Last month was Global Rosacea Awareness Month and I wrote a few blogs in this ‘what is rosacea’ series: my diagnosis, the lifestyle changes that help me control and manage my skin, and a very personal blog about why I wear make up. The penultimate and final blogs in the mini-series are possibly the most requested blog for me: the products I use to treat my skin and the make-up I use to cover my rosacea. Here are my tips on skincare and learning to work around rosacea. Warning: this is a long one. Get a cup of (lukewarm) tea and some biscuits and settle down…
What is rosacea? And how can skincare help?
When I was first diagnosed with rosacea, I had no idea of what I was dealing with. I saw horrible pimples and oily skin combined (bizarrely) with dry, scaly patches. I panicked and used whatever I could get my hands on that was designed to get rid of these complaints, namely products aimed at acne. Huge mistake. Acne is a bacterial condition whereas rosacea is a vascular condition. I was using harsh astringents, facial scrubs with gritty peach kernels, and stripping cleansers. It makes me cringe just thinking about it. My skin got worse by the day as I angered and inflamed the already damaged skin. Understanding why your skin is unhappy and how you can help it is key here.
Here are my tips for skin care and how to manage your rosacea:
Don’t over do it with washing your face – When my skin is unhappy, I only wash my face with water once a day (at night). In the morning I would use a micellar water. As a general rule I avoid getting my face wet as much as I can – this includes in the shower (the water is too hot and you’ll be getting all the ingredients from your hair products on your skin – not good as hair care tends to have ingredients that aggravate sensitive skin). If I’m having a bad flare up I will try to cut out water cleansing completely. Products: I use a mixture of cleansers but particular favourites for sensitive skin are La Roche Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser for a standard cleanse and The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Oil for removing make up. For my morning cleanse I use Bioderma micellar water – there are ‘dupes’ out there. but they don’t come close in my opinion. For flare ups, Avene do a wonderful wipe-off cleanser that soothes and cleanses without water even getting involved.
Learn your trigger ingredients – I try to avoid certain ingredients that I know will anger my skin. A few examples are alcohol, tea tree, witch hazel, menthol, peppermint, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (a foaming cleansing agent in a lot of shampoos and skin care products), fragrance (usually if a fragrance is in the top 3 ingredients my skin will hate it) and eucalyptus. I soon realised that anything that smells minty or if the description says it will make my skin ‘tingle’ I should throw it out of the window!
Natural does not automatically mean good – As you can see from the list above, there are a lot of natural products that are actually terrible for my skin. In the past I was sucked in by ‘100% natural’ or ‘totally organic’ claims thinking this would mean no reactions. Foolish.
Find the regime that works for you… – I have spent a lot of time and money trying out skincare products so when I find something that works, I am pretty loyal. I do like to try out new things as I have terrible FOMO, but I tend to go with my trusted brands (Avene, La Roche Posay, Trilogy, Bioderma…) as I trust their products implicitly.
…And stick to it – I have found that my skin reacts terribly to atypical situations (flights, holidays, staying over at a house that isn’t mine, weekends) because my routine changes. Which is why I try to adhere to my routine as strictly as I can. My mum always complains when I go to stay with her: ‘Why on earth did you use up flight case space on moisturiser, I have that here?!’ – and the answer is always because it’s not MY moisturiser! Even though the last thing I want to do on a Saturday morning is cleanse my skin and go through my skincare regime, I always notice by Saturday lunchtime if I’ve skipped it. I pay the price if I fall asleep in my make up (*shakes fist at red wine, you soporific but delicious bastard*) so I always try to wash my face as soon as I get home. That way if I fall asleep on my laptop on the sofa, my skin will be okay.
I don’t want no scrub – The years I spent punishing my face with harsh scrubs make me want to cry. I thought that the only way to get rid of my rosacea-triggered dry skin was to forcibly remove it. A doctor later told me that my skin was reacting to my scrubbing by going into emergency recovery mode: it was seeing my harsh exfoliation as an attack and was producing more skin cells to protect my damaged skin…which made my dry skin worse… which made me use the scrub more. Do you see the problem? Sensitive skin does not react well to most physical exfoliants, and this includes certain well-known rotating facial brushes. It’s just too much. I use a common or garden flannel to remove my cleanser at night and twice I week I use a chemical exfoliant. Sounds scary? Read on…
Exfoliation is not the enemy – Although my trusted flannel deals with the necessary day to day shedding of dead skin, there are certain parts of my face that need some extra help. Which is where chemical exfoliation comes in. When I first heard the term I was petrified but do not fear! These contain AHAs or BHAs (Alpha/Beta-hydroxy acids) which sound scary but really aren’t. I’d recommend doing some research to find the right one for you based on your skin type and budget. I’ve done a post on my affordable exfoliation picks HERE.
My face is clean. Now what? – This very much depends on your skin type – you can read my most recent Skincare Shake Up post HERE if you’d like to see what I’m currently using. If I’m having a flare up I will also use a targeted treatment. Products: If I’m mid-flare up and my skin is hot and itchy, I spray Avene Thermal Water Spray onto my face. It cools the skin down really well (it’s also good for sunburn and razor rash so it’s an all-rounder). In the evening I double cleanse (cannot recommend this enough if you use SPF – which you all do, right? – and/or wear make up). Oil/balm for the first cleanse and cream/gel for the second cleanse. I then use a serum and moisturiser. If I’m having a flare up I will apply La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 as soon as I get in the house (after cleansing) all over my face and leave it for as long as I need to. This stuff is a godsend. It’s great for my stubborn dry patches and also really cares for angry rosacea skin. (UPDATE 2019: La Roche Posay have released another Cicaplast product and it’s great – read my comparison post HERE).
SPF – For people with rosacea this is a must. My skin is very sensitive and burns quickly, but I also notice my rosacea plays up as soon as I’m the sun. I wear factor 50 every day (yes, every day) to protect myself but I still find my pimples and itchy cheeks occur if I’m in the sun for more than 20 minutes (I’m super fun at BBQs and in beer gardens: “Can we sit in the shade please?” *Everyone boos Lex*). Products: I am a huge fan of the La Roche Posay Anthelios range, especially the La Roche Posay Anthelios XL Ultra Light: it doesn’t aggravate sensitive skin, non-clogging and keeps the pesky sun away! I’ve shared my other favourites HERE.
Phew! That was a lot of information! I hope that some of that was helpful. You may also like my rosacea FAQ post which has TONS more info – you can find it HERE. If you have questions or fancy a natter about any of this please do get in touch: easiest is probably instagram or you can email me. If you’re interested in the make up I rate (or don’t rate) you can take a look at my YouTube channel, where I test out foundations to see how well they cope with my redness.
Looking for some next steps?
- Follow me on INSTAGRAM for lots of rosacea updates.
- Get more information on rosacea and my journey so far in my ROSACEA FAQ POST.
- Join my private rosacea FACEBOOK GROUP.
- And – exciting news! – I’ve just launched some digital downloads to help you get to grips with your rosacea: grab the Rosacea Trigger Checklist and the Rosacea Flare Up Diary.