In the Name of VanityAllergic reactions happen so infrequently that I sometimes forget there are risks to using, new or old, skincare and makeup potions. It is always advised to patch test new products before committing to slathering it on and it is best to keep to the expiration date or the quality of the product could be compromised.
If I am to be completely honest, 10 times out of 10 I forego patch-tests in hopes that I would be lucky—and luck has been with me so far. While I generally abide by the printed guidelines for older items in my stash, there are certain products where I tend to be a little more forgiving: if it is individually packaged, if I haven't opened it and exposed it to air yet, or if I am able to disinfect it with a rubbing alcohol spray.
I cannot say for sure what the exact cause for this particular reaction was, but I have my suspicions. Allergies could happen immediately or slowly, for some it could occur only if it so happened to meet the wrong combination of ingredients. For me, I think, it could have been either a new face oil sample sachet I tried in the morning or a past-due sheet mask I applied at night. I am not going to name any names because if it is the latter then it would have been completely avoidable had I not been too stingy to toss it. I wanted to share this post to mainly remind my future self in case of other mishaps.
Was that a little too overdramatic of a "warning"? Thought I'd give a heads up in case anyone gets queasy easily.
The reaction I had wasn't the worst possible case scenario but it sure gave me a good scare.
If it was the expired mask, then I felt immediate itchiness and saw a few red patches on my face. I had used that particular mask when it wasn't expired before and had similar reactions, those never lasted long, which is why I brushed off the feeling and went straight to bed.
The following day proved to be completely abnormal. The itchiness and redness were still there but I applied my skincare and makeup as per usual anyway, hoping it would go away. It didn't... I say hope a lot because I didn't have any prior experience to guide me nor did I think it would be that severe.
I woke up to a swollen face from a night of scratching in my sleep. Every inch of my face felt uncomfortably itchy, even on the eyelids and under my eyes. The reaction had spread down my neck and onto my earlobes (I had not applied any of the products there). I didn't notice just how inflamed the pustules on my chin were until after I looked in a mirror. It did feel painful but I had no idea it looked equally as bad.
To me, it looked like a pimple minefield. My chin is the most prone to acne, nowadays, but never to this degree. I also didn't know an allergic reaction could result in acne-like puss-filled bumps. It only grew in numbers as the day went on and each spot felt more and more inflamed and itchy.
At this point, I skipped all beauty products to let my skin breath and because I could not stand anything touching my skin. Even hair brushing against it made me feel itchy. I went to the doctor and oh the surprised and sympathetic looks the nurses and doctor gave! I left with 2 strong antihistamines (prednisone and hydroxyzine) and a steroid cream (mometasone). One med was supposed to help with the allergic reaction and bumps, the other pill and steroid cream were for the itchiness.
The meds for the allergic reaction felt very effective. The inflamed bumps were mostly subsiding. The itching was still there but not as fiery as the day before. I don't know if I should attribute it to the pills or if it was the natural recovery process, the puss-filled bumps that were on my face were mostly dried out. I could easily flake it off like dead skin without being left with a chin full of puss and blood.
I decided to only use the steroid cream as a last resort. Luckily, I didn't need it.
Day 4 onwards
After all the bumps deflated, the aftermath I was left to deal with was dry, super dry, rough, and flaky skin. Think course sandpaper meets sunburnt skin. Even though my skin needed moisturizing and exfoliating the most, I couldn't deliver at first because the itchiness was still there. All I could do was ignore it for the time being or subconsciously scratch and pick at my face throughout the day. Mostly it was the latter.
My skin probably felt comfortable enough for light moisturizing and cleansing around the 5th day after the skin allergy. I couldn't have been happier to have a watery-type essence product in my stash—it absorbed quickly and most importantly didn't feel like there was a layer sitting on my skin. I needed something that was like water but had more benefits. The essence alone was definitely not enough moisture, but I mainly wanted to relieve some of the tightness my skin felt from being so parched. Rather than being itchy from the allergic reaction, my face felt itchy from being too dry.
The flakes and roughness went away after another day or two of moisturizing. A gentle physical exfoliator helped a tiny bit, but I think it was mainly because the moisturizing helped soften the patches enough beforehand.
Prior to getting prescription strength medicine, I tried both Zyrtec (seasonal allergy meds) and Benadryl (stronger OTC allergy meds). Neither helped with calming the reaction.
Those who are the low-maintenance type will probably wonder if all this is worth it. Skin conditions might be bad but if you don't do anything extra to it, idealistically it shouldn't get any worst. For those who are of the higher-maintenance crowd, like me, this is more of a painful learning experience. It isn't so much about it not getting any worst and more about how it could get better.