My name is Lex and I’m taking over Pai’s blog today to talk about rosacea. I was first diagnosed with rosacea at 21, about 15 years ago. Before the doctor mentioned that word, I had never heard the word ‘rosacea’ before and had no idea how much that diagnosis would impact my life.
I’m fair-skinned, have always blushed easily, and had very sensitive skin but I just assumed that that was just ‘my normal’. It was only when I left home and went to university that it became obvious that something was wrong: my occasional blushing turned into purple, mottled, burning patches on my face that lasted hours, my cheeks were covered with itchy pustules, and I had no idea what to do. I went to my GP, assuming it was an allergic reaction that a simple cream would sort out. I left that 10-minute appointment with a diagnosis of an incurable skin condition and felt completely lost. I turned to the internet and found US-based forums filled with fellow sufferers offering advice, tips, and – most importantly – support. Seven years ago, I started talking about rosacea on my blog Talonted Lex and have never looked back. I try to offer advice and support to others, remembering exactly how it felt to leave the doctor’s appointment with a diagnosis I didn’t fully understand and not much else.
One of the trickiest things about rosacea is that it is so individual: for each person it may look and feel different, and triggers differ from person to person. But I have a few general tips for managing or minimising the effects of your rosacea:
LISTEN TO YOUR SKIN
I try to look at my rosacea as my body’s way of setting off a distress flare – I am doing something that my skin does not like and it’s desperately trying to tell me. Your skin is not your enemy (although it certainly feels like that at first!), it is your ally. Reframing how I viewed my rosacea was a huge step in not only accepting it but learning from it.
IDENTIFY YOUR TRIGGERS
It took me a long time to work out what my skin did and didn’t like, and I urge you to prioritise identifying your triggers. This not only helps me to physically calm my rosacea, but I find it also helps me cope psychologically as I feel like I am in control and taking steps each day to maintain my skin health. My biggest triggers are stress, extremes of temperature, sun, dairy, illness/pain, and alcohol. Some of these are easier to avoid than others!
BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR TRIGGERS
When I talk about triggers, it can sound overwhelming to some people: they see a huge list of all the things that might aggravate their skin and they are in disbelief, discouraged, or even angry. I have experienced all of those feelings. What I try to show people is that you are in control of your skin and the daily decisions are yours to make with the information you have. I know that my skin doesn’t react well to dairy, but a life without cheese (to me) is unthinkable, so every so often I’ll eat the cheese and accept the consequences. Only you can know what is worth a flare up: cheese, red wine, weekly blow-dries, marathon running… whatever your vice: you are the one who gets to decide.
It takes a long time to work out how to listen to your skin and learn from what it tells you. Changes in diet, skincare, lifestyle all take weeks to bear fruit so don’t be discouraged.
TRY TO MINIMISE STRESS
This is the one I still struggle with, because stress in its very nature is unavoidable and can spring from nowhere. A busy week at work, money issues, a global pandemic…! You can’t control the things that happen to you, but you can control the way you deal with them. When I have a flare up I like to remind myself of three things: ‘You’ve had flare ups before. You survived every single one. Worrying about them only makes them worse.’ Other things to introduce into your routine are meditation, positive affirmations (like the one above), and visualisation. These may sound a bit ‘woo-woo’ to some, but the brain is a powerful tool: if stress can induce a negative mindset, it stands to reason that a positive mindset can help to reverse some of the effects. You can read more in my blog post here.
Over time I taught myself to see through the sales tactics, skincare waffle, and confusing claims in order to find products and ingredients that truly work for my skin. I used to trust any brand who claimed that they were ‘suitable for sensitive skin’, and I thought that ‘organic’, ‘natural’, and ‘clean’ automatically meant ‘good’. Ingredients I tend to avoid are tea tree, witch hazel, menthol, SLS, and added fragrance. I also avoid products that ‘revitalise’, ‘energise’, ‘wake up’, ‘refresh’, or use the word ‘tingle’! On the other hand, my skin tends to love products with aloe, cucumber, rose, and camomile and I gravitate towards products that use words like ‘calming’, ‘soothing’, and ‘hydrating’.
SIMPLE IS BEST
When people come to me asking for skincare advice, I always tell them to take everything back to basics. The bare minimum you need is cleanser, moisturiser, SPF. Once you’ve got those three products sorted, then you can build from there if necessary.
You have rosacea, but it does not define you. You are still the same person you were before you were diagnosed. Please remember that your rosacea is the least interesting thing about you.
You can read more from Lex over on her blog Talonted Lex
Remember if you’ve got any questions at all about your own skin, or aren’t sure what the right products or routine are for you, we offer a free 30-minute skin consultation service. Book yours on paiskincare.com now.