It’s my birthday this month and I’ve recently taken the time to go over some of the things I’ve done in the last year. Call it a dry run for New Year. This year, I’ve applied myself to understanding, overcoming and covering my rosacea symptoms as never before. That’s saying a lot considering that I received a diagnosis more than 15 years ago and have been learning about it ever since.
As I’ve thought about the various skin care and cosmetic products I’ve tried this year, the dozens upon dozens of videos I’ve made on my rosacea vlog on YouTube, and the posts I’ve made on my blog, it has made me realize that I’ve come a long way in a short time. Now that I know what I have learned in the last few months, it would be great to be able to travel back in time and share it all with my younger self.
Since time machines haven’t been invented, it dawned on me that there are an awful lot of people out there who have just received their own diagnoses and while I may not be able to talk to my younger self about what I know about rosacea, sharing it here might help someone else who is struggling the way I first did.
I’m not a doctor, a dermatologist or a skin care expert, but I know what I wish I’d known when I was first diagnosed with rosacea.
1 – Rosacea is not acne
I loathe the term “acne rosacea.” It makes my blood boil (and my skin flush, of course). It is such a misleading term. The fact that some doctors use it frustrates me even more. Rosacea is not acne. These are two separate conditions. They can look similar, but they’re caused by very different things.
My first diagnosis for the redness and bumps I was getting on my skin was for acne. I was given a powerful prescription acne cream. Despite the fact that I had exceptionally dry skin that became somewhat scaly in the winter, I believed my doctor’s diagnosis. Why wouldn’t I? He was a great doctor. I applied the cream every morning and every night. It bleached my pillowcase, towels and some shirts, and my skin became increasingly red, but I dutifully followed the directions on the jar. Finally, the skin on my face started peeling off in thin, paper-like sheets. I gave up.
Frustrated and thinking I had some weird form of acne that just wouldn’t go away, I didn’t bring it up with the doctor again for another year or two.
2 – Even the right prescriptions don’t always work
During that time, I poked around online to see if I could find out if anyone else had “acne” like mine. The more I researched, the more it looked like I had something called “rosacea.” I’d never heard of it before. I read into it extensively and during my next visit at the doctor’s office, I asked if that might be what I had. After a few minor skin checks and a short conversation, I received my first rosacea diagnosis and a prescription for another cream – this one for the right condition.
Again, I applied the cream day and night. After around seven weeks, I started to notice a light fading in my symptoms. After around nine weeks, the symptoms came back and the only difference I saw was in the extreme sensitivity my skin had developed to sunlight. I could burn in five minutes. After five months, the symptoms were no better and I gave up on that as well.
Little did I know that a huge number of rosacea sufferers aren’t helped by prescriptions. Some people find that the first prescription they try is effective. Others have to try several before they find the right one. I am in the group that doesn’t seem to have any prescription available that will help.
3 – There is no cure for rosacea
Frustrated with the loss of time and money on the prescription that didn’t work, I went online again. I started to look for a rosacea cure. It had to be out there. The more I searched, the more I found products, treatments and even home remedies that claimed to be the ultimate cure. People who had symptoms even worse than mine (according to their pictures) reported that they’d “cured” their rosacea with this one simple herbal concoction, “miracle solution” or “scientifically proven serum.”
Over time, I spent a fortune in money and effort trying to use these cures. They didn’t work. Two of them made things worse than they were, to begin with.
I wish I could have come to terms with the fact that there is no cure for rosacea. It’s possible to get your symptoms under control and prevent a flare-up, but a cure does not exist (yet). Most people claiming they have the cure are selling something. Those who aren’t don’t understand their condition. They may have their symptoms under control, but they haven’t yet realised that the symptoms could return if the right trigger sets them off.
4 – Giving up will only make things worse
After trying so many “cures,” that didn’t work, I gave up for a while. I ignored the redness and accepted the fact that I would feel ugly for the rest of my life. I stopped applying makeup. It only made my skin burn more than it already was on its own. I didn’t even bother moisturising every day. In the summer, I wouldn’t use it at all.
This made my symptoms worse. I blame this span of time for some of the permanent redness I now have in my face. While I can get my symptoms under control and fade the redness to a lighter pink, some of the extra colour will never go away. I think it’s because I let the condition worsen by giving up on both treating the condition and caring for my delicate, reactive skin. Had I known my sulk would lead to permanent consequences, I may not have stopped quite so easily.
5- The sun is wonderful, but not for rosacea
I have always loved sunlight. It feels wonderful. I didn’t apply sunscreen for the first time until I was eighteen years old. Until I was nineteen, my backyard had a swimming pool in it and my sister and I spent most of our summers either swimming or sunning. I worked very hard to find that balance between a nice tan and a horrible burn. Having very pale skin, both my sister and I have suffered terrible, blistering sunburns.
It wasn’t until I spent four days in agony after a massive sunburn that I finally took sunscreen seriously. Since then, I’ve been very particular about sun protection. I still love going out into the sunlight, but I protect my skin – particularly my face – with good quality natural physical barrier sunscreen.
Of all the skin care products I use on my face, sunscreen has been the most difficult to find because many common ingredients in those products are rosacea triggers for me. I have found that applying a very good quality natural product before heading outside and then washing it off the moment I come inside is the key for my skin. I also wear large-brimmed hats and have been known to carry parasols.
Even the lightest kiss of sunlight now causes my rosacea-prone skin to redden. I wish I could tell my younger self to start protecting herself from sunlight earlier. I now have very visible photo-damage and most products meant to overcome, that actually cause problems with rosacea, so my options are very limited.
6 – There is no single product that will eliminate all rosacea symptoms
Until about two years ago, my hunt has always been for a cream, lotion, pill, serum or another form of treatment that would take my rosacea symptoms away. I’ve come to realise that one of the reasons I’d been so unsuccessful until recently is that I’ve led myself to believe that one thing could make it all go away.
Unfortunately, that’s one thing does not exist. Rosacea is a very complex condition that involves a spectrum of triggers and symptoms. Therefore, if I continue to allow triggers such as spicy food, sunlight, alcohol, heat, humidity and others into my life, any treatment – even an effective one – simply doesn’t have a shot. I wish I’d known this years ago. I could have paid more attention to triggers and would have been less focused on thinking one product would be the miracle I’ve been waiting for.
7 – I need to live a “Rosy Life” to keep my rosacea symptoms away
I’ve called it “living the Rosy Life.” It’s my way of putting a positive spin on the many changes I’ve made to my lifestyle in the name of rosacea prevention and healing. I have tracked, identified and reduced my triggers. I’ve changed what I eat to include more anti-inflammatory foods and fewer trigger foods. I’ve started using soap nuts instead of traditional laundry detergent (one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!). I’ve been using LED light therapy at home on a (nearly) daily basis. I’ve started using very high-quality skin care designed for my type of skin.
I’ve also kept an open mind, I read up on the latest studies and I’m willing to try new things in a patient, “scientific” way. It all seemed like a nuisance at first but now I feel like the changes I’m making are actually having a very positive influence on my life and health as a whole. I’m eating healthfully. I’m exercising regularly. I haven’t felt as healthy and fit in a long time. Living the Rosy Life helps me to prevent my rosacea symptoms from occurring and heal the ones that appear on occasion. At the same time, it has taught me to take better care of myself as a whole.
If only I’d known about all these changes fifteen years ago…