Runny eyes and sneezing sending your makeup on its way? Here's how not to let high pollen counts sabotage your maquillage

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According to Allergy UK, 18 million of us suffer from hayfever (allergic rhinitis) in the UK, which accounts for 30 per cent of the population. Research by the charity has also found that, of a sample group of 646 sufferers, 92 per cent reported that hayfever symptoms affected their work, lifestyle and daily routine, while 81 per cent revealed that hayfever affected their mood in a negative way.

Obviously streaming, puffy eyes, a runny, red nose, an itchy throat/face in general, headaches and problems sleeping are never going to be conducive to cheerfulness, but I find one of the most frustrating aspects of hayfever to be the nigh on impossibility of at least looking like I’ve got things together. Faking it until you make it is tricky when it looks like you’re crying throughout entire summer wedding proceedings, you’re snotting on to an exam paper or you interrupt sensitive professional meetings with sound barrier-breaking sneezing fits. I’ve very much been there repeatedly in all three cases; add in wayward mascara, skin that’s glowing red rather than summer’s coveted gold and a general makeup landslide and I’m very nearly a broken woman come mid-August.

A poll of 1000 hayfever sufferers by A.Vogel   proves that I’m not alone in my literal and metaphorical irritation; four in 10 of those surveyed disclosed that the symptoms of hayfever made them feel less attractive in general, with a fifth cancelling social engagements because they feel and look so ropey. Figure in the four in 10 who endure sleepless nights on account of seasonal allergies and you’ve got a recipe for generalised misery, not to mention a lacklustre complexion and some serious dark circles.

Being stubborn, and a makeup maniac, I simply will not stand for this washed out, washed off status quo. Here are the products, tricks and techniques that I’ve found enduringly helpful in the battle against ‘hayfever face’, and which at the very least won’t make things worse (glitter in an already gritty feeling eye = no go FYI).

Touch base

Along with stinging eyes, nasal congestion and a throat on fire, you may have noticed that your skin is playing up in a pretty major way now that hayfever season has settled in. Even if you’re not sensitive of skin on the whole, histamine reactions triggered by pollen can cause skin to become sensitised, read: red, reactive, sore or swollen (or all the above). The fact that antihistamine medication can cause skin to become drier, along with your mouth and nose, doesn’t help matters.

Seeing as a great base is anchored by your skincare, a bit of dermatological firefighting may be required if your skin has gone haywire since hayfever’s started hanging around. Georgie Cleeve, founder of natural-led brand  OSKIA London , recommends tackling flare-ups with tailored ingredients:

“When it comes to the skincare products you use during times of high pollen count, look out for ingredients that are known for their anti-inflammatory benefits. butterbur for instance is a fantastic ingredient to look out for if you suffer from hayfever. It’s a known antihistamine that’s been used for centuries to soothe irritated, inflamed and itchy skin, making it perfect for calming redness around the nose area.”

If you’re on an elusive search for butterbur (not butterbear- good luck with that), you’ll find it in Oskia’s radiance restoring Get Up & Glow Serum , £70, which happily makes a great primer for makeup and feels light and soothing on skin that’s hot and bothered.

If your skin was sensitive to begin with, you’ll likely notice that, as you might expect, hayfever can make it look and feel all the more raw, as La Roche Posay  dermatologist Sarah Wakelin testifies:

“For those with sensitive skin, the problem of hayfever and seasonal allergies is magnified. Sensitive skin is more vulnerable to irritation from external factors like allergens and toxins, and it’s more reactive to histamines – the substances your body produces in response to allergens, which can cause redness, itchiness and discomfort.”

“Because sensitive skin is less able to defend itself against external aggressors, it can be left feeling even more itchy, sore and uncomfortable. Repeatedly blowing your nose or wiping your eyes can add to the problem.”

“Hayfever sufferers are also prone to eczema and sensitive skin, and can suffer from soreness and dryness around their eyes. Watery eyes and rubbing the eyelids makes things worse.”

All in all, not a pretty picture, but addressing your skincare products and habits can help to alleviate irritation and smooth over hayfever havoc, as Sarah assures us:

“In addition to treating hayfever symptoms (with antihistamines, nasal sprays and eye drops), it is important to look after the delicate skin of the eyelids and to avoid harsh cleansers and makeup removers . Choose a gentle fragrance-free skin care range with skin calming moisturisers.”

“For hayfever and allergy sufferers, we recommend Toleriane Ultra, which is the first skincare range to be given the ‘seal of approval’ from Allergy UK."

“It’s an ultra-gentle, actively soothing range of products with none of the ‘extras’ like fragrance and preservatives that could potentially cause your skin to react. It even is clinically proven to reduce your skin’s sensitivity day after day, strengthening its barrier function so it’s better defended against external factors than can trigger a reaction.”

If your delicate eye area is particularly inflamed, tapping on Toleriane Ultra Eye Contour , £12.75, could help to reduce discomfort and bring down puffiness. Keep it in the fridge for additional soothing impact. As for skin that’s becoming more and more desert like as days get brighter and dryer (ideal hayfever conditions), Clinique's newly-revamped  Moisture Surge 100H Auto-Replenishing Hydrator , £38, is the perfect summer antidote. The gel-cream slips under makeup like a dream and offers instant and long-lasting relief from flakiness, tightness and dehydration induced dullness. It claims to deliver the goods come rain, shine and fluctuating humidity, and I’m inclined to agree. The weather may have a hold on most of your orifices, but your skin doesn’t have to suffer.

As for the actual makeup aspect of your base, seeing as I find that I get the sweats when summer allergy season kicks in (likely the ‘fever’ element getting going), something that survives a bit of rubbing and streaming while also evening out blotchy skin is a godsend. To really hit hayfever where it hurts, Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup , £34, is unbeatable in terms of longevity, full coverage (the brand say medium, but in my experience this is as full yet flattering as it gets) and tenacity in the face of tissues. Lighter but also longwearing and life-restoring is Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation , £40.

For built-in hydration and a dewy finish, bareMinerals Complexion Rescue™ , £30, is a good option if your usual tinted moisturiser isn’t quite holding up to hayfever’s associated ravages; it’s fragrance-free to minimise irritation and is rich in restorative emollients. The shade range has just been extended too, so you should have no issue finding the exact hue you need to counter redness.

Easy on the eye

As the pollen count fluctuates, you may find that eye makeup is an option, or not. Whether you wear any at all is personal preference, but I find a little definition confidence boosting. When it goes to plan, some eye widening shadow, liner and lashes can make all the difference between swollen and bloodshot and awake and energised.

Given the sore state of affairs, using makeup that’s suitable for sensitive eyes is highly advisable , as is washing your hands pre-application to prevent pollen or other irritants from entering your poor puffy eyes. In terms of your approach to makeup, apply a trusty eye primer such as Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion , £17.50, to minimise the risk of shadow and liner migration, then heed makeup artist Lou Dartford ’s wise counsel:

“Avoid light shimmery eyeshadows as they will highlight puffy lids. Go for more matte colours in mid to darker tones. Also avoid browns that have any kind of red in them, as these can make your eyes look tired and bring out any redness you might already have.”

“A dark matte liner along the top of the lash line can help to diminish the appearance of puffiness and give your eyes some definition. If black is too harsh, try a grey or a neutral dark brown. A good matte eyeshadow is also good to use for a softer line. Smudge a little bit on the bottom outer corners as well if you need some drama.”

“A nude or cream pencil drawn along your inner lower rim can help to brighten eyes and tone down against any redness. You can also use white but nude colours will be softer and less stark.”

“Chances are if you’re suffering with your eyes, you’ve got dark circles underneath them too. No matter how much sleep you get, they’re probably not going to shift if an allergy is the problem. A good concealer is what is needed here.”

Enter Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer , £24, which is my failsafe undereye troubleshooter; it blends beautifully, even if skin is throwing a tantrum, doesn’t drift when your eyes leak and comes equipped with skincare level hydration potential to calm over-rubbed eyes. As for shadow, you can't fault  Bobbi Brown's Long Wear Shadow Sticks , £24. Available in an array of cool and neutral colours, they claim to deliver medium to full coverage shadow to really stay the distance, and are easy to apply without the need for brushes or fiddly applicators, which is just what you need when you’re eyes are already riled thanks to allergies. Definitely worth a shot if you’re bloodshot.

The big challenge in the ‘hayfever eye’ arena is of course mascara, but you’ve still got options if you crave doe eyes over moley ones. Chanel Le Volume Waterproof , £28, has stuck fast by my side through al fresco nuptials, while Maybelline Lash Sensational Waterproof , £8.99, has been known to endure height of summer park picnics. If the prospect of waving an inky black stick in the direction of your eyes every morning is deeply unappealing at this time of year, consider a more long-lasting solution in the form of eyelash extensions. Depending on the type of treatment you opt for, lash extensions can last up to eight weeks, and give you the freedom to skip applying eye makeup altogether while still looking fluttery and wide eyed. Shavata  outposts will kit you out, as will Flutter at Urban Retreat  and Lash Perfect  bars nationwide.

As for liner, there’s a lot to be said for going smudgy and earthy when sneeze season begins, but it you’re committed to your Bardot-esque black liner, Illamasqua Precision Ink in Abyss , £21, is Sharpie like in its permanence. Even an artful flick is possible with this glide-on, waterproof liquid liner, which is no mean feat when eyes are running faster than most Olympians.

Distraction tactics

If all else fails, have a beauty decoy up your sleeve. A bright lip will bring the focus back down to a feature that’s not exploding or feverish and this year's mask-proof long-wearing gloss and lipstick launches are ideal if you’re suffering from general hayfever makeup slippage. Highr's long-wearing shades , £22, are loved by presenters Holly Willoughby and Laura Whitmore for their staying power and hydrating vegan formula.

If makeup is still doing a vanishing act due to hayfever attacks? A fixing spray is just the ticket . Come at me cut grass; I’m ready for you.