When I was a teen, I got spots. Not the most jaw-dropping revelation of my past but it was still something that deeply affected my confidence. It was made worse by the fact that I could never seem to leave my spots alone. I was constantly scratching them, itching them, making them angry and worse. I even realised I was doing it but couldn’t stop. I got into makeup very late so had no concealer or foundation, I didn’t even realise that everyone else WAS using these products. The end result was I’d go to school feeling unattractive, surrounded by girls who didn’t seem to be suffering as much as I was.
Thankfully, when I went to university this all calmed down. I’ve even looked back over photos of me in this gawky stage and realised that my acne was never that bad, I was just utterly focused on it, convinced that everyone thought I looked as ugly as I did.
I certainly need to remind myself of that revelation now. When I was 22 I noticed that my skin was breaking out. But it was weird. These weren’t blackheads or whiteheads and they seemed to be causing a lot of redness on my cheeks. The skin also seemed to get incredibly dry where the breakouts were, often cracking. Not only that but my entire face was constantly tingling and itchy. Whilst I usually got the occasional spot, it tended to go away, these were prominent and constant. Worst of all? They seemed to resist foundation and concealer because the physical texture of them seemed different. The dry patches just left the foundation layer on top, so my patches were one-tone beige. And it got worse. And worse. Until I finally went to my GP.
Being Diagnosed With a Skin Condition
Turns out, I suffer from rosacea, a skin condition that is not fully understood (most conditions like eczema and psoriasis are still being studied) but is most likely an infection within the blood capillaries of the face. This can cause flushing, especially across the cheeks. It also causes bumps and breakouts that closely resemble acne. In fact, rosacea is often mistaken for and treated as acne, even by doctors. I know that my doctor thought that until he gave me a closer inspection and noted the difference. Letting him look at me so closely was a horrible experience, I felt so irrationally ashamed even though I logically knew he’d probably seen much worse in his time.
He gave me a cream, which worked the first time for about a month then the rosacea came back. Then he gave me antibiotics. That worked also for about a month. Antibiotics again and here I am a month after I finished my course, with flushed cheeks, itchy skin and a horrible breakout across my forehead. I’ve even considered getting a fringe again to try to cover it and I’ve not had one since I was 15 (it’s a pretty extreme move for me).
Currently, there is no cure for rosacea. I’ve been experimenting with creams to reduce the effects, including Dermalex. I continued to use Dermalex and the condition kept getting worse. This saddened me, but not as much as when I lost the damn stuff for 24 hours and my skin EXPLODED into the worst breakout ever. Turns out the Dermalex must have been doing something right, I just wish it could get rid of all my symptoms.
The scratching is also a huge problem and I’ve concocted some solutions to try and keep itching at bay. First one is by carrying a moisturiser with me at all times. It’s got to be the right moisturiser – my face reacts badly to so many – but I find Clean and Clear Dual Action is a cooling choice that abates the need to itch. At home I put on face masks the moment I enter the door and leave them on for hours. They need to be very mild (obviously) for me to do this but it stops me from touching my face at all, which is a massive win for me.
If you’re experiencing symptoms that are like acne but also cause redness, flushing and itching then you may be experiencing rosacea. If you’re unsure then make sure you see a GP, it won’t get better on its own.
Advice For Those With a Skin Condition and/or Sensitive Skin
Our skin copes with a lot of crap, it’s our first protective barrier and it’s staggering what it does for us. It’s also annoying when it seems to turn against us but the only answer is to try and tailor what you use in a more exact way.
- Learn what ingredients are typical problem areas for sensitive skin and get familiar with ingredient lists on packaging.
- Common ingredients in makeup, toiletries etc. can cause a lot of problems for your skin. Check out this list for ingredients that can affect sensitive skin negatively.
- Get ready to throw away facial cleansers even if they don’t have ingredients that should set you off. You should not get tingling or burning sensations from your cleaners, don’t use them if you do. Take a note of what their ingredients were and give it to a non-suffering friend.
- Baby products are great because they’re designed for incredibly sensitive skin and are often cheaper than similar items marketed at adults with the same problem.
- Be consistent with your regime, it only took a 24 hour slip-up for me to notice the differences when I stopped my usual ritual.
- Carry around some small “emergency” packs, like a small tub of mousteriser or blemish sticks. Whatever will calm your skin fastest.
- Food has a big part to play in the health of skin, if you’re experiencing a lot of symptoms without relief then it might be worth considering dropping a few items. The guilty parties for causing skin problems include alcohol, caffeine and sugar. Drink water instead of these items and see if you notice an improvement.
If you’re feeling saddled with skin problems then the trick it to keep varying what you’re using until you find the perfect mix. Your skin doesn’t exist in a vacuum, consider your lifestyle and behaviour when it comes to your flushes and that might help get them under control. If nothing seems to be working then go to your GP and see if there are any treatments that can help.
If there is one tiny, fleeting upside to having sensitive skin or even a skin condition it’s that you always have an excuse to pamper yourself. And maybe bring your friends in for the fun!