We’ve previously looked at rosacea from the eyes of science, what it is that characterises rosacea, what’s suspected to cause it and whether dandruff shampoo really is a £4.99 cure. For a condition that effects over 40 million people, I thought we’d make this a bit more personal which is why I’m so happy to introduce Lex to you. Lex is a full time beauty blogger, who’s kicking rosacea’s butt!
I have an Olympic sized amount of admiration for this gal as she is so completely honest and open about her rosacea. She’s also not afraid to show you pictures of her flare-ups… I mean, in our world of Instagram perfection, how refreshingly brave is this! Olympic sized I tell ya *winks*…
Enough of my gushing, there’s no better person than Lex to fully introduce herself to you.
Lex, Welcome!.. and thank you for being such a brave super-women, coming to share your experiences today… Tell us, when was it, you first developed rosacea? What was it like? Did it come on gradually or did you wake up one morning feeling like you’d reduced a 9 month birthing period into 1 day?
Hello! Thank you for interviewing me… It’s hard to pinpoint when I started to develop full-blown rosacea as I had always been very rosy cheeked: I have the stereotypical blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin complexion.
I’d never heard of rosacea and didn’t notice the worsening symptoms until they were so bad I couldn’t ignore them.
I had just started university and my skin reacted terribly to the stress, bad foods, late nights and alcohol. I’d never had bad skin in my teens so to suddenly have angry, purple cheeks covered in pustules was something I was not equipped to deal with.
I was 21 when I was finally diagnosed and the doctor told me it was very unusual to be diagnosed with rosacea so young (it’s more common in women over 30). The physical aspects of rosacea were awful to deal with: people stared or made jokes and mean comments. My confidence suffered terribly as a result, something I still think I’m not fully over.
Well, I can honestly say you come across as oh so confident on your YouTube channel (which is by the way FAB), so even if you don’t feel it, you definitely look it! There’s truth in the fake it until you make it strategy ‘eh…
You mentioned your symptoms of rosacea gradually built up over time, what exactly where the first changes you saw in your skin? Do you think you’d have recognised them if you’d heard about rosacea at the time?
Thank you so much, that’s really kind. I try to treat my YouTube channel as though I’m talking to a friend. I don’t ever want it to be stiff or stand-offish as that’s just not me!
The first symptoms that stood out to me were the burning cheeks after drinking alcohol or when I got warm. It went beyond blushing and lasted a lot longer. It felt like prickly heat or sunburn and was a purpley-red colour.
I think if I knew more about rosacea at the time it would have been obvious what it was, as it was a textbook example of the condition.
The wonders of make up! My rosacea is so unhappy at the moment – a combination of moving stress and the changing weather means my skin feels hot, rough and is so red. Thank goodness for make up! BTW if you’re a man (or woman who doesn’t like a lot of make up) I have a blog post with subtle #rosacea cover ups on my blog – link in bio!)
I wish rosacea was as well known as some of the other skin conditions, and that’s what I hope to achieve on my blog. It’s a huge cliche but if I can help one person then that will make it worth it.
Lex, you are so sweet and I’m 100% sure you’ve already helped more than one person with your openness!
Alcohol sounds like the first rosacea trigger you experienced, have you identified others since? Do you have certain foods that you know provoke flare-ups, or times of season that your skin finds harder to adapt to?
Thank you, I really hope so!
Different types of alcohol affect me in various degrees – one sip of champagne and my face is on fire, white wine in general is particularly bad, red wine and gin (luckily) are still not too bad. I don’t know what I’d do if gin turned on me!
I have many triggers and discover new ones all the time.
The hardest ones for me to avoid are dairy, hot showers, hair straighteners and flights.
Winter is probably the trickiest month as rosacea hates any extremes of temperature: being outside means the cold with typically bring on a flare up, but coming inside means dealing with central heating which my face also hates. It’s very frustrating!
But I’d say my main trigger is definitely stress. If I’m worried about something (a job interview, a big event, a house move etc.) my face will be bright red, swollen and sore for days before and after. Obviously stress is hard to avoid so it’s this that I really struggle with. Rosacea can often make you feel out of control and helpless, which doesn’t help with the stress levels!
Gosh, that’s a lot of triggers, being a fellow dairy intolerant-ee I can sympathise with the avoidance faff, but what do you do about the triggers which are less avoidable? Do you have an emergency coping strategy that’s a go-to?
Every person’s rosacea is triggered by different things which makes it hard to identify but thankfully I have most of mine sorted… for now!
When it comes to avoiding the awkward triggers (stress and weather being the most annoying) I have some tried and tested methods that help me to get through them.
A few examples: I’ve learnt how to wrap a scarf just-so around my face to keep out cold wind, but not so tight that my warm breath heats my face from inside the scarf cocoon!
I tend to carry a facial water spray (the Avène one is my favourite) for times when I can feel a flare up coming on (particularly when on the tube, planes or on holiday).
Practising mindfulness may be a little woo-woo for some but it can really help, particularly when it comes to stress. Being aware of your breathing, meditation and just taking time to calm down works absolutely wonders.
Finally I also did a blog post about how to help flare ups when you’re out of the house, there are lot of more practical tips there that can limit the length and intensity of a rosacea flare up.
They are fab, thank you so much for sharing.
I’m very intrigued by the scarf trick, it sounds super skilful!
You mentioned that cooling facial sprays are great for controlling a rosacea flair. How else do you best care for your skin on a daily basis? Do you have specific ingredients or products that love your skin? Are there any no-go ingredients or types of product that are a firm ban from your routine?
Triggers differ from person to person but the ingredients I try to avoid are alcohol, fragrance, witch hazel, tea tree, menthol, peppermint.
— Lex (@TalontedLex) 18 October 2016
You also learn to be wary from the way things are described: the words ‘wake up’, ‘zingy’, or ‘invigorating’ usually fill me with dread!
I love products that put a focus on simplicity and minimal irritation. I tend to love products that have soothing ingredients like cucumber, aloe vera, oatmeal and chamomile.
Formula is tricky too, as anything too heavy can irritate my skin – it took me a long time to realise that thin layers of good products is much better than one thick layer of a super-heavy moisturiser!
— Lex (@TalontedLex) 3 August 2016
But I love finding smaller, indie brands that are making waves without the huge beauty behemoth funding behind them (*cough* Honesty *cough* ) – these brands tend to look for a niche market, rather than what would be a huge seller to the mainstream, so they have more freedom to do some exciting things.
You are so kind, thank you for the *cough* mention *winks*.
You absolutely sound like the lion tamer to your rosacea. Was it trial and error that got you here or did you find awesome resources that helped along the way?
There was a lot of trial and error. A lot of wasted money, products that my skin hated, products that did absolutely nothing which is frustrating and I think what puts a lot of people off. They are scared to try new things in case they don’t work, or make their skin worse.
When I was first diagnosed (in 2005) there weren’t many resources for sufferers. I never saw it mentioned in magazines, on TV, or on skincare product descriptions and so much of my knowledge came from forums.
It helped me so much to find other people who knew what I was going through and didn’t think I was vain or superficial, had recommendations and virtual shoulders to cry on. That support and advice is what I wanted my blog to offer others. I don’t want people to have to struggle through 10 years of trial and error to find an amazing foundation that will give them confidence, or a cleanser recommendation that won’t make their skin feel like it’s been microwaved!
Yeek – microwaved skin, word-to-the-wise read Lex’s blog and steer clear *winks*.
Lex, my last question to you I hope will be uber helpful to recently diagnosed rosacea sufferers… if you could borrow a Back to the Future time travelling automobile to visit yourself as you’d just identified your rosacea, which 3 pieces of advice would you give yourself and why?
Such a good question and one I often think about!
First of all I would tell myself the biggest cliche, but one that is also true: it gets better.
When I was diagnosed, and in the years that came after when I was still learning how to cope with it, I felt like a monster.
I had days when I didn’t leave my room because I felt so low and so ugly. I thought my skin would always be like that, that I would never find products I could use, that I could never talk to someone without them thinking ‘what is going on with her face?”
It takes time to get accustomed to any condition and rosacea is no different. You need to be kind to yourself while you are learning and coming to terms with it.
My second bit of advice is linked to the first: learn your triggers.
This can take a long time and can be a lot of work as, to do it properly, you need to eliminate things in order to reintroduce them. But once you’ve found your triggers, rosacea becomes a lot more manageable. It puts you back in control.
Right now, I know that if I have a cheese sandwich for lunch, my skin will have a grumble later this afternoon. But if I really want cheese then that’s the conscious choice I’m making – if I was going out later or wanted to film a video then I wouldn’t do it.
I’ve also learned that I need to wash my hair at least 3 hours before I leave the house to let my skin cool down. You learn the tricks and workarounds for your skin and that makes everything so much more manageable.
My final tip is a very practical one – patch test new products.
Anything new, even if you’ve tried similar products or things from that brand before, test it on your jaw or your neck (your hand won’t cut it I’m afraid!) to see how your skin reacts.
I always patch test my products on a Friday night (I live a wild life, what can I say?) and then if I have no reaction, I’ll try the product properly on the Saturday. That way, if I have a flare up, I can hide all weekend and recover without having to explain to people why I’m so red and spotty. I hope those were helpful, thanks so much for interviewing me Cheryl, it’s been really fun!
Oh my gosh, thank you to you Lex! There is some fab advise here and I am 100% sure it will be uber useful to fellow rosacea sufferers and those that are beginning to experience symptoms but not yet sure whether they have the condition.
There you have it my friends, what it’s like to live with rosacea in the words of an experienced rosacea tamer.
Tell us your stories below. Do you think you may be developing rosacea? Do you have this rose-like dermatological condition already? Tell us what got you to this point in the comments below…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.