Writer Jo Hoare dares to bare the truth about living with rosacea
How good a liar are you? Not to blow my own trumpet, but I’m fantastic. Or at least I was until I developed rosacea in my mid-30s. Among other symptoms, the condition causes redness, flushing and blotchiness, so my truth bending suffered a serious setback. No matter how convincing the words coming out of my mouth, my reddening face told a different story.
An estimated one in 10 people in the UK suffer from rosacea, but many doctors and dermatologists believe the number is far higher, as the inflammatory lesions that can come with rosacea are often confused with other skin conditions, such as acne, but they actually require completely different treatment.
“Both acne and rosacea belong to the same family of skin problems, but are by no means the same,” explains Dr Stefanie Williams, dermatologist and medical director of London skin clinic Eudelo. “One difference is that rosacea does not come with blackheads and whiteheads.”
However, symptoms vary from person to person. When I experience any kind of heightened emotion – stress, sadness, anger or discomfort – it shows across my face in a series of bright red patches. I feel the tingling and flushing start under my jawline and then, depending on the severity of the flare-up, it spreads across my chest up to my forehead. It even takes hold of my scalp, which results in seriously limp roots. So far, so annoying, but the effects
are much wider reaching.
Rosacea is a relapsing condition, and as there is no cure it requires constant management. As a result, the psychological effects of living with it can be as tough as the physical ones. “There is no way to switch rosacea off for good, as it’s a condition with a genetic background – so don’t fall for ‘cures’,” Dr Williams continues. “A dermatologist may help control the condition, so it’s not so visible. However, flare-ups are always possible if treatment is stopped or skin is exposed to triggers.” Here’s what I’ve learned so far about managing the flush…
THE BARE TRUTH
You should always get suspected rosacea medically confirmed, as early diagnosis and treatment can stop the condition becoming worse. After getting any relevant prescription creams or tablets from your GP or dermatologist, tailoring your skincare is the next most important step in managing rosacea. Perfecting my regime has improved my redness immeasurably. When I was diagnosed in 2016, in addition to prescription anti-inflammatory creams, my dermatologist prescribed a total skincare and make-up “diet” – stripping back what went on my face, from cleansers and moisturisers right down to foundations and bronzers.
For a month, I went cold turkey, using a very simple cleanser and moisturiser. Cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting agrees that keeping it simple is best when it comes to reducing redness. “Avoid product hopping, as it can aggravate the skin’s natural barrier.” Instead use an uncomplicated non-foaming cleanser, such as Dr Sam’s Flawless Cleanser, £16, and an unfragranced moisturiser like Avène Skin Recovery Cream £16.50.
I also ditched my usual powder and blusher and instead just used breathable, hypoallergenic Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation, £45.
I was sceptical at first, but after just 10 days I noticed my skin was less red and irritated and not as tight and uncomfortable. I also steered well clear of anything that I knew could aggravate my rosacea, such as spicy food and red wine.
“When the skin is red and inflamed, it is very vulnerable to irritation from harsh products,” explains dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall. “I would suggest avoiding heavily perfumed products, alcohol-based gels and lotion and mechanical or chemical exfoliants, such as face scrubs and AHA exfoliants.”
As my rosacea came with bumps and pustules, prescription creams were a necessity for me, but some cases can be fully managed with just skincare and lifestyle changes.
- Avène Skin Recovery Cream, £16.50 — buy now
- Dr Sam’s Flawless Cleanser, £16 — buy now
- Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation, £45 — buy now
THE MAGIC OF MAKE-UP
On days when I know I’m likely to get a flare-up – an important work presentation or a first date, for example – I turn to make-up. With practice, I now feel confident that I can cover up the worst of my rosacea. When I was diagnosed, I consulted make-up artist Sonia Deveney, who explained I needed to let my concealer do the hard work, not use a full-coverage foundation.
“A light base with ingredients that have added anti-redness benefits, such as Erborian CC Red Correct, £38, followed by a heavyweight concealer like Laura Mercier Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Concealer, £25, in targeted areas is better than laying on a heavy foundation,” she says. “Concentrate on covering problem areas, like the cheeks and chin.”
As well as following Sonia’s advice, I’ve also found a few things that work for me. I use a hydrating primer – I like Bare Minerals Good Hydrations Silky Face Primer, £25 – to keep everything in place. Before any base, I also blend Estée Lauder Double Wear Custom Coverage Correcting Duo in Green, £24, over my prone-to-redness areas.
- Erborian CC Red Correct, £38 — buy now
- Laura Mercier Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Concealer, £25 — buy now
- Bare Minerals Good Hydrations Silky Face Primer, £25 — buy now
- Estée Lauder Double Wear Custom Coverage Correcting Duo in Green, £24 — buy now
Understanding and managing triggers is the first thing Dr Bunting advises her rosacea patients to do. “Be aware of UV exposure, stress, hot drinks, alcohol and spicy food,” she explains. For me, that means no coffee before or during a big meeting. “Hot drinks can cause facial flushing and with this, potentially a rosacea flare-up,” explains Dr Williams. The perfect excuse for an iced latte, then…
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