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Last year I struggled with allergies for months, without really knowing what the trigger was. My symptoms included swollen eyelids (sometimes almost swollen shut!), itchy skin around my neck and jaw line, and contact dermatitis under my eyes. It drove me crazy for ages until it just randomly went away. Eventually I figured out that I was allergic to my foaming cleanser, which caused the scaly skin under my eyes, but it didn’t explain the other symptoms, which kept returning even after I stopped using the cleanser.

This year things got worse. My neck had been annoyingly itchy for a few months and then the dermatitis returned under my eyes (this is how I figured out it was the cleanser). Then I started on some new medication for my migraines, and after a few days I had a pretty bad allergic reaction. My whole face became unbearably itchy, red, and swollen. I was so uncomfortable. I persisted with the medication for a week or so and then went back to the doctor. Both she and the pharmacist told me it was unlikely the medication had caused the reaction, and to stop it for a while to see if the symptoms cleared up. Sadly, they didn’t, and my headaches also came back.

I’ll never know for sure what causes my ‘winter skin,’ as I am calling it now, but I have since gone back on the medication, and managed to get the symptoms under control, so I am trying not to spend hours thinking about it, but just accept it as a seasonal allergy. I did take antihistamines every day for about two weeks, when the itching was at its worst, but I have since stopped them, and now things are truly under control.

The worst thing to deal with though, was the dryness. It was like an impenetrable net of scaly skin all over my cheeks, and the area around my eyes, and eyebrows, turned white with all the flaking skin. Makeup didn’t sit well and it seemed like no matter how much moisturiser or oil I used, the scaly patches didn’t want to budge. I headed out to find some heavy duty products, and although it did take a couple of weeks, these products turned out to be my saviours.

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My eyes were incredibly sensitive, and my eyelids started to turn red and swell up even with the gentlest of products. Although I mostly avoided eye makeup during the time that my allergies were the worst, I still felt that I needed to cleanse the area to get rid of the flaking skin.

If I wore any eye makeup at all, I used the Avéne Micellar Lotion on a cotton pad or bud. This gentle cleanser didn’t irritate my eyes any further and it removes makeup so quickly that you don’t have to rub excessively. I also use this to remove all my makeup up now, on a cotton pad, if I am feeling lazy and don’t want to cleanse before bed.

When my skin was at its worst, I did something I have never done before, I used a tissue off cleanser. After reading the reviews on Beautypedia, I rushed out and got the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser. I would slather this on, rub as little as possible, and then wipe away with a barely dampened cotton pad. This cleanser leaves a residue, something that some reviewers on Makeup Alley didn’t like, but I counted on it. I can honestly say that this cleanser did not irritate my skin at all, it removed light makeup, and the residue didn’t cause any breakouts. It just soothed my skin and helped break down those awful scaly areas.

When my skin was feeling dry, but not sore, I used the Lush Ultrabland Cleanser. This removes heavy makeup easily, and I had no hesitation using it around my eyes. It melts into an oily consistency that feels deeply nourishing to skin. I massaged it in and then removed it with a warm facecloth or damp cotton pads. It also leaves a slight residue but this is what makes it perfect for dry skin. When my skin does its oily thing again, I am sure I will still use the Ultrabland to remove my makeup and cleanse at the sink. Its so easy to use and not messy at all (it doesn’t drip all over the place or run down your arm). This will continue to be a staple in my cleansing routine.

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After I was done cleansing I went to the next level in my arsenal for the assault on the scaly patches. I have never felt anything like it. I was like crocodile skin, and moisturisers just seemed to sit on top and accentuate the dryness. Putting makeup on was a disaster so I used the following two products at night, to try and alleviate the dryness as much as possible while I slept.

If I cleansed early in the evening, or my skin was feeling particularly prickly, or I was having a bath, I used the Avéne Antirougeurs Calm Soothing Mask, often applying two layers. I stared by applying a thin layer and let that absorb for a few minutes before applying a thicker layer. Sometimes I wiped the excess away before applying a moisturiser, but if my skin was feeling ok, I would just leave it and go to bed with it on. Again, as with all of these products, it didn’t irritate my skin, and it really helped to take the prickly, tight feeling away.

I may have been a bit naughty when it came to using the La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5, because it does say not to use on the eye area, but I found it to be amazingly helpful on the driest, flakiest areas. This balm is like the zinc cream you put on babies bum’s, it’s thick and white. I didn’t use it all over, just on the areas that were the worst affected, and I patted it on. It left a white cast and was very shiny at first, but it did absorb (surprisingly) and didn’t leave a mark on my pillow. When it came to really fixing the worst of the dry areas, the Baume B5 worked wonders. I don’t have to use this anymore, but I keep it close by for any scaly patches that might crop up again.

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The final product in my kit-bag for allergic skin came to me a bit later than the others. The Bioderma Atoderm Intensive Baume was sent to me by the lovely ladies from Cosmetiques de France, after I contacted them for advice. The Atoderm range is not available at Priceline but can be ordered easily online. Although it is also a balm, it’s more of a cream texture and absorbs very easily into the skin. This cream is so soothing and it comes in a huge tube, so it would be perfect for using on any area of the body. I use this all over my face as the last step in my nighttime routine, or before my foundation with SPF in the mornings. Although the scaly patches are long gone, and the itchiness seems to be under control, only cropping up around my eyebrows every now and again, I continue to use the Intensive Balm every day. It has not caused any breakouts and doesn’t make my skin oily during the day. This product has been a real life saver.

So, after about 8 weeks of agony, I am finally on top of my winter skin. I am back on my medication, headaches are decreased, and I am continuing with the Ultrabland cleanser from Lush, and the Bioderma Intensive Balm to keep things in check. If the itchiness comes back then my first port of call will be the antihistamines as they really did save me from itching my face off when things got bad. It’s no fun laying awake with an itchy, hot face! Plus, as we say goodbye to winter another old friend stops by for a visit: welcome back hay fever.

Do you suffer from winter or allergic skin? I’d love to hear your top tips for dealing with dryness, itchiness and flaky skin, and hopefully some of these products might help you too.

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