Thursday, 21 June 2012

BEAUTY: Rosacea - what causes it and how to manage it

I started suffering from Rosacea when I had just finished writing my 30,000 word MRes thesis.  To say I was stressed was an understatement! I won't go into all the details that triggered that stress, but I was having panic attacks where I couldn't breathe and thought I was going to die etc etc.  It was not a fun time! Luckily I got through it and passed my masters, woo hoo.  Unfortunately, that year really took its toll on my skin.  I went from having rashes, to having what I thought was crazy eczema on my face.  

Over the next 6 months, I went from doctor to doctor, who prescribed me anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, topical steroids etc etc.  Off my own back I went massively OCD with my skincare routine, where I wouldn't just cleanse, tone and moisturise but would use retinol, AHAs, BHAs, 20% ascorbic acid (vitamin C) serums, and god knows what else in a bid to save my skin.  Even though my life settled down, my skin wouldn't.  It got worse and worse, and during the first 6 months at my new job my face looked like this about half the time:

Looking back at the pics I have no idea how I managed to deal with it mentally! People at my new job were really supportive, and I just kinda accepted it!  Eventually I got referred to a dermatologist (can you believe nobody would refer me for months?!) who, after trying out yet another steroid cream to no success, diagnosed me with atypical localised rosacea (try saying that when you're drunk!!) and sent me away with some Rozex cream (0.75% metronidazole).  And that's where my horror story ended.  My skin cleared up, and whenever it tried to flare up, I just applied some Rozex and away it went again.  I am now at the stage where I haven't had an outbreak for almost a year.  

Why am I telling you all this (and showing disgusting pics of my face)?! Because I know how horrible it is to have a skin condition where you don't know what's going on.  I was blessed with perfect skin my whole life, and for this to suddenly occur at 23 years of age was a massive shock!

What is rosacea?

A chronic condition characterized by facial redness, it can come in many forms.  Wikipedia calls it a "harmless cosmetic condition" - clearly written by somebody who's never had self esteem issues!!  Unless it affects the eyes, it is not seen as serious.  It normally presents itself as a constant flushing/broken capillaries round the cheeks and nose.  "Lucky" me had atypical rosacea, whatever that means! It is nicknamed the "curse of the Celts" due to it's frequency in Caucasians in comparison to other ethnicities. 

What causes rosacea?

Nobody really knows! There are theories that it can be caused, in some cases, by overbalance of particular skin mites.  Too much sun, stress, anxiety, climate extremities, strenuous exercise..the list of triggering factors is huge!!  People with rosacea should avoid spicy food, extreme changes in temperature (goodbai baths *sob*), coffee, stressful situations - anything that can cause blushing or flushing of the skin.  In my experience, it was all down to stress - there was nothing else, no changes in my skin care routine, nada, that initially caused it.  However, it has been shown that microdermabrasion, peels and retinols can cause rosacea! So my constant obsessive regime couldn't have been too good for it at all.  

What's the best thing to do if you have/suspect you have rosacea

Number 1 - See a dermatologist.  Because I have such a rare form of rosacea, no GP had a clue what to diagnose me with.  Until I saw a dermatologist I did not receive the correct treatment, and everything I was prescribed made it worse.  There are plenty of topical treatments for rosacea out there, but you need an expert to treat it.  
Other things - simplify your skincare routine.  I no longer even use facial scrubs because I know they will irritate my now extremely sensitive skin.  I only use products that are hypoallergenic, fragrance and colour free, even paraben and silicone free if I can find them! Products I love - anything by Liz Earle, Garnier Simply Essentials Cleansing Milk, Nivea Pure & Natural range.  I'm very careful about makeup too - the only foundation I have found that doesn't aggravate my skin is Liz Earle Skin Tint, which actually seems to clear my rosacea up??!! 
Disclaimer: may not have the same effect on your skin! It's always best to patch test first.
I also try and avoid stressful situations and caffeine, but to be fair I do that anyway! 

I hope this information is of use to someone out there :) like I said, I never *touch wood* have rosacea outbreaks anymore thanks to the changes I have made, and I have my metronidazole to hand if I get any further problems.  I know my rosacea isn't as chronic as some people's - I know a lot of people suffer from it for decades so I do consider myself one of the lucky ones, even if it was pretty severe at the time!

Tali xxx 

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