie, MD, founder of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey. "That means no soy or nuts — a Paleo diet can be helpful in calming rosacea."
Bloodshot Eyes
Oh, your eyes are the windows, all right — to the inner turmoil your body is going through when you have allergies. But that doesn't mean you have to live the entire season seeing red. "Believe it or not, steroid nasal sprays are just as effective for eye symptoms as eyedrops," says Dr. Elliott. "Avoid eyedrops that treat red-eye — they contain vasoconstrictors that shrink blood vessels. Your body can get so used to them with regular use that you can have rebound red eyes when you stop using it. Antihistamine eye drops and saline eye drops to flush out your eyes are your best bet."
But don't underestimate the power of prevention. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen, gently rinse the eyelid area with baby shampoo after being outside to keep allergens from getting stuck, and wear your waterproof mascara loud and proud. At the end of the day, planning ahead is the only thing that will keep your makeup from running à la LC on The Hills circa 2008.

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