Updated: Aug 10, 2020
Rosacea is so common but so commonly misunderstood.
Rosacea shows up in many ways. It can be a mild redness that can ‘flush and blush’, it can be little bumps over the cheeks that aren’t actual pimples, it can manifest as a red nose or even a very swollen red nose (rhinophyma) and it can also show up on other areas of the face like the chin too. It can be your worst enemy or… your best friend.
Our skin, like any other part of our body, will tell us when something isn’t right. Our body does this well — a migraine tells us there’s stress and that we need to take care, shoulder tension tells us we’re uptight and we need to breathe. Rosacea tells us a bunch of things too. We just have to stop treating it like and enemy that we need to go into combat with and listen to it instead. If a good friend said they needed to talk to you, if they told you there were a few things that were bothering them and they needed some support, you’d listen, right?
Ultimately our skin, like other parts of our body, needs us to listen and then act. The skin is much like a smoke alarm, telling us when there’s an issue that may eventually get out of control. Like a smoke alarm, our skin will send us signals so we have the opportunity to do something. The redness, inflammation, sensitivity, reactivity — it’s all communication.
Why is it happening?
Rosacea can tend to be hereditary; however, it tends to flare up and begin due to stressful circumstances. We might have a parent who has rosacea but it might not ever show up in our skin or it might only begin to show up when we are feeling under pressure or more emotionally vulnerable. When it does show up it’s doing so to tell us we need to take care of all parts of us, body, skin and emotions.
The annoying redness and inflammation indicate that something might be out of balance, but it’s then about problem solving to work out exactly what to do next. It can be helpful to do this with a skin professional who has a holistic approach so you have someone supporting you to think beyond what might seem logical.
It’s not just about the skin…
When the skin flares up, we tend to logically want to put something on it and then hope it will fix the whole problem.
The Thing is though, that we are emotional beings and our skin really responds to what’s happening in our body and also what’s happening around us. If we are stressed this is going to impact upon our physiology, if our gut function isn’t healthy this will result in other parts of our bodies, like the skin, showing inflammation (and the gut can be intensely affected by our emotions too). If we are consuming foods that create inflammation (excessive sugar, alcohol, any dairy, gluten — if we’re intolerant) the body isn’t going to be happy.
The skin is our largest organ. It’s also an organ of elimination. This means that if our body is unwell or unhappy it will want to support our lymphatic system by getting rid of toxins and things that it doesn’t want or need. So, we can see the skin ‘purge’ by way of lumps, bumps and uncharacteristic behaviour.
You’ve possibly already noticed what tends to flare your particular skin up. Sometimes, though, we don’t always identify some things. Common triggers for rosacea are: stress (even background low-level stress) and big life changes, extreme temperatures (a toasty warm home or the brisk cold outdoors), hormonal changes, red wine in particular and alcohol generally, hot and spicy foods, sun exposure, caffeine, dairy and some medications.
How to treat it?
There are professionals out there that will have varying opinions on how to work with rosacea. Typically, your GP will prescribe an antibiotic but this is a short-term solution. I tend to advocate for a more holistic approach where we look at what your skin is letting us know about what it needs and what might be happening in your body and the whole of you.
A good skin consultation should take into consideration your health history and touch on your digestion, gut, life and life stresses. Having a tailored skin program that is for your skin is vital. Rosacea shows up differently in each person. And each of us have an individual skin even when it is at its healthiest. So, what works for one person is going to be different for another. It’s about finding the right key for your lock.
I will often make referrals to a naturopath and nutritionist to ensure we are working from the outside in and the inside out to gain results.
As a mental health therapist as well as a skin therapist I believe in making sure you have strategies to support stress and anxiety and to create ease, along with a skin program.
Consultations are available Australia wide in person or online.
In a nutshell:
Characteristics of rosacea:
Redness and flushing
Visible capillaries/blood vessels
Swollen red nose
Small bumps over cheeks
Feeling the skin is ‘papery’
Stress and major life changes
Alcohol (red wine in particular)
Extremes of temperature (Heating, cooling, saunas…)
Diet (Acidic foods, sugar and dairy)
Fragranced skin products
Rough skin scrubs
A skin consultation with a skin expert who can collate a skin program for your particular skin
Holistic naturopathic and nutritional supports to back up your skin program