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by Selina Mithen •

How Springtime Pollen Can Be Hazardous To Your Skin

Springtime brings the beauty of blooming flowers and warmer days but the rising pollen count and histamine production can cause problems for all skin types, not just allergy prone skin. Read on for the spring survival guide for your skin.   Pollen can cause disruption and damage to the skin when environmental counts are high. Pollen can be considered a form of particulate matter (small particles – size PM10) that are small enough to penetrate the skin. The highest concentration of airborne pollens comes from grasses but flowers come a close second. Research has shown that pollen is able to infiltrate the stratum corneum where it can cause irritation and potentially inflammation, itching and rashes particularly in susceptible individuals. Pollen proteins are also able to penetrate the hair follicle where they can accumulate and diffuse into the surrounding dermal tissue causing damage to collagen structures (via stimulation of matrix metallo-proteinases) . Pollen can be stored in the hair follicles up to ten times longer than the stratum corneum. This is an important factor in the development of allergies as the prolonged exposure time allows for immune system activation. In cases where people have sensitive or sensitised skin with weakened skin barriers the impact on the skin can cause itching, welts, rashes, dermatitis, and increased sensitivity to topical products. If you tend to be one of those people who are prone to hay fever or allergies there is an added burden of rising histamine levels from pollen exposure in spring. Not only does pollen affect your skin but the elevation in histamine levels can also drive irritation and inflammation from the inside out. There actions that you can take to minimise the effect of pollen and histamine on your skin and overall health. SPRINGTIME SKINCARE GUIDELINES Taking extra care to ensure your skin barrier is healthy is very important to prevent irritation from airborne pollens. Barrier reinforcing ingredients like shea butter, ceramides, jojoba esters and meadowfoam seed oil will make a resistant armour that protects from the penetration of pollens. (Physio-Logic Fortifying Moisturiser) Film formers will also create a mesh like shield over the skin to capture and prevent the absorption of pollens within the skin and hair follicles. Biosaccharide gum is an excellent film former (Hydro-Therapy Line Filling Serum). Leave the rigorous exfoliation out of your routine for now. Exfoliation is something that many people overdo in their skincare routines and the resulting weakened barrier leaves your skin prone to increased penetration of pollen. Just stick to a gentle cleansing routine that enhances the skin barrier and has sooting ingredients (Cell-Relief Nutritive Cleanser). Fragrances, floral hydrosols (or waters) and essential oils can provide the tipping point for skin sensitivities; the classic case of too many sensitising ingredients at one time. Ingredients like essential oils can accumulate in the skin and mix with pollen proteins causing increased reactivity. Don’t over use antihistamines. Constantly taking antihistamines isn't the perfect solution as they can have side effects such as disrupted sleep. Antihistamines also reduce sebaceous gland output so will in turn make your skin drier and more vulnerable. If your hay fever is severe see your GP about other treatments such as prescription nasal sprays. MANAGING HISTAMINE LEVELS Histamine is the substance released by mast (immune) cells in response to exposure to irritants and allergens. If you are consuming foods high in histamine or that reduce your ability to break down histamine the resulting accumulation will make allergy and skin symptoms far worse. Watch out for foods in the diet that are high in histamine as this can be the tipping point for allergies when the environmental burden is already high. High Histamine foods that you will want to avoid are: Anything fermented: Drinks (wine, beer, kombucha) etc Fermented condiments - vinegar, miso, soy sauce, pickles Cured deli meats Canned fish Fermented dairy - yogurt, kefir, aged cheeses Sourdough breads Leftover foods or pre-prepared meals Also a few random veggies to add are - spinach, tomatoes, citrus fruits and eggplant.   The best way to reduce allergy burden during spring is to: Eat fresh foods (avoid leftovers) Supplement with Vitamin C and bioflavonoids (in particular Quercetin) Herbal medicine can help as well (check with your health practitioner first). Herbs that are great for allergies are Baical skullcap, Goldenseal, Perilla, and Albizzia.                                                                                      *Bioceuticals has great supplements - Allergy Care, and Quercetain which are available from selected pharmacies with brief consult with pharmacist.   BE CAREFUL WITH PROBIOTICS! Probiotics are great immune modulators and can assist with reducing allergy symptoms, however some strains of probiotics will increase histamine and make your symptoms worse. The best strains for reducing allergies and histamine levels are the following: Lactobacillus Plantarum, L. Rhamnosis (Sometimes labelled LGG) and L. Salvaris and Bifidis strains. Strains that will increase histamine and worsen allergies are: Sacchromyces boulardi, Lactobaccilus bulgaricus, and Lactobacillus casei Shirota (Yakult).   References: Jacobi U, Engel K, Patzelt A, Worm M, Sterry W, Lademann J. Penetration of pollen proteins into the skin. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2007;20(6):297-304. doi: 10.1159/000108101. Epub 2007 Sep 11. PMID: 17851273. Lademann J, Patzelt A, Richter H, Schanzer S, Sterry W, Filbry A, Bohnsack K, Rippke F, Meinke M. Comparison of two in vitro models for the analysis of follicular penetration and its prevention by barrier emulsions. Eur J Pharm Biopharm. 2009 Aug;72(3):600-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpb.2009.02.003. PMID: 19572415. Dijkhoff, I.M., Drasler, B., Karakocak, B.B. et al. Impact of airborne particulate matter on skin: a systematic review from epidemiology to in vitro studies. Part Fibre Toxicol 17, 35 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12989-020-00366-y Meinke, Martina & Patzelt, Alexa & Richter, Heike & Schanzer, Sabine & Sterry, Wolfram & Filbry, Alexander & Bohnsack, Kerstin & Rippke, Frank. (2009). [6.03] In-vitro and in-vivo investigations of the penetration of pollen allergens in the skin and a prevention strategy. Medical Laser Application. 24. 141-141. 10.1016/j.mla.2009.02.040. Hemarajata P, Gao C, Pflughoeft KJ, et al. Lactobacillus reuteri-specific immunoregulatory gene rsiR modulates histamine production and immunomodulation by Lactobacillus reuteri. 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