A few weeks back, I was involved in a TV shoot (more on that soon). I hired Ivan, a makeup artist, for the day, to help control the Allergic Girl dewiness.
I’ve worked with Ivan before for other shoots as he uses a brand of make-up to which I’ve never had an allergic reaction. Before we started, I reminded Ivan that I have very sensitive skin, am highly allergic and to please keep the corners of my eyes clear as I tend to tear and rub thus creating some nice redness. (I know, so glam.) It was probably the third time I reminded Ivan about my Allergic Girl-ness over the course of 24 hours. It’s my job (and yours, too) to gently remind someone of any allergic needs – repeatedly if necessary. He assured me he’d be careful.
Ivan started with the eyes. He’s a dabber, not a sweeper. So dab dab dab - three different white shades for the eyes. As he was dabbing I thought, “Oh, that brush feels a bit rough,” but I ignored it. I’m unused to professional make-up application, maybe it's suppose to be like that. (It's not.)
He continued applying, face and cheeks, then lips last and before I knew it, crew and camera people and producers had arrived to set up. Excitement! Ivan quickly finished up and said, "Go look at yourself."
In the mirror, I was confronted not with Glam Sloane but Allergic Girl herself: clusters of welts around both eyes – red, raised and uncomfortable-looking.
A ripple of panic rushed through my body.
First question: Are these hives? Under layers of make-up, it was hard to tell. Definitely raised, definitely red, and definitely many bumps of various sizes around both eyes and upper cheeks. Nicht gut.
Second question: Are they getting worse or spreading? If this was an allergic reaction to something I ate, for example, they would be itching and spreading. I had eaten safe food at home and had only safe snacks with me, so probably not a reaction to anything I ate. No one had kissed my eyes with beard stubble (like that happens every day) nor had anyone eaten nuts or fish at 8am and then kissed me. I did a quick body scan: no spreading to my cheeks, neck nor chest; no itching (important point); and I wasn’t wheezing – all signs of an allergic reaction and escalation.
Good news, kinda.
So maybe these weren’t hives but an irritation to something.
Third question: source. To what was I reacting so I could get rid of it? As I had used this make-up before, I figured I probably wasn’t irritated by that. Then I remembered that when he was brushing on the makeup, it hurt: maybe that was it. But what to do about that now? Wash everything off and go on camera with nothing but welts and a smile?
I walked out of the bathroom and showed Ivan. His jaw dropped. “Oh my god,” he said. “Are you okay?”
“I don’t know, I’m going to give it a few minutes and see if they go down or get worse and we’ll go from there.” We discussed what make-up he used; all clear there. Then we talked about the brushes. They were new and clean. Maybe too new, though, too stiff. He was using natural animal hair brushes and as they hurt when he was applying the make-up, I deduced that that was the culprit. He had softer synthetic brushes with him and we decided to move forward with those. And a much gentler hand.
Just then the producer was calling everyone to places. I showed her my face, “Oh my god, what happened?”
“I think I'm reacting to the make-up in some way. Let’s give this a few minutes to see if it calms down before we start.”
They continued setting up and then: “Places everyone!” As I was fairly certain it wasn’t the beginning of a dramatic allergic reaction, we started. I had my medication nearby and Ivan was keeping an eagle eye on me now - he was my allergy ally. If the welts worsened, if I flushed or they spread it would be time for Plan B (wash off and medication). None of that happened and by the time I saw my face again about an hour later, the welts had lessened considerably.
My analysis: not an allergic reaction, just sensitive skin.
Disclose allergic needs early and often.
Be prepared for the unexpected.
Try to remain calm during an emergency.
Have an emergency plan and know your best options.
Always have your medication on hand.
And on with the show!