I’ve never had perfect skin. I had the classic hormonal spots as a teenager and they followed me into my adult life leaving behind scarring and hyper pigmentation. I feel I finally have some kind of control over these pesky pimples with diet and skincare, but they still like to make an appearance at certain times of the month, if I’m not getting enough sleep or am neglecting the greens. But I am finding them a lot more manageable than before. I even have long periods of time when I have no active breakouts for the first time since I was a teenager.
Rosacea is a different story however. I started noticing the beginnings of what I now know is rosacea about 6 years ago. I started getting tiny red bumps along my cheekbones, I thought maybe it was just a rash and it would go away, but it wasn’t budging, and in fact the bumps were just increasing. I also noticed my skin becoming a lot more reactive and sensitive to products and I started to regularly get contact dermatitis around my eyes. For ages I was so confused about what might have caused the rosacea and whether it was just an allergic reaction. 6 years on I now have my theory of why it came about.
WHAT IS ROSACEA?
Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that can cause many symptoms including facial flushing, redness, bumps, pustules and papules, thickening of the skin and hyper sensitivity. It is most common on the cheeks, but can appear on the rest of the face even including the eyes. There is not one known cause for this annoying skin condition. There are lots of theories and studies, for example it has been observed that rosacea sufferers have more ‘demodex mites’ present on their skin than someone with normal skin, apparently the mites poop can cause a reaction on the skin! Another theory is that people with rosacea have abnormalities in the blood vessels of the face, causing redness which can come about from over exposure to the sun. Rosacea sufferers tend to have a compromised skin barrier and there is also a link to gut issues and rosacea. Rosacea affects more woman than men and it is said that it mainly affects people with fairer skin, however this may just be as it is more noticeable in fairer skinned people.
Rosacea is a chronic condition that tends to have periods of being calm and then periods of flare ups. Flare ups can last a few hours or a few weeks, however the condition is manageable if you know the triggers and can find a lifestyle and products that don't irritate it.
Some common triggers of rosacea are:
- sun exposure
- hot and spicy foods
- hot showers
- going from hot air to cold air
- air conditioning
- lack of sleep
- harsh or irritating products
- products containing certain active ingredients, perfume or high content of essential oils
- inconsistent skin care routine
- poor diet
- too much rubbing or touching on effected area
All of these things trigger mine, especially stress, lack of sleep, poor diet and an inconsistent skin care routine.
HOW I GAINED CONTROL OVER MY ROSACEA
Like a lot of skin issues, this one arose just after a long period of high stress and anxiety and alongside the beginnings of some gut problems which i believe the stress also brought about. I wasn't sleeping well and my diet was pretty poor, consisting of a lot of super noodles, subways and beans on toast. I didn't make the connection until years later when I saw a nutritionist and she asked me what was happening in my life during time my skin started changing.
I also think that I damaged my skins barrier over the years by being exposed to too much sun without SPF, excess sun bathing and sun bed use as teenager (why oh why). I was also using too many harsh products to try and combat breakouts, not having a proper skin care routine and using things like wipes to cleanse my skin at night. I also worked on Oxford Street London for nearly 4 years, one of the most polluted streets in the UK, and during this time I didn't protect my skin, so this could have had a damaging effect too.
It has taken a long time and a lot of trial and error but I finally feel I have good control over my rosacea, times between flare ups are increasing and my skin is feeling healthier and stronger. I still feel there is work to be done to heal the protective barrier but I'm on the right steps.
So here’s whatever done to reduce my rosacea symptoms and manage the condition.
- Diet. I now have a much healthier relationship with food and make sure I'm getting protein with every meal and eating foods rich in omega oils such as fish, nuts and avocados. I sometimes take omega oil supplements too if I know I'm not getting enough in my diet. I also love leafy green vegetables and try and get plenty of these in my diet. I also eat a lot of organic brown rice and have swapped white pasta for brown rice pasta. I avoid dairy and refined sugar and tend to eat dark chocolate when I have a craving for something sweet! I’m also so much better at keeping hydrated and drinking plenty of water throughout the day. This switch in diet has helped my gut a lot and has also helped reduce breakouts, although i do still get them around ovulation, during my period and during times of stress!
I also take regular probiotics to help my gut function more healthily.
- Skincare. It took me while to realise that my skin doesn't like products with fragrance or products high in essential oils. I was also trying out lots of different products and products using a lot of alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid which was irritating my skin but because the labels of these products said suitable for every day use I thought it was fine. I have now cut out most of these products and refined my routine, my skin is now much happier.
My skin likes a simple routine of cleanse, hyaluronic Acid serum, moisturiser and SPF every day. I also use an enzyme mask once a week to remove dead skin cells and keep my skin looking bright. I feel like the product to have made the biggest improvement in my skin is SPF. I use a physical SPF everyday (even in the winter) which is kinder on sensitive skin than a chemical SPF. It also contains anti-oxidants which protect my skin from pollution.
So the keys to a good rosacea routine is - gentle, consistent, hydrating and protective.
- Treatments. I have tried many treatments for my rosacea including laser and IPL and where these more invasive treatments did help reduce some of the redness I feel like the most effective has been LED light therapy alongside a good skincare routine. Blue light has been great to keep the pustules and papule down due to its antibacterial properties and amber light is great for sensitive skin as it is calming and soothing.
- Lifestyle. Of course no one can have a stress free life but I can completely notice a difference in my skin during periods of stress compared to more calm periods in my life. Getting enough sleep is massive thing for my rosacea too, a few nights with not enough sleep my rosacea gets bumpy, red and sensitive. It’s not always possible but I try to keep a balance in my life, and say no to things when I know I need some down time.
So although I know I can still make improvements on my skin and I do still get flare ups I’m happy with how much I've learnt about it and how well I can now manage my condition. I have accepted that this is likely something I will live with for ever and that level of acceptance has made the whole thing easier.