April is Global Awareness Month for rosacea and I’ve been doing some blog posts to share my story and give some advice that I wish I had been given when I was in the early stages. You can read my blog on my diagnosis HERE, read about lifestyle changes I made to manage my flare ups HERE. I have also written about the skincare that helps me to keep everything under control. But first I wanted to talk about why I wear make up, covering the psychological aspects of rosacea and how these form an (often overlooked) part of the disease.
1 in 10 people in the UK have rosacea (according to the NHS) so it’s surprising that so few people have heard of it. I think this lack of information is probably a big part of why many people are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. I had no idea what rosacea was until I was diagnosed and I was offered very little advice from my first doctor.
I was told that if I was serious about helping my rosacea that I should stop wearing make up completely. He wanted me to apply a thick emollient every two hours to help my dermatitis and wanted me to avoid alcohol, hot drinks, hair straighteners, extremes of temperature and stress. Simple, right?!
Why I wear make up: I’m a person, not a skin condition
I think the problem some doctors have is that they treat the disease rather than treating the patient. Yes, it probably would help my rosacea to avoid all of those things. Avoiding make up may have helped my rosacea in its early stages when I had fluid filled bumps that would burst with any movement on my face (TMI? I think you might be on the wrong blog). But did that doctor stop to think about the effect on my psychological well-being if I had to go to work every day and show everyone the absolute worst face I could present to the world? How much my confidence would be damaged? How that stress and embarrassment would probably trigger a flare up anyway? A recent survey by the National Rosacea Society found that 90% of those surveyed said that rosacea’s effect on their personal appearance had lowered their self-esteem and self-confidence. They also reported feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, isolation and embarrassment.
When I tried to tell a different doctor that my rosacea had an impact on my moods and how I felt about myself I was basically told ‘others have it worse’ and I should be thankful I didn’t have a more serious disease. I was made to feel vain and shallow, as though caring about your appearance was shameful. I can openly admit that I am a vain person but even if I wasn’t, that wouldn’t stop people noticing my face when it’s at its worst. ‘Catch the sun this weekend did you, Lex?’, ‘Why are you blushing?’, ‘Are you drunk?’… people speak without thinking and judge without considering the impact of their words. So yes, I wear make up every day. I probably wear what some would consider a lot of make up.
And women in particular judge that as well. The amount of times I’ve heard a woman say ‘Oh I just don’t care enough to wear make up, I have better things to do, I think women should just learn to be comfortable in their skin. Make up is an idea sold to us by companies who want us to believe we need it’…
Oh DO shut up. Saying ‘I don’t wear make up’ is the new ‘I don’t own a TV’ or ‘Oh I’m actually not on Facebook’. Well aren’t you interesting and different and zzzzzzz. I’m not criticising women who don’t wear make up as a breed, not at all. It’s your face and you can whatever you like to it. It’s the women who just absolutely have to tell you that they don’t wear make up, and have that uppity, high-horse attitude about it. Fantastic for you that you don’t feel like you have to wear make up and are happy when you look in the mirror. Congratulations. But my face makes me sad and on some days I have been reduced to tears from seeing my own skin. So if I want to spend 45 minutes every morning preparing myself for the outside world then I will do that. Plus, I bloody enjoy it. Sitting down and applying make up is restorative to me: I feel calmer, ready to face the day, awake and capable. And if that makes me a vacuous, shallow girl then so be it.
If you’d like to see my adventures in trying out make up for rosacea/sensitive skin then you can find me on YouTube.