Skin Conditions Don’t Kill You: The Emotional Impact Of Rosacea

I’ve wanted to write another blog post about the emotional impact of rosacea for a while, but every time I start I either get too upset or it turns into a furious rant. I’ve finally got all my thoughts down in a calm way and I really hope that this can be a jumping off point for a wider discussion that results in better awareness for the unseen impact of skin conditions.

Trigger warning: suicide.

The emotional impact of rosacea (and all skin conditions)

At least once a week I will get message from someone who is really struggling with their skin, but apologises for being upset because they don’t see their skin condition as severe. We are constantly told that we should be positive, that it could always be worse. I know that people are trying to be kind when they say this, but it does not help. It fact it has been found that there is little correlation between the severity of a skin condition and the emotional effect it has on people. Everyone is different. Someone might have quite severe rosacea but have absolutely rock solid self confidence, while someone might have very mild rosacea and really struggle for whatever reason – maybe they work in a customer facing role, maybe they live in a climate that means wearing make up is difficult.

Rosacea (and many other skin conditions) make you retreat into yourself. Many people I talk to have never spoken about their rosacea to anyone else, because they don’t know how to explain the impact it has had on them. And I think that this is because skin conditions are not taken seriously. They are looked at superficially. This is especially noticeable when it comes to any medical interaction. In the UK GPs are allocated about 10 minutes per patient and are obviously keen to ‘cure’ you. So when you go into your appointment with a skin condition, their focus is how to deal with the problem at hand. Therefore a cream, or some tablets, are the typical response. But rosacea needs a 360 degree approach – applying a cream may help to reduce the severity/appearance of a flare up there and then but it doesn’t help you identify the reason for the flare up. It doesn’t help you prepare for next time or learn why this is happening to you. It’s a bandage on an injury without looking for the cause. At the Skin Matters conference, we were told that roughly 30% of a GP’s workload is taken up by skin conditions but that they only receive between 5-10 days of training on skin conditions (all of them!) in total. And the reason for that comes down to the fact that skin conditions are not life threatening so they are low on the priority list.

Obviously, I don’t expect to be given more time than a cancer patient, but the medical community needs to understand that just because a skin condition isn’t life threatening, it doesn’t mean it can’t kill you. The link between skin conditions, anxiety, and depression is undeniable, and sadly I know of a few cases where rosacea sufferers took their own lives due to an inability to cope with the condition.

The repercussions of a skin condition are felt in every aspect of your life. A recent study showed respondents a photo of person with clear skin and then showed the same person with typical signs of rosacea. They had to quickly choose which words they would associate with each image to find out their subconscious reactions. You can read the full results of the survey HERE, but here’s a summary. The person with signs of rosacea was seen to be: more unhealthy, more stressed, and more tired. But it’s not just about appearance, the woman with rosacea was deemed to look: less trustworthy, less successful, less reliable, less fun, and less intelligent. Those responding to the survey were less likely to hire them and less likely to want to be friends with them. That is absolutely devastating to read. And this is why I try so hard to talk about rosacea at every available opportunity – we need to end this awful belief that our appearance somehow reflects who we are as a person, how competent we are, how good a partner or friend we would be.

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. #talontedlexrosacea

A post shared by Lex – Rosacea/Skincare/Beauty (@talontedlex) on

At the conference I learnt so much about managing the emotional and psychological aspects of skin conditions, so I’ll be sharing those over the coming weeks. I think it’s easy to complain about unsatisfactory support from doctors, a lack of representation in the media, the hurtful assumptions of others, but it’s more helpful to do what we can to change those things ourselves. I will continue to put my red face out there, to talk about it until people understand it better, to promote ways to ease the issues associated with them – whether they’re physical or emotional.

I hope you found this blog post interesting, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. The comments are open as always, but if you’d prefer to talk to me in private then you can email me, or message me on Facebook. If you are having suicidal thoughts or would just like to talk to a professional about how you are feeling, here are the contact details for the Samaritans.

If you’re interested in reading some more about the emotional impact of rosacea, here are some really interesting papers and articles on this topic:

Lex

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8 Comments

  1. Kathleen
    1st June 2017 / 3:05 pm

    Did I like this blog post … hell yeah! I’m so proud of you for putting yourself out there for all of us. Thank you. I’m also very thankful for you and your words because they have had such a positive impact on me and the way I look at myself. Thank you.

  2. Roisin
    1st June 2017 / 3:14 pm

    Great post as always and thank you for sharing this Lex. I’ve just gone back to the GP for a 2nd time and he has prescribed me a second cream, different to the 1st. My bloods have also been tested for a 2nd time, however I do have thyroid issues, so I asked him if they could be all connected and surprise surprise, the GP was unable to tell me. He knew very little about Roscea and how to treat it.

    However, I have found your posts on the various creams for rosacea an absolute godsend, so thank you so much! While my skin in red (worse after wine and exercise) they have dramatically helped in reducing the redness and improved the condition of my skin. I now swear by La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 – its my go to cream for flare ups!! I never buy a new cream without consulting your website first!! Thanks for all you do, Roisin x

  3. Steph
    1st June 2017 / 3:21 pm

    Thank you for this post! I was diagnosed with rosacea a few months ago and your site has been a huge help and comfort. It’s hard for people to understand how demoralizing it can be to feel out of control of how you look (or to minimize it and say things like “don’t you just get a bit red?”). I’m cleaning up my diet and trying to identify triggers, and your skincare/makeup posts have been a huge help. Would you ever consider doing a post on natural/green makeup brands? That would be awesome! Thanks again!

  4. 1st June 2017 / 7:54 pm

    Loved this post Lex. Skin conditions can have such a huge emotional impact, but they’re often deemed too superficial to be taken seriously. That needs to change. You’re doing a great job of raising awareness.

  5. Kelly
    1st June 2017 / 8:24 pm

    This came along at a perfect time for me. I am struggling mentally with full body eczema flare, it’s incredibly hard to face the world just now, I don’t feel like me and it’s tough. Having a blog like yours is a God send, a place of safety and support. Thank you Lex xxx

  6. Kate
    2nd June 2017 / 12:26 pm

    Thank you so much for this post, it’s great to be able to read about people experiencing the same worries and useful tips etc. I’ve had rosacea for a few years and heating at work in the cooler weather is killing me at the moment in Melbourne AUS. One thing I have found as a great calming solution after a bad flare up of hot cheeks etc us to make a mask of Greek yoghurt. Tumeric and honey. Leave on for 10 minutes or so and my face is so calm and cool. I’m off to do one now Thanks again and I love reading your new posts every day on instagram. Kate

  7. Katharine harvard
    2nd June 2017 / 6:09 pm

    I have had skin problems for over 30 yrs. It’s hard to say how much it’s affected my like as I can only imagine how it would be with out it. I have never stayed at a friends house. Never stayed over at party’s or anything that was spur of the moment. Always have had to plan things as need my make up to be able to let anyone see me. How I wish I could just go out without all the prep first. After all these yrs I still hate putting my face on and find it a chore. But still have to do it. I have very low self esteem and confidence and have tried many procedures to get rid of it but all have made it worse. Do I keep on trying or give up?.

    • Mick Davidson
      5th August 2017 / 10:52 pm

      Never give up. I too share your story.

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