Rosacea

As a child and preteen, I loved the idea of make-up. I loved painting my nails, I had a makeover party at my local beauticians for my 13th birthday, and I worked there at 16.

Puberty led to spots, and the beauticians became a place that understood – they could control my angry skin, and taught me how to apply foundation and concealer properly. When I went away to university, however, I slipped into bad beauty habits – buying cheap and harsh cleansers, and regularly going to bed with make up on. By the time I was about to graduate, my skin couldn’t take it anymore. My nose swelled and turned purple, my face was covered in large red mounds – I had a full-on breakout of Rosacea.

The GP diagnosed me and said there was no cure, it’s a condition that just has to be managed. They gave me some topical cream and put me on antibiotics to reduce the swelling.

If you’re reading this, you might have Rosacea and be frantically looking up other people’s experiences. I did a lot of that – comparing Google images with my own face. I trawled threads about ‘trigger foods’ to avoid, consuming instead the upset and frustration of a whole online community (a lot of them middle aged women) who felt ashamed and judged as they walked around with scarlet faces.

Full of panic about being stuck like this forever, I obeyed every suggestion religiously. The packaging of my antibiotic recommended avoiding dairy and alcohol, so I stopped having those completely. It also suggested taking the tablets three hours apart from food which, when you’re on two doses a day, makes it hard to eat at all! I lost a lot of weight – not helped by the fact I was at drama school by then so my classes were very active. As my face calmed down, my body suffered.

My mind also had a bit of a battering – I was very worried about what would happen when I came off the pills. They weren’t chemically addictive but, at 22, I found them emotionally addictive for self-confidence. Eventually, at the GP’s insistence (the best part of a year later), I stopped taking them. Nothing awful happened.

Three years later, my skin flushes easily (but calms quickly!) and there’s barely a spot. This is Rosacea at it’s most manageable level. No more antibiotics have been needed and I eat anything I want. So, what’s the miracle improvement?

Of course, there isn’t one – my skin could break out again, who knows. But I think the main difference is that I’ve now working out a skincare routine that is better suited to what my skin needs. If you do have Roseacea, this is probably the part you’re interested in. Like anything, what works for me won’t work for everyone. But there are some general tips I can share:

1. Cut out Unnecessary Products

We’re sold the idea that skin care involves layering loads of products – cleansers; exfoliates; face masks; moisturisers (a morning one, a night one, a summer one, a winter one); eye creams; topical lotions for spots, or shine, or dryness, or colour correction; primers; bases; concealers; foundations; I could go on… Obviously you may not use them all at once, but in general our skincare routine (even if you’re not wearing loads of make up) can easily involve a pile of products.

When I went to the doctor, the first thing she recommended was cutting all products out and only using Epaderm cream – which she attractively described as ‘like lard’. It comes as a dispensable cream or a tub of (lard-ish) ointment. I was prescribed the ointment and, having used the cream as well in the years since, it’s still what I’d recommend. You scoop out a small blob and add a drop of water, rubbing your hands together to create a moisturiser (apply to your face, but it can also help dry skin on your heels, hands, etc). If you add a bit more water, it can be used as a cleanser.  You can even add a bit to your bath for a moisturising soak. It’s basically a really gentle emollient; free from fragrance and colouring. You can buy it from most pharmacies and a tub lasts for ages, making it very cheap!

I’m not on the manufacturer’s payroll or anything – this is purely a recommendation that worked for me, and I’m now passing on! When my flare up was really bad, just using this did really help calm things down. I still use it now, as a nightly moisturiser.

Just make sure your hands are always very clean when you’re reaching into the tub of ointment. Which leads me to another bit of advice…

2. Be 10% Cleaner

I don’t mean in terms of showering, or washing behind your ears. I mean wash your face before bed and when you get up in the morning. If you’ve put foundation on your face, wash it twice (with something very gentle – more on that in a minute!). Make sure that if you’re using make up brushes or a powder puff, you wash them regularly. Very importantly, disinfect your phone and laptop regularly (I’m very guilty of not doing this!).

One of the things I think really helped calm my Roseacea was that I stopped drying my face on the same towel I’d dry my body from a shower. Towels can be quite harsh and unless you’re constantly washing them, they’re never totally fresh… so I switched to cotton rounds. Make sure you buy cotton rather than synthetic as they can be put in your compost bin, and there are plenty of machine washable rounds available (less waste is one of my New Year Resolutions so I’m looking into which reusable option to buy).

3. Bit More Water, Bit Less Sugar, Bit Sceptical About Other Diet Changes

Unless you’re on medication that specifies what you should avoid (like the milk thing) then I’d recommend being vary wary of ‘clean eating’ your way out of a condition like this. In my experience, it just makes you depressed (and hungry). If you know your cheeks turn fuchsia after eating a Vindaloo, maybe go for the Korma…Or just enjoy it anyway! Unless you evidently have an allergy, a few ‘trigger’ foods now and then aren’t going to make a long-term difference to your skin. There are so many factors that affect how your skin appears (weather, stress, exercise, etc) that for most of us, it’s very hard to narrow it into a simple cause and effect. If you’re concerned about any potential links, then go to the doctors and ask for their recommendations. But as for me, I eat a balanced diet and still allow myself my favourite treats.

What I have done in the last few years is drink more water – undoubtedly helping my skin and the rest of me! There are lots of little ways to boost your intake, like replacing a every other cup of tea or fizzy drink you’d consume on autopilot during the working week with a glass of water instead. I usually have a pint glass of water near to sip on at home, and always carry a bottle with me when I’m out.

3. Find Your Small Tribe of Kind Products

When the Rosacea problem first flared, I did a lot of research to find what I could use on my face beyond Epaderm without rocking the boat. I ended up taking a punt on La Roche Posay, starting with a gentle cleanser and their tinted sun cream.

I’ve since added other La Roche Posay products into my repertoire, picked from their Toleraine range (for sensitive skin), their Rosaliac range (for Rosacea skin), Anthelios (for sun protection) and Effaclar (for blemishes). If your needs fall into any of those categories, I really can’t recommend their products enough. I’ve found them to be so gentle and effective! They’re neither cheap nor ridiculously expensive (the items I use are around £10-£20 each), they last well and are widely available.

I’ve briefly described the ones I use below – starting with:

Toleraine Dermo Cleanser

I started using this in the evenings when my Rosacea was really bad, to wash off tinted sun cream  – the GP strongly recommended increasing my SPF protection to help manage the condition, and tinted was as close as I could get to wearing make-up at the time!

It’s really gentle but still gets my skin properly clean, so I now use it as my main face wash.

Anthelios Ultra Comfort Cream SPF 50+ (non-tinted and tinted)

As mentioned, I replaced my foundation with this tinted sun cream when my skin was recovering from the really bad Rosacea bout. I still use this cream on my nose every day, in all weathers, as extra SPF protection (my nose was the worst affected by Rosacea). I carry the non-tinted sun cream in my handbag to boost my face’s protection when needed.

It took me a while to add any of their other products into my routine. I was very cautious! But I can now also recommend these:

Rosaliac UV Anti-Redness Moisturiser SPF 15 (in two thicknesses depending on your need – Leggere or Riche)

This is a moisturiser designed for Rosacea – it has a green tint to it to counteract redness and some SPF protection (which can be topped up by mixing in the non-tinted sun cream above).

I now use this as my morning moisturiser, flipping between the Leggere and Riche versions (light vs thick, to you and me) depending on the weather and the dryness of my skin. I also like the smell… but that might just be me.

Effaclar Duo [+]

This is an ‘anti-blemish moisturiser’ – I apply it topically to any spots or blackheads. It’s very effective as a treatment and pore clearer, without being harsh or drying (which is rare to find, in my opinion!). I’ve seen this recommended in loads of magazines in the years since I first tried it, so the secret is obviously spreading!

Rosaliac CC Cream SPF 20

Personally, I really like this product – it is specifically designed for Rosacea skin, and gives an even coverage without feeling like foundation. It blends in nicely to give me an even tone that lasts through the day.

Like most CC creams, though, it’s not designed for serious cover up. When squeezed out, the cream is quite orange – apply it thickly and you’ll look like you’ve just waltzed off Strictly. It works to neutralise my fair/pink skin (the common shade for Rosacea) but if you’re darker or paler be wary – this product only comes in one shade!

Their other ranges have a bit more choice for skin tones – the BB blur for blemish prone skin (in their Effaclar range) comes in two shades (Fair or Medium) and the corrective foundation with SPF 25 for sensitive/reactive skin (in the Toleraine range) has five possible shades. But there’s evidently room for improvement.

4. Protect Your Skin

I am not an ambassador for La Roche Posay – these are just products that I know work for me and, since they have, my experimentation with other brands has been fairly non-existent. Obviously there are alternatives – Avene and Eucerin both have ranges for redness-prone skin. If you’ve used any of these, I’d love to hear about it.

My final bit of advice is to change your skincare routine cautiously – research the ranges you think might suit, and start with their most sensitive product to clean your skin and add moisture back in (with some SPF during the day). Be wary of adding too many new things. Protect your skin from enthusiastic sales people – keep the number of bottles on your shelf low.

It’s also important to protect it from your anger – your skin doesn’t have to be perfect, nobody’s is! So take a breath – cut out the harsh products and thoughts you don’t need – and see what happens from there.