I've written a little bit about my rosacea diagnosis in the past, and people keep asking me about it, so I thought I would do a post on what products I'm using to try and take care of my sensitive skin. Also - sorry to anyone who didn't get the Doctor Who reference of this title and was terrified by the image above!
Basically, rosacea is a chronic skin condition that mostly affects the face. It's typified by persistent redness and flushing, increasingly visible blood vessels, and in some cases bumps and pimples and/or skin thickening along with the redness. Sometimes these symptoms are accompanied by a stinging or burning sensation.
Although it's quite a common condition, it's not very well understood and there are a lot of potential causes or triggers. Often someone with rosacea has had sensitive skin long before the rosacea symptoms become apparent. Flareups can be triggered by sunlight, alcohol, exercise, stress, extremes of hot or cold, even spicy foods - and more that I don't know about!
I was only diagnosed a year ago, although I suspected I had the condition for about a year before that. I've been prone to persistent facial flushing since my teens, and in my mid-twenties it became more frequent and I started to experience acne with it.
So what can you do?
I am by no means an expert, and I'm still working out what triggers to avoid and how I should treat my skin. Because rosacea is a chronic condition, it's unlikely to ever go away (unless a cure is found). But it can be managed and there are various options available both medically and in terms of lifestyle changes.
So far the only medical treatment I have used is a metronidazole gel, applied topically to the face daily. This antibiotic gel helps to calm the symptoms, but doesn't prevent flare-ups if the rosacea is triggered by external factors like heat or alcohol. It also dries on the skin a bit like glue ( think the PVA you used to play with in primary school), making it far from ideal in the mornings if you want to go out not looking like a glue-face monster. I have to admit to having stopped using it when I moved house, but I need to resume use as I have noticed a difference!
I also take a daily antihistamine which, as well as taking care of my hayfever, helps my skin to react less to any allergens. Beyond that, it's a case of identifying triggers and either avoiding them or planning around them (for example, I'm not going to give up exercise, but I do it in the evenings so I don't have to go to work red-faced).
What's on your face?
Shortly after my diagnosis I found a great deal of solace in the wonderful blog posts of Talonted Lex who, as well as being a beauty blogger, regularly posts about rosacea and reviews products that may help. She has ten years' more experience of the condition than me, and her insight has been invaluable. On her recommendation I've tried both Avene and La Roche Posay skincare products which have made a significant positive difference to my skin.
Of course, I was sceptical at first - as anyone should be when they're looking at handing over more than twice as much for moisturiser than they're used to spending! However, having experimented quite widely, I'm happier spending the money and having skin I don't want to cry over. Some things are worth the cash, and I can always spend less elsewhere. Plus I tend to only need a very small amount each day, so they last well.
Without further ado then, here's what I'm using and what I think of it.
When I went out for the first time to find a rosacea-suitable moisturiser, I was taken aback by the amount of choice in the specialist skincare aisle. Fortunately I had done my research (thank you, Talonted Lex!), and Hayley of Curves & Curls had linked me with Avene on Twitter, whereupon they were kind enough to message me to ask about my needs, and sent me samples. I picked two options, one of which was this Hydrance Optimale UV Light.
With a light, almost serum-like consistency, I found this a perfect daily moisturiser which didn't sit on the skin but sank in quickly and soothed the angry patches. The other sample I tried and then bought was the Antirougeurs Jour Redness-Relief Moisturising Protecting Cream (bit of a mouthful!). This claims to reduce redness but I have to admit, it didn't work for me and I found it quite greasy.
The UV Light was great for the face and neck but did nothing for my forehead, so I went out again and picked up the below...
One of the early problems I had with my skin was a constantly dry forehead. Like, all the time. It was infuriating - whatever I used, I would have a flaky forehead and it often looked like I had a bad case of dandruff or post-sunburn peeling. Acne rosacea breakouts in the same area made physical exfoliation a very, very bad idea, so I couldn't resolve the dryness without making the rosacea worse.
Since using the Rich Hydrating Cream each morning (and sometimes topping up a tiny bit in the day), it's been miles better. The heat in my office during the winter tends to exasperate my skin, so in the cooler months I take the cream to work with me in case I need it.
The only downside is that while the UV Light has an SPF, this does not, so I have to use suncream over the top. I also tried the Rich Compensating Cream, which I found too heavy, but everyone's skin varies and I'm sure it's a good option for many.
I actually bought this out of desperation one day when my local Boots was out of stock of the Hydrance Optimale UV Light and I had almost run out. A happy accident, as I found it to be a lighter, more pleasant formula; It sinks into the skin easily and doesn't leave it tacky. I had visibly reduced breakouts within a week of starting to use it.
The first time I bought it I actually had the non-SPF variant, but the SPF 30 is new for 2017 and a welcome addition to the range. While a little thicker in consistency than its non-SPF sister, it's still a light and non-sticky formula. This is now my regular morning moisturiser for face and neck, and it works nicely as a primer for light foundation.
The cream promises to deal with marks from acne, to reduce inflammation and shine, and to generally refine the skin's appearance. As ever I am cautious of buying into such claims, but honestly I am far happier with my bare face than I had been for months since using this, so it clearly works for me!
This equally long mouthful of a name suncream has, as you can see, been used quite extensively already and I only bought it a month ago. 50 is a very high SPF but with the weather the way it's been lately, I've been grateful of it.
I must admit though, while this is clearly effective and doesn't irritate my skin, it does actually have quite a chemical smell, and the consistency is thick and a little greasy as you may expect suncream to be. For what I paid, I expected something better. My mistake may have been going for the cream as opposed to the body milk, which I expect is a lighter formula. There's also an anti-shine variety which I intend to try.
Rosacea: what do you recommend?
As I've mentioned, rosacea is a tricky condition with a lot of identified potential triggers and probably some that haven't been identified yet. There are different variations of the condition and treatments or products that work for one person with rosacea may not work for another.
If you have rosacea or suspect you do, I'd suggest first of all seeing your GP, and if necessary getting a referral to a dermatologist. They'll be able to identify the issue and go through the medical treatment options with you. For example, I was offered an oral suspension of metranidazole which is stronger than the gel, but as this can have side effects and reacts very badly with alcohol, my GP was keen to try the gel as a first option.
As far as skincare goes, I've linked all the products mentioned above, but there is a huge variety and I highly recommend getting hold of samples first if you can, to find out what works best for your skin. I would also suggest reading around the condition and perhaps logging your own flare-ups to try and identify triggers. For example, I've learned that red wine is particularly bad for mine, and that I also shouldn't expose my facial skin to hot or very cold water, so I never wash my face in shower water anymore.
I hope this post is helpful to anyone with rosacea or just sensitive skin in general - I'd be happy to answer any questions about my own experience and the products, so just comment below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on rosacea: rosacea.org
Browse the Avene ranges: avene.co.uk
Browse the La Roche-Posay ranges: laroche-posay.co.uk