What is rosacea? My diagnosis and common symptoms

I’ve spoken about rosacea on my blog and social media quite a lot over the past few years. I get a lot of questions from people about caring for sensitive skin with the most common question being ‘What is rosacea?’ There are many who think they might have rosacea and would like more information so let’s start with the basics… For those who don’t know, rosacea is a skin condition that looks like regular facial flushing, but over time becomes more severe and lasts longer due to enlarged and broken capillaries. The flushing is accompanied by raised pimples, an itching and burning sensation and (in serious cases) thickening of the skin.

What is rosacea? My diagnosis and common symptoms

Not just harmless blushing!

What is rosacea? The causes

The causes of rosacea are still a mystery although you’re more likely to be affected if you are pale skinned, female and 30-50. It has no cure, you can only control it. If I had a pound for the amount of people who have said to me ‘ooh yes I/my cousin/my dog used to have rosacea…’ Nope. Just nope. It can be controlled and can be calm for long stretches, but if you actually had rosacea you would know it. It’s progressive so it’s here to stay and will likely get worse if you don’t carefully manage it. YAY *high fives all the other lobster faces*

I had always been a rosy-cheeked girl: I blushed easily, went very red when I laughed, drank alcohol or spoke in public. However, when I was about 21 I ended up at the doctors as I noticed that the flushing in my cheeks frequently became purple and almost mottled, accompanied by a horrible tight feeling and raised pimples across my cheeks. As these symptoms worsened I also developed seborrheic dermatitis which is as pleasant as it sounds. My skin was so dry that it would crack and bleed. I felt like a monster.

what does rosacea look like?

Look at my sad little face! 🙁

My first doctor prescribed Rozex (metrogel) – an antibiotic cream. This made my skin even worse. So I decided to do my own research and try to work out what was best for my skin by trial and error. And boy were there lots of errors! Please note that I am not a professional by any means, just someone who has had first hand experience of this horrible condition for 10 years.

What is rosacea? First steps to take

The first thing you should do if you think you have rosacea, or have been diagnosed and are trying to get your head around it, is to keep a food/lifestyle diary. Everyone is different and learning your triggers is the easiest way to start to manage your skin.

What is rosacea? Common triggers

are: alcohol, exercise, spicy foods, caffeine, stress, extreme temperatures, tiredness, air conditioning, hair dryers/hair straighteners… the list goes on! Some of these are easier to avoid than others, and some will affect you more than others. Rosacea is a tough old broad so you need to arm yourself with knowledge.

I’ve written separate blogs on the changes I made to my diet, lifestyle and skincare and how they impacted my rosacea. I’ve also posted a blog about the psychological impact of rosacea which I believe is often overlooked. I have a YouTube channel where I do make up tutorials and reviews of foundations that help to cover redness.

I hope this post was informative and gave you some starting points about rosacea and how to deal with it. I have moments of self-pity and anger about my skin and feel sad that it’s something that will no doubt worsen as I get older. In those moments I like to find other sufferers online and realise that I’m not alone. Hopefully this blog at least did that for you.

Lex

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25 Comments

  1. Kate
    11th November 2015 / 7:13 pm

    Thanks for your updates Lex. As a fellow rosacean I know the struggle. Did you find your Seb derm improved once you got into a good skincare routine?

    • Lex
      24th June 2016 / 3:05 pm

      I don’t know how I missed this comment, this is a ridiculously late reply (sorry!) My Seb Derm got a lot better, I think from a combination of diet change and skincare. I still get flare ups when I get lax with both (have a dairy binge, when my skin gets dehydrated) but I know how to blitz them so they don’t stick around for as long.

  2. Jacqueline C.
    25th February 2016 / 3:02 am

    You are not alone. I was diagnosed July 2015 (26 years old)and I was so unreal to me. Then in October I flushed so bad and was swollen so I made an appointment with my derm and he said it was definitely Rosacea ;,( I left in tears a total mess. I couldn’t put anything in my face without feeling the burn. I started washing my face with Vanicream helps so much with my sensitive skin. I did not put anything else in my face only washed it then in November came the peridermatitis, that sucked! But I still did not put the metrogel on as I was told back in July. Finally after the dermatitis my face looked great, calm, rosy but natural look. Now , since last week I feel hot , burning, stinging in my left check. I was all January symptom free, now it’s back. I am so depressed! I feel like my hubby will leave me for it:,(

    • Lex
      4th March 2016 / 6:06 pm

      Hi Jackie, thank you for your comment and I’m sorry it took me so long to reply. I’m sorry that you’re feeling so low, I remember feeling like that when I was first diagnosed and my skin was the worst it’s ever been.
      I try to remind myself that if I’ve got control of my rosacea once then I can do it again – it’s utterly horrible at the time and can really affect your confidence but you know your skin better than any doctor and it sounds like you know what products to use and how to treat it. Rosacea is one of those awful conditions that can be really well behaved for a long time and then flares up when you least want it to.
      Did anything change before this flare? If you can pinpoint the cause then you can hopefully work around it or learn to compensate for it. Obviously I don’t know your husband, but if he’s anything like mine he loves you regardless of your rosacea. Try talking to him about your concerns as the stress and worry of that may be exacerbating the rosacea. Good luck and please let me know how you get on x

  3. Sue
    20th April 2016 / 6:21 pm

    I went through quite a few prescriptions (metrogel, apprillon) before finding one that works – clonidine. I have more issues with flushing than pustules and it’s my understanding that clonidine is typically prescribed for menopausal hot flashes. It’s made a huge difference for me – I still have the broken capillaries on my cheeks, but they’re way easier to hide and now I don’t have to worry about a beet-red face while I’m presenting or having a drink.
    Best of luck to my fellowship in red.

    • Lex
      24th June 2016 / 2:55 pm

      Thank you, Sue. I will look into Clonidine. I’m the same in that it’s flushing that’s my main issue now. Thank you for your comment!

  4. Katie
    22nd April 2016 / 5:14 am

    Thank you for sharing! I have always been a deep red blusher even when I am not that embarassed,. I also get really red when I work out and I get flushed more easy when I drink alcohil. Do you think I should see a dermatologist? I’m only 20

    • Lex
      24th June 2016 / 2:57 pm

      Hi Katie, so sorry for my late reply. Does the flushing stick around or does it flare up and then go? Do you have any pustules or bumps on the areas that flare up? It might be worth talking to your doctor as it might be early signs of rosacea. As it’s a condition that gets worse over time there’s no harm in trying to get a handle on it early, if you do have it. Good luck and do feel free to ask any questions if you need advice!

  5. Maru
    22nd April 2016 / 11:47 pm

    You are not alone! I strated with the same sympotms (being rosy-cheeked girl: blushed easily, went very red when I laughed, drank alcohol or spoke in public) Now i use rosex. Im 26 yearn old. I am not better because rosacea keeps on progress. but i really effort to not get stress because then i got worst.

    I feel identify With each Word and articule That you wrote. That was the reason because i reach out to this site

    • Lex
      24th June 2016 / 2:58 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment, Maru. I’m sorry it took me so long to reply. Stress is my worst trigger as well, but it’s a hard thing to avoid! All the best x

  6. smf
    30th April 2016 / 11:43 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I am curious if you knew right away that it was rosacea or if you questioned other diagnoses. For instance, I know sometimes lupus’ butterfly rash is mistaken for rosacea and sometimes doctors even find it difficult to tell the difference. But do you experience other symptoms along with your rosacea? Like fatigue, joint pains, unexplained fevers, etc? Do your rosacea flare ups seem to only affect your face?

    • Lex
      24th June 2016 / 3:01 pm

      Hi SMF, thank you for your comment and I’m sorry for the late reply. I never looked into other diagnoses as I ticked every box for rosacea. No joint pain, fatigue etc back then, I was a very healthy person overall, it was just my skin that was very unhappy. I only get flare ups on my face, I know rosacea can appear elsewhere but that’s quite rare.

  7. Shelby
    14th July 2016 / 3:34 am

    I just want to echo what you said about the food log. When I was first diagnosed, I was prescribed a medicine and facewash which seemed to help some but not perfectly, so doctor prescribed a different medicine. This happened again the next checkup. I can’t remember how many creams and oral meds I tried, but nothing worked perfectly and I was gaining weight. This sent me on an Internet search which led me to a forum where other Rosacea patients talked about liver problems because of the med I was on. My doctor denied any possibility of that and said keep taking it since it was the best combination we had so far. She promised a new med would be out soon that worked great in clinical studies! That day I quit the medicine and stopped my daily cup of orange juice and my face cleared up! Orange juice!! Wish I had been told to keep track of all foods from the beginning; could have saved a lot of time, money, and stress! I will allow a cup once in a while, but if I have some two days in a row, I can see some pinkies returning. It’s not worth it, no matter how much I love juice!

    • Jackie
      18th July 2016 / 11:43 pm

      Did u try metrogel?

      • Shelby
        25th July 2016 / 4:34 am

        Yes, I did. There was some improvement, but then a big setback. Nothing worked until I figured out my triggers. I also think too much sun or sweat or sunglasses pressing on my nose could be a trigger! But it is rare and impossible to pinpoint since they all go together. I also put some blame on sugar, but maybe unfairly so. I just mention these for someone who is searching for their triggers. We are all different, but sometime the same 🙂

    • Lex
      2nd August 2016 / 11:14 am

      It is crazy how one small thing can make such a difference. Whenever anyone asks me how they can help their rosacea the food diary is the easiest and quickest way to get a handle on it. You learn so much about your triggers and can then make the decision on whether to cut them out or whether they’re worth the flare ups. So glad you’ve found your biggest trigger!

  8. Deborah Wilmshurst
    28th August 2016 / 10:28 am

    Hi thought I’d give feedback back on what has worked on a particular bad flare up I had recently.Oh it was bad this time red angry rash all over face with some every so pretty small white heads too boot.I did try La roche posay but for me it made my skin worse what I did discover was a little miracle tube of EauThermale Avene Cicalfate,this God send calmed my skin down within 1/2hr.My redness has subsided after 3 days and my little white heads have more or less gone.My skin as always after these flare ups has gone dry now so I will be purchasing one of Avene moisturisers too now.I read about these products on your page so thank you I believe for my skin less is definitely more….I did purchase the sunfactor 50 avene with slight tint but that will be going back as it doesn’t rub in very well and I cannot rub my face too hard as all rosacea faces know.Luckily the amazing customer service at boots have said I can take it back,as you can with most beauty products you’re skin doesn’t agree with as long as you have receipt and original packaging.
    I will let you know what moisturiser I have decided on or rather what my skin decides

  9. rissa
    29th September 2016 / 11:28 pm

    Hello! I’m a 16 year old female who has a blushing problem. My cheeks are normally a pink/red color during the day but it’s worse at night. This has happened recently, it started when I was 15 but it’s becoming a bit worse, recently it hasnt been that bad idk why, my face is a normal pink color, maybe it’s the temperature that helped? Or that I’ve watched what I ate, but it’s helped a lot. I hate having a red face though, it draws so much attention. I’m so young it feels awful having to deal with this now. When I was younger I use to be so tan but now I have fair skin and I don’t know why, hope you can help thank you❣️

    • Lex
      4th October 2016 / 11:36 am

      Thank you for your comment, Rissa. I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling with your skin. Trying to identify what makes your skin more red can help you to see if it’s a reaction to something, or whether it’s something like rosacea. I’d keep a note on your phone of when it happens and anything that might have affected it (temperature, what you’ve eaten, your emotions at that time, products used etc.) If you would like advice on how to cover your redness, I review make up with that in mind on my YouTube channel. I’m always around for advice or support x

  10. Kat
    30th November 2016 / 1:04 pm

    I have rosacea also – I started blushing very easily when I was 13 and since then always had problems with my cheeks going very red and hot. I’ve stopped flushing as much as I used to and I can’t actually say why I have, perhaps taking care of my skin has helped? I hate exercising in front of anyone though because I go SO red. Anything that makes me anxious can trigger it as well, which is not at all helpful. My skin has permanent redness all over my cheeks, chin and nose. Lots of broken capillaries… I probably will never be able to afford the treatment for those 🙁

    I still really struggle with how I feel about my skin & how I look – I used to be agoraphobic and I think my blushing is one of the reasons that pushed me towards shutting myself inside, and when I asked for help to overcome my agoraphobia I honestly believed that I could never be seen because of my skin. Now I’m able to go out, I sometimes look at myself and think ‘how could I ever let myself be seen??’… I’m also getting into dating and I mostly just use online dating, I find it very hard to meet people because of my skin!

    I don’t wear makeup actually, I kind of fear starting to wear it because I know I may struggle with that fact that my skin doesn’t look like that naturally.

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