Life with Rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic inflammation of the skin, usually occurring on the face. Rosacea is the result of swelling of blood vessels beneath the skin’s surface. No one knows what causes it, but some scientists think it may result from immune cells in the skin becoming improperly activated. Before doing anything else, it’s a good idea to see you dermatologist. If you have rosacea, take heart. I’ve had it for twenty years– and most people, even my own dermatologist, can’t believe I have it when they see me.

One reason to see a dermatologist is that there are effective medicines available to treat rosacea. Left untreated, rosacea can cause a build up of sebaceous gland on the cheeks and nose. This is called rhinophyma. The actor from the first half of the last century, W. C. Fields is believed to have had rhinophyma, which accounted for the appearance of his bulbous, red nose. Treating rosacea and making some lifestyple changes should be undertaken with the goal of keeping skin smooth and unreactive, to prevent the development of rhinophyma.

Depending upon your own skin, severity of rosacea or the kind of medicine you like to use, you’ll have a choice of an oral anti-inflammatory antibiotic or a topical drug. Oral antibiotics like tetracycline are particularly effective. I’m allergic to tetracycline, so I’m on Plan B: topical metronidazole. It’s an antibiotic when used orally. Topically, it’s an effective anti-inflammatory treatment for rosacea. Some people swear by azalaic acid, brand name Finacea. Finacea didn’t work for me. Do not let that stop you from trying it. Chances are your dermatologist has samples to try.

Another to see a dermatologist is that if you do have rosacea confirmed, you’ll need to see an ophthalmologist as well. Rosacea causes eye complications of the cornea, a condition known as ocular rosacea. Treating dermal rosacea may limit the development of ocular rosacea to some extent. Ocular rosacea at its worst can lead to corneal scarring. I’ve developed a mild case of ocular rosacea. Thankfully I treat it with eye drops twice a day.

Besides medicine, there are lifestyle changes you’ll make. You do not have to give up wine or Thai food. What you have to do is stay out of the sun. When you go to the beach, or if you live in Arizona, you’ll make fashion waves in your stylish sun protective clothing and wide-brimmed hats. The sun, indeed any heat source, makes rosacea worse. Stay out of the sun, or bring your own shade with you.

Sunblock is good but even so-called chemical-free sunblock may not be protection enough. I find that these physical sunblocks are too drying. I prefer a moisturizing sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection. It’s not a fancy brand but it works well for just being out and about. Yes, you need sun protection just to walk form the parking spot to your office building. In summer time, I wear a hat. You might not, but you should think about bringing along a tube of sunscreen for reapplication.

Rosacea skin needs gentle treatment and lots of moisture. You’ll need to find a soap-free cleanser. Three that I recommend equally, having tried them all, are Cetaphil, CeraVe and Aquanil. Find them at the drugstore. Be sure to wash your face with tepid, never hot, water and pat your face dry with a soft towel. It’s important to wash your face and apply topical medicine, if you’re using it, and moisturizer before going to bed.

You’ll need a good moisturizer for day and night. I use my sunscreen with SPF25 for daytime; it’s called Estion. It’s the most moisturizing sunscreen I’ve found. At night, I use a moisturizer called DML Forte that comes in a 4-ounce tube for less than $20. You can have fun shopping for moisturizers. I like several department store creams too, but have been on a frugal kick.

I wear whatever makeup I like, though there are rosacea sufferers who only wear mineral makeup. I still use blush with a light touch. It blends the slight rosacea flush so it looks like part of my coloring.

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