BY LISA WILLIAMS
A chronic and potentially life-disrupting skin disorder, rosacea is more than just an innocent blush. The face of rosacea can cover a full spectrum of 50 shades of red – from a bashful perpetual rosiness that’s most prominent in the central face (cheeks, nose, forehead and chin) to a violently red angry mask. Typically starting between the ages of 30 and 50 (and more frequently in women than men), pimple-like bumps often develop as well, growing more extensive over time if left untreated, along with burning, itching or stinging skin – giving rise to its common misidentification as “adult acne”, “eczema” or “allergy to cosmetics”.
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Underlying the red tide is is a genetic propensity to flush, which explains why so many fair-skinned people are sufferers. Frequent flushing eventually exhausts the blood vessels, so that instead of returning to normal they remain dilated, leaving an increasingly ruddy perma-flush and prominent broken capillaries that can make one come across as painfully shy or easily agitated. As the problem progresses, the vessels may begin to leak white blood cells, producing the characteristic inflamed red papules or white “pimples” in the central face. While some may experience dryness, others have excess oil production and blockage of follicles that give rise to spots. In the most severe cases, sufferers can experience a disfiguring swelling of the nose called rhinophyma.
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Sounds familiar? Recognising this oft-misdiagnosed problem and also recognising that rosacea is a manageable medical condition are the first and perhaps most important steps for those who feel the sting of a stranger’s stare or an unintentionally disturbing comment. Here are 4 key tips that pulled me (a rosacea sufferer since my late 20s) through my self-conscious red-faced days:
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DON’T AGGRAVATE YOUR SKIN
This is obvious and there are a few very common everyday triggers. So if you’re working to nip it in the bud, you may want to start redness intervention and maintain a clear complexion by tweaking your lifestyle.
Extremes in weather (sun, strong winds, cold), temperature (saunas, hot yoga, hot showers), vigorous physical activity and flush-inducing foods and beverages (hot beverages, alcohol, spicy foods) tend to “exercise” those hyper-reactive blood vessels more and can cause the redness and inflammation to flare up. I suffered an attack of severe redness, bumps and stinging windburns that just refused to go away after my first winter ski trip. Of course, a trigger that sends one individual into redness alert might not do so for another. Learning what trigger your flare-ups and minimising these aggravating factors as much as it is practical will make a significant difference in managing your skin in the long run.
Emotional issues like stress and anxiety can also exacerbate rosacea. Although it’s going to be much harder to control this trigger, do try relaxation techniques like yoga meditation, especially if you feel that stress is one of your main triggers. And don’t go into panic buying of sets after sets of skincare products or harsh facial packages (which I did). All that constant changing of skincare, or prodding and extractions not only make sensitive skin totally crazy, it’s highly frustrating and stressful to the mind too.
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TAKE IT EASY ON YOUR SKIN.
A consistent, gentle skincare regime minimises irritation to touchy skin. Learning which exact products work for your skin involves a little trial and error initially, but in general try to avoid products containing alcohol, astringents, witch hazel , menthol, eucalyptus oil or fragrances. Scrubs, fruit acids and vitamin A products can be potentially irritating to reactive skin as well, if not used under the supervision of a dermatologist.
Look out for moisturisers with anti-inflammatory agents such as the Eucerin Redness Relief range with liquorice, Aveeno Ultra Calming with feverfew, or calming ingredients like chamomile (bisabolol) and aloe vera.
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GET EARLY TREATMENT
One lesson I learnt the hard way is: While skincare plays a role in maintaining a healthy skin barrier and soothe minor irritations, they are more adjunctive, especially when it comes to flare-ups. Since untreated rosacea generally gets worse – more pimples, more redness, dilated broken veins or thickened skin – seeing a dermatologist for early treatment often controls the disease much better and more quickly.
Different symptoms of rosacea require different treatments. And we called on the skin pro, Dr Kenneth Lee from SW1 Clinic, for a lowdown:
– Redness with Breakouts: A course of low dose oral antibiotics (like doxycycline) or Roaccutane (a oral vitamin A) might be needed to stamp out a severe rosacea breakout and swollen cheeks. Once the pimply flare-up of the rosacea has diminished, or for less severe cases, prescription anti-inflammatory topicals such as azelaic acid cream or metronidazole gel may need to be continued for a year or longer. Because for some people rosacea is a life-long problem, but for others once it’s under good control with treatment, the skin generally behaves with only occasional flares.
– Perma-Flush and Broken Capillaries: Even after the pimply flare-up clears, you may be left with permanent redness plus/minus a full network of obvious vessels. 3-6 Treatments with vascular lasers like the Vbeam, or in mild cases, IPL, can close up and remove the dilated blood vessels causing the embarrassing facial redness to restore a glowing clarity to your skin. In my case, it took 4 sessions of Vbeam laser to zap away the perma-flush and stubborn broken capillaries around my nose.
– Thickened, Bumpy Skin on Nose: Along with topical and oral medications, resurfacing lasers can help with the phymatous subtype of rosacea. A series of Fraxel Restore or SmartX laser can be used to gradually smoothen the excess skin and improve contours of the nose.
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MAKEUP FOR ROSACEA
Laser and IPL treatments can cost a pretty penny and take multiple sessions to show maximum results. In the meantime, makeup can help conceal the redness and broken capillaries. There is no reason that you can’t face the world looking your absolute best. Having that being said, many types of makeup can leave your skin red and irritated. Hence, choose your makeup wisely.
I find mineral makeup a good choice for rosacea. It tends to be less irritating to the skin, provides good coverage and is applied with a brush, which doesn’t require rubbing that may cause skin to flush.
We love Clinique’s redness solutions instant relief mineral pressed powder for it’s east application and smooth finish.
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