How one writer found calming her skin condition had unexpected benefits
We all think we could be healthier. Even those annoying people who post their 5am workouts and meticulous meal prep on Instagram. However, I am not, and never have been one of those people and back in 2016 I realised I’d let things slide rather a lot, even by my standards.
Newly freelancing and newly living alone, I had no alarm clock to tell me that a 4am bedtime every Tuesday was probably a bad thing. Neither did I have a flatmate or significant other to question if everything I’d eaten that week arrived on the back of a moped.
It wasn’t long before I found myself with a low-to-moderate hangover most days and I’d pop two ibuprofen before I’d even taken off my eye mask. Add to that back-to-back UTIs, including one that resulted in a trip to A&E (where my undone jeans fell open in roomful of people), high blood pressure (which I made up a fear of doctors to explain. White coat hypertension is a real thing though, google it) and constant acid reflux (that even those little antacid firemen on the adverts had no chance of getting a hold on), and I wasn’t exactly in the best shape, either.
Still, I did nothing. The nights got later. The painkillers-for-breakfast, canapés-for-dinner diet got worse and I’d get a new ‘SLOW DOWN, SLEEP MORE, EAT BETTER’ health symptom nearly every week. Then disaster struck. My face, which had always been prone to flushing, turned, and remained, bright red and came up in gravelly bumps.
After a month of manic foundation application and panicked facial booking, I admitted defeat and went to see a dermatologist. The eye-wateringly expensive appointment confirmed what Google had already diagnosed for me: I had the inflammatory skin condition rosacea. If you don’t know what it is; a) it’s incurable b) the symptoms can be made considerably worse by ‘lifestyle choices’.
Walking out of the dermatologist clinic laden with private prescriptions, specialised makeup and a whole new skincare regime I knew that vanity (and my bank balance) meant I had to do my best to get this under control.
Whereas the condition itself is hereditary, there’s lots of things that can encourage a flare up. Some of those triggers are fun: booze, spicy food, hot drinks, long baths, sunshine, late nights, certain skincare. Others less so: stress, emotional upset, exercise (not fun in my opinion). I scored highly in both categories so I had to make some changes.
Some were easy to identify. I cut my alcohol consumption down by limiting myself to three nights out a week and vowing not to drink at home, I stopped having lobster-killing temperature baths and laid off Deliveroo’s Indian section.
Some were trickier and more complicated to get a hold on. Stress is unavoidable as a freelancer – enter: awkward clients, uncertainty of work and going into a new office every week - so I had to take a look at my personal life, too. I cut off a toxic friendship with someone who left me feeling bad about myself after every conversation. I banned my phone on nights in from 7pm – 9pm and I stopped using tubes, instead walking anywhere that was 45 minutes or less.
Then there were the benefits that took me by surprise. My new, pared-back skincare regime meant a decluttering of my bathroom and bedroom. I got rid of a ridiculous amount of masks, creams and cleansers, some of which had been collecting dust for years. That alone made me feel calmer and helped kick-started more of a relationship with my home. It was no longer just somewhere to sleep, but I realised it could be an inviting and relaxing place to be, too.
A definite skincare regime also tethered me. I couldn’t stay out or crash at friends’ houses. I had to get home to use the prescribed products. No more dipping my fingers into – at best – friends’ too rich/heavy/perfumed products or – at worst - searching the bathroom cabinets of ‘ahem’ new friends for something that wasn’t an out-of-date tube of Daktarin or a mouldy capped bottle of Baby Oil. Two minutes, twice a day, every day gave my chaotic life a little routine.
A month in and my skin had improved immeasurably. It was less flushed than it had been in a year and I could easily go out without foundation. I’d also lost 10 pounds, was sleeping better and had the clichéd ‘added energy’. Two years in and I do slip occasionally - an alcohol-fueled wedding weekend recently sent my rosacea back into panic mode and it took a few weeks to calm down, but neither my skin, or my life have ever gone back to being a chaotic as they once were.
Jo’s top five product picks
IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness Correcting Cream
This is the first thing I recommend to all rosacea sufferers. It delivers incredible coverage without the need for multiple heavy layers or even worse, an undercoat of something green-tinted (for me green creams have never worked and just make me look slightly seasick, no matter how much I blend).
Elizabeth Arden Bio Cellulose Probiotic Face Mask
I felt a bit left out of ‘pampering’ when I stripped all my skincare back but found whenever I tried to re-introduce something outside of my strict regime, my skin would react. The jury is out on probiotics and rosacea but for me this mask works. It’s cooling, soothing and leaves my skin feeling hydrated and looking glowy.
Redken Pillow Proof Blow Dry Express Primer Treatment Cream
Yep, a hair product for your skin. Heat around my face can give me a flushed complexion that takes hours to calm but I need to blow-dry my wavy hair into submission, this halves the amount of time my hair takes to dry so minimises the flush.
Oxygenetix Oxygenating Breathable Foundation
If you have rosacea-related breakouts like I did when I was first diagnosed, then this foundation will treat and conceal until you’ve got it under control. Non-comedogenic, oil-free, hypoallergenic and non-irritating; it sits well on even the worst flare up.
Avene Cleanance Cleansing Gel
I now panic if I run out of this and when I didn’t pack it for a recent few nights away I noticed the difference almost immediately. Strong enough to cut through the SPF50 that rosacea demands I wear daily but gentle enough not to aggravate my skin.
Main image: Getty