The kicker when you get diagnosed with rosacea (apart from the fact it’s ‘incurable - you can manage it but it’s not buggering off any time soon) is that there is still so little known about it. No one really knows why you get it, but genetics are a factor. I didn’t think it ran in my family, but a recently unearthed pictures of my dad (who died when I was a teenager) show that surrounding a compulsory-for-80s-dad mega-moustache was significant redness and a rosy glow that probably wasn’t all down to his lunchtime Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Fair-skinned people are more prone to rosacea, and if you blush easily you might be more likely too.
Frequently mistaken for other conditions - acne, menopausal hot flushes, plain old ‘sensitive skin’ or allergies - the real number of people who suffer from it is uncertain. There’s also no hard and fast treatment. Various things such as medication, skincare and laser therapy can help, but every person’s skin and rosacea reacts differently so there’s a lot of trial and error.
GPs are wonderful at many, many things, but in my experience, and those of heaps of other rosacea patients I’ve spoken to, they are largely unable to deal with this. My interactions with GPs during flare-ups range from one who didn’t even know how to pronounce it, repeatedly saying ‘rousasicca’ (to rhyme with Boudicca), which is second only to my mum’s cute nickname of roseyshire - to one who tried to prescribe me steroid cream.
I did my research and went to see Dr Stefanie Williams at the Eudelo Clinic, because not only is she a specialist dermatologist with an interest in rosacea, but she’s also a sufferer herself. I didn’t just get a bag of prescriptions (two prescribed creams and a low-level antibiotic), but lifestyle advice and a list of skincare and makeup products to use. After ten days I saw a significant improvement.
Most rosacea sufferers have near-permanent underlying redness or blotches, and then there are the joy of flares, when your face can go from zero to oh-my-god-have-I-just-leant-over-the-Chernobyl-reactor-core in a matter of seconds. Reasons or ‘triggers’ for these vary from person to person, but alcohol, spicy foods, hot drinks and emotional stress are common catalysts. Mine include airplane travel, red wine (even the good stuff) and sex (only the good stuff). I tend to avoid triggers when I really don’t want a flare, for example, I won’t have a coffee just before a big presentation, but wine is far too delicious, and anyone that wouldn’t like your rosy face isn’t worth sharing your orgasm with anyway.
I used to hide mine, rushing to the loo with an SOS makeup bag, but once I started writing about it and telling people, I felt a lot less self-conscious, which in turn, calms a flare quicker. If you know you flush in work meetings then telling your colleagues you have rosacea literally takes the heat off. My team at work also now know that red cheeks means I’m pissed off, which is far less bother than giving someone a bollocking. It also stops people’s rude questions (most of the time anyway).
A skincare diet - cutting down your regime to only what’s strictly necessary - is essential, and treatments also need to be very carefully researched. My own pared back regime (on top of two prescribed creams) consists of the below.
This sadly means no luxurious lotions and unguents, and forget any kind of facial that calls itself ‘pampering’ - it’s derm approved treatments only I’m afraid. “Sufferers attempt to soothe their skin with rich creams or oils, which may feel good in the moment, but actually aggravate rosacea breakout,” explains Dr Stephanie. One treatment I’ve tried and recommend for short term relief (ideal for before a big event) is the EF Medispa Mandelic peel which dramatically lessened my redness for around three days.
Fake news ain’t got nothing on the proliferation of ‘magic cures’ for rosacea, from the classic snake oil claims of various potions, to the rather more scary underground practice of using horse worming paste (!!) in place of a more expensive prescribed cream. Ok, so there is some science behind it: Soolantra is a prescribed medication that works to kill mites on the skin, and horse worming paste contains a similar ingredient. But medical advice is an emphatic NO: “I strictly advise against Ivermectin horse paste as a cheaper alternative to Soolantra cream! It’s a crazy recommendation - they’re not the same products. They contain different concentrations of the active ingredient in a completely different base formulation,” explains Dr Stefanie.
Rosacea Instagram is a good place to find support from fellow sufferers, try the hashtag #rosaceasucks and #rosaceaskincare for starters and over on Facebook rosacea blogger @talontedlex support group, Rosacea Club is a super friendly and supportive
I hoped these were going to be my holy grail but 99% of the time they result in a Wicked/Grotbags (delete as age appropriate) tinge. The only one I’ve found that does work is Daniel Sandler Anti-Red Primer, £24.50, which when blended under your base takes the worst out of a flare.