For the month of April – to celebrate Rosacea Awareness Month – I will be dedicating all of my How Do I Look? interviews to rosacea. So far I’ve covered acne, psoriasis, vitiligo, eczema, trichotillomania, hair loss, port wine stains, and scars – I’ve put links at the bottom of this post if you’re interested in the past interviews.
Cæcilie Johansen is a medical doctor and PhD student in dermatology, educating on skin health, skin disorders and skincare that helps to support and maintain healthy skin. She is so knowledgeable but also accessible which makes her a great person to follow for rosacea advice. I hope you enjoy this interview.
What is your skin story? (Tell me a little bit about your skin, diagnosis, when you started talking publicly about it…)
I started talking publicly about my rosacea in my YouTube video “What’s rosacea – and treatments” back in 2015 where I launched my social media universe ‘Makeup And Medicine’.
At that point I’d been aware of my rosacea for four years. I got the diagnosis during my first pregnancy: one afternoon I felt my skin burning, the following morning I woke up with pink, inflamed papules across both cheeks and nose. I was only in medical school at that time, so I went to a dermatologist that took one short look at me and then asked me whether anyone in my family had rosacea, I replied doubtfully that my mother always had had these really red cheeks. He nodded and concluded that both my mother and I had rosacea.
Looking back at photos from my late teens and early twenties it’s very evident that I’ve had rosacea for many years prior to time of diagnosis.
Since then, I’ve been aware of my triggers, protected my skin from the sun and supported my skin by using the right skincare.
What are the common misconceptions, comments, or questions about rosacea? What do you wish people knew about rosacea?
The biggest misconception I meet again and again is that rosacea is considered a uniform entity – a one size fits all condition – that incorrectly puts rosacea in a box as if it was a skin type. However, consensus within international dermatologists, is that rosacea should be considered an umbrella term for the broad variety of rosacea symptoms.
The misconception often leads to many well-meaning advice or recommendation of what people with rosacea should or should not do. When the truth is, that rosacea is highly individual and what work for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.
How does your skin make you feel on a day to day basis?
I’m blessed with a mild case of erythematotelangiectatic rosacea, with chronic redness on both cheeks, telangiectasias especially around my nose, lower cheeks and under my chin and occasional flushing.
Since I’ve had my IPL treatment, the chronic redness has been reduced and flushings have gone from several times a day to a few times a month.
How do you feel about make up as a rosacea sufferer?
I think makeup is a great tool that one can choose to use as needed. I love makeup in the first place, so regardless of my rosacea I’d probably be geeking out about foundations anyways. Personally, I find great ease and comfort in using a full-coverage foundation before an important meeting or event, where I don’t want to show visible flushing in the middle of everything.
How do you deal with bad days?
I only get self-conscious about my skin when I feel a flushing coming in professional settings, e.g. in the middle of a meeting, when get excited or nervous when I give a presentation. That can be very distracting, but I try to tell myself, that people hardly notice it and if they do, it’s still what I contribute with that matters.
I have asked other interviewees about their experiences with the medical community, but you are in a unique position in that you are part of the medical community! Can you tell me a little bit about that and how you think having a skin condition influenced or impacted this? How do you think the medical community as a whole deals with rosacea?
I consider having rosacea – as a medical doctor and future dermatologist – as a strength: I have an inborn understanding for people who suffer from it and a deep sympathy for the psychological consequences that can follow. The latter goes for all dermatologic conditions and how they can affect people’s quality of life. This can hopefully make me a more empathic MD meeting the patient.
I still see that rosacea is not only underdiagnosed but also an ‘under-appreciated’ skin condition by my colleagues in the medical community.
Most people with rosacea are treated by their general practitioner and I definitely see room for improvement. We can get much better at setting the diagnose earlier on and dare to have the conversation about supporting skincare, sun protection and trigger avoidance.
Have any positives come out of your rosacea?
Absolutely. If it hadn’t been for my rosacea, I wouldn’t have made my YouTube video about it, that really caught the Danish beauty press attention. So, from a very early stage in my life as a medical doctor on social media, I’ve been able to create content for the Danish beauty and lifestyle magazines and worked as a consultant for different companies.
But most importantly, I’ve created my universe, Makeup And Medicine, on Instagram where I share educational content about skin health (plus my love for all that glitters and red lipstick) and connect with so many lovely people not only in the #RosaceaCommunity, but from the entire beauty/skincare community.
I hope that my online presence can inspire people to take good care of themselves and their skin.
What are your top tips for living with rosacea?
Take care of it – it can be managed! Consult a dermatologist, let her/him evaluate your skin discuss treatment options, and go over your skincare products together to see if there’s any room for improvement to remove unfavorable products or to add supportive ones.
And above all; trigger avoidance. Get to know your triggers and then try to avoid them.
UV radiation is a big trigger which makes sun protection a cornerstone in the management of rosacea: wear a wide brimmed hat, stay in the shade and wear broad spectrum sunscreen according to the UV index, typically SPF 30+. You’ve got this!
Read the other posts in the How Do I Look? series here:
- MICHELLE talking about her scars;
- SOFIA talking about her acne;
- NATALIE talking about vitiligo;
- SUSIE on her Telogen Effluvium (hair loss);
- AMY on her port wine stain birthmark;
- GEMMA on psoriasis;
- AMARA on eczema;
- GRACE on her scars;
- JUDY on her sensitive skin;
- SHANKAR on his Vitiligo;
- P. on their Acne Conglobata;
- SOPHIE on her Trichotillomania;
- KALI on her acne.
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