So many things can cause a rosacea flare up. Because of this, it can be difficult to know how to treat your skin. I’ve had rosacea for about six years now and although most of the time I have it under relative control, occasionally the red face of itchy stinging shame will rear its ugly head. And I’m still shocked. Every time. I get used to coasting along managing my condition, then BAM, overnight my skin has become bumpy and sore and scarlet. So I wanted to share some of the things that have helped me out during this trying time.
Try And Work Out The Cause
This can be tough. Things that seem to affect me are stress, overindulging and, the most common one, a reaction to something I’ve put on my face, or something that’s touched my face; I’m talking cosmetics, skincare, washing powder, fabric conditioner; and the annoying thing is, that sometimes it’ll be a product I’ve used happily for months, but my face then takes a sudden dislike to it. What’s that about?
Of course a rosacea flare up can be caused by any number of potential triggers: exercise, hot drinks, sun exposure, cold exposure, alcohol – so it’s really worthwhile to try and figure out what affects you. One way of doing this, (which is particularly boring, but effective), is keeping a diary*, day to day; of what you eat; your stress levels; the weather; the skincare and makeup products you used; any medication you took etc. This way, you may begin to notice a pattern and can then cut things out accordingly.
*There’s also a free Rosacea Trigger Tracker Sheet you can download and print out here.
Calm It Down
Of course, everything I’ve written above is all well and good, but if you’re already having a rosacea flare up: what then?
For me, if I know it’s an allergic reaction to something, this is what I do:
- Take an antihistamine*- Because histamines are released during a reaction, popping a pill can help calm it down. They don’t always work straight away, but I know if I take them for about a week, they absolutely speed up recovery versus not using them at all. I always have some on hand just in case and any one will do (you can get cheap ones from the supermarket or Boots/Superdrug) as long as it’s one that treats skin allergies; it usually says on the packet or you can ask the pharmacist. You don’t have to buy the mega expensive branded ones; you’re just paying for a name.
- Strip back your skincare regime – You need to stop using any potentially aggravating products that you can normally handle. I’m talking retinoids, acid exfoliants, essential oils, fragrances. You want a basic ‘wash your face, then moisturise’ routine. Even this can be a struggle. When I’m having a rosacea flare up, I can’t use any of my normal serums and whatnot; even one’s which are specifically aimed towards sensitive/rosacea skin types. I know my Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm won’t sting, when washing my face, during a flare up, however, I’ve yet to find a plain, lotion or cream, moisturiser that doesn’t. I went into Boots recently and looked at their section dedicated to skin complaints such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, dermatitis, and practically all the moisturisers they offered for these conditions contained fragrance/parfum or alcohol; it was completely baffling. And they all said ‘suitable for babies skin’: unbelievable. So I’m now on a mission to find something that DOESN’T STING when I apply it to my ravaged face. I’ll be sharing my findings. Meanwhile, if you’ve discovered anything, do please let me know!
- Use a suitable cover-up – Sometimes you might need a little extra makeup to deal with any redness. Obviously, in an ideal world you’d give your skin a break and not wear any. But the world is far from ideal and going out with a face like a smacked arse is not fun. Mineral makeup up is particularly good during a flare up; you can achieve quite a full coverage and it’s very gentle on your skin; it’s what I tend to stick to when raw and inflamed.
- Chill – I know; when you’re having a rosacea flare up the last thing you feel like doing is chilling. But do it anyway; whatever it takes; meditation, yoga, watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine (my favourite), chatting to a mate, taking a nap; it doesn’t matter, whatever floats your boat. Because stress makes rosacea worse; and it’s a vicious circle; the worse your rosacea is, the more stressed you become; and the more stressed you become, the worse your rosacea gets. It’s upsetting and depressing having this skin condition; but it is manageable. It just takes a lot of trial and error, and a bucket load of patience, to learn how.
- Try some hydrocortisone cream* – Hydrocortisone is a topical corticosteroid which can help reduce redness and itching. It’s used a lot for eczema and I was constantly smothered in the stuff from a baby until my mid-twenties because my eczema was so bad. It can cause thinning of the skin if a higher percentage is used over a long period, however, I’m talking about using 1% strength for a few days (no longer), just to help ease flare up symptoms. You don’t need a prescription for it, you can just buy it over the counter. Apply it sparingly to any affected areas.
- Protect your face from the elements. It’s extremely important to still wear sunscreen when you’re having a rosacea flare up if you’re going outside. The problem is, it’s a bit of a minefield; there’s so many out there and some can sting, particularly if your skin is red-raw; so where do you start? Again, it’s a matter of trial and error to find out what works for you. Nowadays you can get samples from most high-end brands, which gives you a chance to try before you buy. Unfortunately, some other makes come in sealed tubes or containers, so you have to take a chance and maybe waste your money. I use Clinique Super City Block SPF40 (no I’m not being sponsored by Clinique; though I should be!) which doesn’t irritate my skin at all. I’d really like an SPF50 and will be trying and reviewing some new ones soon. Other popular ones recommended for rosacea/sensitive skin sufferers include: Eau Thermale Avène Very High Protection Mineral Cream SPF50+ for Intolerant Skin £13.50| SkinCeuticals Sheer Mineral UV Defense SPF5o £36.75 | SunSense Daily Face SPF50+ Invisible Tint Finish Sunscreen £18.85 |Ultrasun SPF 50+ Anti-Ageing Ultra Sensitive Facial Sun Cream £22.99 | Exuviance Sheer Daily Protector SPF50 PA++++ £36.00
Avoid Your Triggers
It doesn’t matter what they are: wine, coffee, saunas, dairy products, vigorous exercise – just avoid them; at least until your flare up is over. I know we should be avoiding any potential triggers at all times, but invariably we make mistakes or fall off the wagon. My skin drastically improved when I implemented a healthy lifestyle change (you can read about it here), and since I’ve returned to many of my old bad habits, my skin has really bared the brunt. And I know I need to change my ways, but at the moment struggling. I’m only human; and quite a weak-willed one at that. You can only ever do your best and beating yourself up is not going to help matters.
If In Doubt See A Professional
It can be overwhelming dealing with rosacea on your own. It’s great to read up on the condition as much as you can and speak to fellow sufferers, but sometimes we need to see a professional. This could be your G.P (if you trust and like them) or a dermatologist. If a flare up gets really bad you may need antibiotics or some kind of cream or tablets that can only be prescribed. Maybe you need to see someone about how miserable rosacea is making you. There is also help out there in the form of forums and specialised websites. In the end it’s about finding out what works for you; and whatever helps, go for it. Flare ups do pass, so keep on keeping on. Oh, and if anyone has any advice or tips they want to share; please do so below.
*Do check though that you’re able to take them, especially if you have any existing medical conditions, or are on any medication. Also, some antihistamines cause drowsiness, something else to consider. I’m not a doctor, just someone giving advice!
*Also check that you can use hydrocortisone cream for the same reasons as above.