My skin has been through the mill this autumn/winter. I’m not exactly sure why or how – though I suspect a cold sharp shock of freezing temperatures, London pollution and central heating has something to do with it – and a few weeks ago I was in a bad way.
It started off as some innocuous dry skin. This was followed by full-on flakiness around my eyes, which led to an insane allergic reaction following the use of a gorgeous Sonya Dakar Eye Wash: a gentle product I’d used a million times before with no problem.
When I say insane here I mean insane. My eyes blew up so much I could barely see, my skin became blotchy with hives and I itched like a mofo. My face was super sensitive, sore and red. Plus, it goes without saying, kind of scary looking. Here’s the photo I took that Saturday morning, kept small so it doesn’t scare small children or future husbands ;). Luckily it was a weekend so I cancelled all plans, ordered food in and sat down to devise a plan to help my ailing face.
My eyes took 48 hours to go down and blotchy skin almost a week to go back to normal, thanks to a mixture of over-the-counter antihistamines (there are some specifically for allergies: buy these from the pharmacist) and Hydrocortisone cream. But that didn’t fix the underlying problem of skin sensitivity and dryness.
I felt a bit responsible for the problems I’d been having here; as soon as I felt that sensitivity I should have toned down my AHA usage (the skin acids, not the band) and slapped on the heavy moisturisers. But somewhat naively I believed if I just ploughed on through it my skin would just go back to it’s happy state of normal/combination-ness.
Interestingly, I didn’t have much luck googling the problems I’d been having so I used common sense and the products I had available to me to come up with a plan. Here’s how I went from scary swollen face to radiant happiness in the space of a week:
My water intake definitely goes down in the winter… who wants to drink cold liquids when you could be chugging on a nice cup of tea or mulled wine instead? But this is one of the most (or actually THE MOST) important tools to repair and maintain your skin – if cold water is unappealing try drinking it warm with lemon or in the form of herbal tea.
The simplest thing of all – TEA BAGS! – really helped with the swelling of my eyes. Pour boiling water on a tea bag as you normally would, remove after about five minutes and cool down. When they’re cool enough to stand them (but still warm) pop them on your eyes for ten minutes. It really does work a charm on that puffiness, costs pennies and is a pretty relaxing way to spend a few minutes, too!
Despite suffering incredibly sensitive skin I still needed to wash my face, and I wanted to make sure this part of my skincare routine didn’t aggravate the condition.
For times of sensitivity I can’t recommend MV Organic’s Cream Cleanser (from £35.50) enough – it’s so incredibly gentle it can be used on the most reactive of skins. I also called on my favourite Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser (£54) too; this has the perfect slip for a good evening facial massage and is beautifully thick and caring. A combination of these two looked after the cleansing portion of my routine no problems.
It took me a while to figure out how best to use moisturising serums. I like to take time over my skincare routine, and I found they weren’t really working beyond making my face a bit sticky.
But the secret is here to make sure you slap on your moisturiser as soon as the serum in on the skin; that way the serum can carry the moisture from the cream into the lower layers of the skin as efficiently as possible. Boom! Amazing stuff.
I really rate Vichy’s Aqualia Thermal serum (£22.50), as well as Darphin’s Hydraskin Serum (£43).
Once the swelling of my eyes had gone down I was left with residual dryness, so I was keen to find a product that would give my sensitive skin a huge shot of moisture. As luck would have it I was sent Sisely’s Eye Contour Mask (£81.50) to trial and was just blown away with the immediate effect it had. This product is pricey but it works; 48 hours after I began using it my eyes were brighter, the dryness had disappeared and the skin was tighter. Full review to follow – it’s that good.
Layering Oils and Moisturisers
I wanted to feed my skin as much as possible with moisture, so called upon my favourite heavy-duty moisturisers to help. I really rate Antipodes’s Divine Face Oil (£21.99 – a mixture of rosehip and avocado) as a brilliant ‘starter’ oil: great to use in conjunction with a night cream (Clinique’s Moisture Surge Overnight Mask, £30), but not too heavy that you can’t use it during the day, either. I pressed this on after my day cream – Darphin’s 8 Flower Nectar Oil Cream (£65) – a product I always turn to after a cold or when my skin’s in need of a bit of extra TLC.
At night I used Clarins’s Blue Orchid Treatment Oil (£33) over my moisturiser. This is a product I always think is a real treat for the senses to use; it absorbs beautifully into the skin and has the most divine scent. It’s a five-minute mini spa treatment in a bottle!
I have to say – my experience with sensitive and reactive skin was not pleasant. There were times when I was panicking it wouldn’t go back to normal, and I’d have hives forever! Happily after two weeks of TLC my happy skin is BACK, and the whole experience has left me more mindful of how to treat my sensitivities this winter.