I was diagnosed with rosacea 12 years ago and I’ve been talking about it on my blog for about four years. It’s still crazy to me that it’s not as well known as it should be – there are millions of people with this condition and, in my opinion, it should be as widely recognisable as acne or psoriasis. April is Rosacea Awareness Month and so I’ll be doing a few posts about different issues related to the condition but I thought I would start with a GIGANTIC post containing all the rosacea FAQs that I get every day from people all over the world. I’ve built up so much knowledge and advice in countless blog posts, so hopefully this post can become a central hub that I can direct people to. Please ask questions in the comments below, and I will keep adding to the post as we go along!
As always, I want to start with a disclaimer. As I’ve mention many times before, rosacea is very individual: what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. However, this blog post summarises the things I have found work for me in the past 12 years through trial and error (and believe me, there has been a lot of error!) Please be careful, talk to your GP/dermatologist before doing anything drastic, and take care of yourself. There are a lot of resources at the bottom where you can get a lot more information but I’m hoping this will be a good jumping off point for you.
Let’s start at the beginning and end at the end. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin…
- 1 WHAT IS ROSACEA?
- 2 HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE ROSACEA?
- 3 WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF ROSACEA?
- 4 ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ROSACEA?
- 5 WHAT DOES ROSACEA LOOK LIKE?
- 6 WHAT DOES ROSACEA FEEL LIKE?
- 7 IS THERE A CURE FOR ROSACEA?
- 8 HOW DID YOU GET DIAGNOSED WITH ROSACEA?
- 9 HOW DO YOU FIND ROSACEA TRIGGERS AND WHAT IS A FLARE UP?
- 10 CAN A CHANGE IN DIET HELP ROSACEA?
- 11 WHAT SKINCARE IS GOOD FOR ROSACEA?
- 12 WHAT SUNSCREEN IS GOOD FOR ROSACEA?
- 13 CAN LIFESTYLE CHANGES HELP WITH ROSACEA?
- 14 WHAT MAKE UP WILL COVER ROSACEA?
- 15 CAN MEN GET ROSACEA?
- 16 WHAT IS THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT OF ROSACEA?
- 17 CAN I STILL EXERCISE WITH ROSACEA?
- 18 ARE THERE ANY CELEBRITIES WITH ROSACEA?
- 19 HELPFUL RESOURCES FOR THOSE WITH ROSACEA
WHAT IS ROSACEA?
- Rosacea is a chronic skin condition with irregular facial flushing that can become more permanent over time. It can be accompanied by visible blood vessels, pustules, swelling, inflamed and irritated eyes, dry patches and – in severe cases – thickening of the skin.
HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE ROSACEA?
- It’s pronounced ‘ro-zay-sha’.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF ROSACEA?
- It’s believed to be more common in those who are fair and those who have pink-toned skin that flushes easily in childhood. Although it seems to run in families there doesn’t seem to be a genetic link (my mum and both my sisters have rosacea, although theirs is milder than mine).
- Theories that it’s caused by bacteria on the skin or in the gut, or by microscopic mites have not been proved.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ROSACEA?
- Subtype 1 (erythematotelangiectatic) This is what people think of when they hear rosacea. This represents the redness, visible broken veins, and flushing.
- Subtype 2 (papulopustular) This takes all the same issues from Subtype 1 and adds in fluid-filled pimple and itchy bumps.
- When I was first diagnosed I had Subtype 2 but now that I have my triggers under control and a better handle on my skin I now have Subtype 1. If I have a severe flare up, I will get a few pustules but these tend to disappear within 12-24 hours.
This photo was hard to take and is even harder to post. Every single time I take a photo of my bare skin I am still shocked, because this is not how I picture myself. When I imagine my face, I think of the girl on the right: happy, comfortable, wearing an amazing lipstick that screams confidence. So when I see the girl on the left, it's jarring. And it makes me upset. But I absolutely love seeing photos like these from other people. It shows that make up can be transformative and beautiful, but it's also so so much more than that. Wearing make up makes me feel stronger and helps me to be myself. To others this may sound silly or vain but to me it's a necessity. It gives me control over something I cannot change and that is so powerful. One of my missions this year is to try to pare back my make up in an attempt to feel more comfortable in my skin. But it's a slow process and one I'm really struggling with to be honest. I'd love to be more confident about the way I look, but for now I'm just trying to be a little kinder to myself. #perfectlyme
WHAT DOES ROSACEA LOOK LIKE?
- As I explained above, its characterised by facial redness (in some cases it can present on the chest and back). It’s most common on the cheeks and nose, but can appear in other areas as well (for example, the right side of my forehead is prone to flushing). Sufferers often have a butterfly pattern across the cheeks, where the skin under the eyes is in stark contrast to the redness. It looks like a cross between deep blushing, sunburn and a rash. My skin takes on an almost mottled, purple appearance when I’m having a flare up. When my skin is calm, I still have persistent redness due to the broken veins now scattered across my face.
WHAT DOES ROSACEA FEEL LIKE?
- I can often feel a flare up before I can see it: my skin starts to burn, it feels tight and itchy. It feels a bit like heat rash or sunburn with that awful throbbing, uncomfortable feeling.
IS THERE A CURE FOR ROSACEA?
- There is currently no cure. For every school of thought as to the causes of rosacea there is a ‘cure’ to go along with it. The only proven way to help your rosacea is to identify and eliminate triggers to put your skin into a form of remission.
- I’ve never tried any kind of oral medication for my rosacea as I don’t want to be stuck taking tablets for the rest of my life. However, it’s not something I’ve ruled out.
- I have been investigating laser treatment for rosacea for years and have seen some incredible results but it’s very pricey so I’ve been putting it off. However, I will hopefully be undergoing IPL at some point in 2017 and I’ll obviously take you all along with me to show the process and results.
- Rosacea is a progressive condition, so over time it will get worse. Which is why it’s so important to be diagnosed and to regain control of your skin. As your skin becomes more stressed and prone to flare ups, the capillaries weaken which means they are more visible which results in permanent redness.
HOW DID YOU GET DIAGNOSED WITH ROSACEA?
- At 21, my skin had been bothering me for a while but I didn’t know what to even say to the doctor. I didn’t know how to define it: it wasn’t acne, it wasn’t eczema, it wasn’t something that was always there that I could point out. But as it got worse and worse I decided that I had to do something and assumed that the doctor would be able to give me a cream or some tablets that would cure me instantly. There is no test for rosacea, they just look at you and decide. He knew immediately that it was rosacea and prescribed me Rosex (metronidazole) an antibiotic cream and sent me away with no other information, help, or comfort. The cream did not help (in fact it made my skin much worse, although I’ve heard that some people swear by it). I didn’t bother going back. I eventually found a lovely (female) GP who was so so much better and really helped me get a handle on my rosacea. If you don’t feel like your doctor is taking you seriously, tell them or ask for a different doctor. Research has shown the crippling effect a skin condition can have on self-esteem, socialising, and relationships so don’t let anyone make you feel petty or vain.
HOW DO YOU FIND ROSACEA TRIGGERS AND WHAT IS A FLARE UP?
- I’ve written a lot about this over the years, so I’m just going to direct you to these blog posts that covers everything about identifying triggers HERE and HERE.
- I wrote a blog post about how to calm flare ups, even when you’re out of the house. You can read it HERE.
- I also wrote about the ways in which stress effects the skin and ways to minimise and handle that stress. You can read that HERE.
Yesterday the Daily Mail published an article about my rosacea (a version has also appeared in the Mirror and the Sun). 👍The positives: a huge spike in traffic to my blog along with *so* many emails and new followers sharing their story, asking for advice, and telling me how comforting it is to find someone talking openly about how horrible rosacea can be. 👎Negatives: the comment section of the DM is a nasty and heartless place. I am not strong enough to read them myself so @lbqblog and @technicallyron summarised for me. People are thoughtless and unkind, even when reading about someone's struggles with a crippling and incurable skin condition. 👀 This video shows the rosacea flare up that happened last night as a result of the article and accompanying stress. It was the worst flare up I've had in a year and I went to bed feeling utterly miserable. I'm still feeling pretty down today – I'm trying so hard to focus on the people I help rather than the hateful ones, but it's hard when you already feel so self conscious about your appearance. Thank you to everyone who said nice things to me last night – you helped more than you can know. #perfectlyme 🖐EDIT🖐 – I've had a few questions/comments so here are some clarifications. I didn't pitch the DM and I didn't approve their version of the article. I did a 3rd party interview which was then offered to every newspaper/magazine going. The DM focused on the gluten aspect as it's a buzzword and works well as clickbait. I have never said removing gluten 'cured' my rosacea. I removed gluten from my diet as I'm intolerant and the impact on my skin was just a nice bonus. If you read my blog you'll know I recommend various lifestyle, diet and skincare changes to help you gain control of your rosacea. There is no silver bullet cure. Thank you again to all the people who've offered support and hello to new followers. I promise my Instagram isn't usually this full of drama llamas 🐪 (why no llama emoji?)
CAN A CHANGE IN DIET HELP ROSACEA?
- The first thing that I made an active decision to remove from my diet was dairy. So many forums and blog posts recommended this for a lot of skin conditions and it seemed like the easiest win for me (a lot easier than the below!) I did notice a big change in my skin and I notice straight away if I treat myself to some cheese or a delicious creamy pudding. I actually prefer almond milk to regular milk now and think many of the substitute products taste just as good.
- Gluten was a huge one for me. I actually cut out gluten because I’m intolerant, but soon noticed a difference in my skin which was a bonus. There are a few theories that stomach upsets and facial conditions are linked which I would definitely agree with from my experience.
- I haven’t cut out alcohol completely but I’ve cut down drastically. When I was first diagnosed I was at university and easily drinking upwards of 30 units of alcohol a week. Nowadays I can go weeks without drinking and am much more of a social drinker. I think when you see an instant correlation between your skin and your habits , it becomes easier to prioritise. When I want a glass of fizz I will have one, but I will bear in mind that the consequences will have to be dealt with the next day… rosacea is kind of like a visible hangover!
- My doctor recommended I try the FODMAP diet to get control over my intolerances and I don’t recommended undertaking it without the help of a GP. I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy, but from my POV it was worth it for my overall health and the benefits to my rosacea were a happy byproduct. You read about my FODMAP experience HERE.
- It’s also recommended you cut out or cut down on processed and sugary products. Basically you need to stop consuming most things that are fun or delicious!
WHAT SKINCARE IS GOOD FOR ROSACEA?
- I try a lot of skincare. Every month I will remove or introduce new products. Partly because I love trying new things, partly because I know that some things that I love don’t work for some of you. I want to give a wide selection of recommendations (along with things available in different countries, at various price points etc.) and also partly because I’m always hunting for that holy grail product.
- My biggest tips are: Read the ingredients and do a patch test. Remember up there when I said how important it was to find your triggers? I’m repeating that now. I can look through ingredients lists and instantly find things that I know my skin will hate, or I can make an informed decision on what I have to be more careful with. One example: my rosacea hates tea tree oil and witch hazel, but I recently tried out some nose strips that contain those ingredients. I simply cut the pieces to size so that those ingredients were nowhere near my cheeks – voila! Information is power, so arm yourself accordingly.
- Be gentle with your skin. I avoid manual cleansing brushes, I’m very careful with manual exfoliants (you can read all about different types of exfoliators HERE if you’re confused), I only wash my face with water once a day and avoid water completely if I’m having a flare up.
- Avoid hot water on the face. I don’t get my face wet in the shower (as much as possible) as the temperature most of us prefer to wash our body is far too hot for our facial skin.
- Common ingredient triggers are fragrance, alcohol, menthol, tea tree oil and witch hazel.
- Many people incorrectly assume they have, or are actually misdiagnosed with, acne. This can have terrible consequences as products designed for acne are often terrible for rosacea. When I think back to all the products I used on my poor skin when I still didn’t know what I was doing I want to weep!
- I have lots of favourite skincare products but the brands I tend to go back to are Avéne and La Roche-Posay: they are so gentle, have so many great products, are not expensive, and I think they are available in most countries. You can see my reviews for Avéne HERE and La Roche-Posay HERE.
- You can see all of my Skincare Shake Up posts HERE. If there’s any specific product or brand you’re interested in you can also search the blog (search bar in the right hand side bar, or categories at the bottom of the right hand side bar).
- I also did an affordable skincare blog series for sensitive skin which you can find HERE.
- Have faith in yourself. You will soon know what your skin can and can’t handle, so just listen to what it’s telling you.
WHAT SUNSCREEN IS GOOD FOR ROSACEA?
- I cannot stress enough that you need to wear sunscreen every time you leave the house (…obviously not when it’s dark, that’s just silly). You need a minimum of SPF30 but I wear SPF50 every day and you can find my recommendations HERE, HERE and HERE.
- Try to find a broad-spectrum sunscreen: one that protects against UVA and UVB as both cause damage to the skin.
- Most people with rosacea/sensitive skin prefer mineral sunscreens vs chemical sunscreens. Mineral (sometimes called ‘physical sunscreen’) sits on your skin and reflects the sun’s rays (which means it also deflects the heat which is good for those with rosacea), while chemical sunscreens are change the UV rays into heat which is then released from the skin (which, understandably is baaaad for rosacea). Mineral sunscreens protect your skin from the sun as soon as you apply them, while chemical sunscreens need to have at least 20 mins to sink in.
CAN LIFESTYLE CHANGES HELP WITH ROSACEA?
- I’ve written a blog post on my lifestyle changes and tips HERE but here are a few additions:
- Once you’ve found your triggers you need to work out if you can/want to eliminate them or how you can work around them. For example, heat around my face triggers an instant flare up so I try to leave my hair to dry naturally as often as I can. However, I’ve also accepted that sometimes I want to blow dry my hair or use hair straighteners/curlers. I now know how long my face takes to calm down after that type of flare up (between 15 and 30 minutes) so I factor that into my getting-ready time.
- Only you can make the choices about what you will eliminate and what you’ll accept consequences for. I barely drink during the week, but if I want a few glasses of wine at the weekend I do that accepting the resulting flare up. For some of you, it’ll be spicy food, hot baths, running marathons… each person is different and it’s your call on what you want to sacrifice.
- It took me a long time to realise that sleep (both quality of and lack of sleep) was a trigger for me, which makes sense as it’s putting stress on the body.
- Stress is by far my biggest trigger and is also the one thing that’s hard to predict and impossible to eradicate from your life. I was lucky enough to remove the biggest stress from my life (my old job) but being a freelancer comes with its own unique stressors. Try to find your own way to minimise the stress in your life, or if that’s not possible, how to learn to deal with the impact of it: meditation, yoga, reading, listening to music… whatever calms you down or takes your mind off things is invaluable to your skin health and sanity.
✨The wonders of make up!✨ My rosacea is so unhappy at the moment – a combination of moving stress and the changing weather means my skin feels hot, rough and is so red. Thank goodness for make up! 🙌 BTW if you're a man (or woman who doesn't like a lot of make up) I have a blog post with subtle #rosacea cover ups on my blog – link in bio!) 💕
WHAT MAKE UP WILL COVER ROSACEA?
- I have a YouTube channel where I upload reviews of make up and tutorials that show not only how I cover my redness but what products help my skin to feel comfortable and happy.
- I also post a lot of pictures of my skin and make up on Instagram if that floats your boat. I wrote a post about why I love crazy, bold make up HERE.
- When it comes to make up tools, I am a total Beauty Blender obsessive: it gives a gorgeous finish (even with super high coverage foundation), doesn’t aggravate the skin as you’re not dragging it around, doesn’t disrupt dry skin… they’re just wonderful!
- I probably own about 30 foundations, with new ones being added to my collection every month. But my all-time favourite foundations are DiorSkin Forever (review HERE) and L’Oréal Paris Infallible Matte (review HERE).
- For some people, foundations can be a little bit daunting or feel too heavy on the skin. If you are looking for a light product that will take the edge off the redness then you will probably like a BB cream or tinted moisturiser or one of the subtle products I wrote about here. These feel a lot like skincare and offer light coverage, which means you will still be able to see redness, spots, pigmentation etc. My recommendation would be the Garnier BB cream.
- Colour corrector products often scare people off because they look so intense and unwearable. The basic premise is that all colours are on a colour wheel, and by finding and using the opposite shade on the wheel, you can counteract it. For example, dark purple under-eye circles can be counteracted with peach coloured products. Redness is typically neutralised by using green or yellow products. I’ve done a video showing how to use green concealer HERE.
CAN MEN GET ROSACEA?
- Although rosacea diagnoses are more common in women they tend to be more severe in men. However many doctors believe that the genders are equally as likely to have the condition, but men are less likely to go to the doctors about it until it progresses to a more severe level. Many of the tips I have in this post are suitable for both genders as the triggers and issues tend to be the same.
- I wrote a review of some subtle make up tips for men who want to take the edge of their rosacea. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to be a man who feels like he has to go barefaced because society has decided that make up is a female-only product. I could rant about this all day!
WHAT IS THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT OF ROSACEA?
- I’ve spoken a little about the psychological impact of rosacea on my blog and on social media. I think it’s something that many doctors do not take into consideration, when actually it’s something that can not only result in severe emotional issues but can also have a huge impact on the rosacea itself. Worrying about my rosacea is guaranteed to make my skin worse, so it’s important that you view treating the inside as well as the outside as equally important. You can read my thoughts on this in more detail HERE.
- I also wrote about the lack of support from the medical community and why, because they aren’t considered life-threatening , skin conditions are often dismissed. You can read it HERE.
CAN I STILL EXERCISE WITH ROSACEA?
- Anything that gets your heart rate and body temperature elevated is typically going to trigger a flare up. I’m not telling you to stop exercising because that’s a terrible idea (plus exercise is great for stress which – as we know – is a huge rosacea trigger), but if you are really looking to eliminate causes of flare ups then perhaps consider forms of exercise that are medium-intensity. Yoga, pilates, and walking are all great but perhaps avoid any moves that put your head below your heart.
ARE THERE ANY CELEBRITIES WITH ROSACEA?
- Cynthia Nixon has done lots of work to raise awareness of rosacea, including some YouTube videos. I even remember watching her in SATC years ago and thinking ‘her face looks like mine sometimes!’
- Amy Schumer has been vocal on social media about her rosacea which is incredible as it’s still such a misunderstood and under-diagnosed condition.
- Lisa Faulkner is another person who has spoken about her skin in the media, helping to raise awareness.
- Renee Zellweger apparently has rosacea, but I’ve not seen her address it directly.
- I often see Cameron Diaz listed as having rosacea but have only ever heard her talk about her struggles with acne so I’m not sure if this is myth.
HELPFUL RESOURCES FOR THOSE WITH ROSACEA
- British Skin Foundation
- The Rosacea Group Forum
- Talkhealth Forum
- Changing Faces
- I started a Facebook group where people can chat, ask questions and get support. It’s private so if you would like to join you can find it HERE.
Phew, that’s a lot of information! I will keep updating this rosacea FAQs post as time goes on and as I get more questions, but let me know if there’s anything missing or something you’d like me to cover.