If I were to tell you that I have a skin condition on my face that looks like redness and little pimples, the odds are that you would tell me that I haveacne. In fact, for years, that’s what I thought I had. Unfortunately, because of that belief, I treated my skin with acne products…bad ones, too.
It wasn’t completely my fault! Let me explain!
As a teen, I had pimples on my face. At that time, all of the beauty/fashion magazines that I loved and the commercials in the shows that I watched taught me that the reason that I had pimples was because of bacteria (ewww bacteria!) and that clearing my face was just a matter of buying a product that would kill the bacteria.
So I did. I bought Clearasil, Oxy, Noxema, and Clean & Clear. I bought scrubs, cleansers, medicated pads, toners, astringents, spot treatments, and medicated cover-ups. I used clearing masks, peel-off masks, and oil absorbing masks. Then came the nose strips from Bioré – and soon from a number of other brands, too. I used all of those and joined the millions of other people in their teens and early twenties who wondered at the disgusting miniature gunk forest that they tore out of their pores with ingredients on oddly-shaped strips that were strikingly similar to hairspray and that were very painful to remove. But pain was beauty!
Yes, my skin felt tight and dry. Yes, it looked irritated and inflamed. Yes, I spent many Sunday nights with a Bioré nose strip-shaped red patch on my face. But it was all in the name of clear skin. I had to beat that bacteria. I wasn’t going to give it a chance. So why wasn’t my skin clear?
Because I had rosacea, and that is not acne!
Indeed, I did have the occasional pimple that was your traditional acne-style zit, but over the years, my skin just got redder and redder and I just kept treating it with more and more acne products.
To be honest, I don’t think that the majority of the products on the “acne treatment” shelves are good for anybody’s skin, including acne sufferers, but that’s another story altogether and I’m not going to get into that, here.
But this does help to explain why I cannot stand the term “acne rosacea”. I loathe that phrase. Rosacea sufferers have a hard enough time getting a proper diagnosis on their skin, but when they do receive one, the last thing that they need is to have a term applied to them that will confuse both themselves and the people around them about what this condition really is.
Rosacea is not acne. Acne rosacea is not acne.
For that reason, rosacea should not be treated with acne products, techniques, or therapies.
Even my doctor prescribed an acne cream to me for a while, when he thought that I had acne (to be fair to doctors and patients, the two conditions can look very similar, and I was in an age group that was far more likely to have acne than rosacea). That cream left my skin painfully dry and itchy, and it started peeling off in thin sheets. Needless to say, I discontinued use.
If you must call it “acne rosacea”, know the difference!
The funny thing is that both of these skin conditions – acne and rosacea – are actually easier to control with a gentler and more natural approach, in many cases. This does depend on the individual person and the cause of the condition, but I’m talking about the situation in general, not about every single person who has these skin disorders.
Both types of skin problem will show marked improvements when you treat them gently, when you limit the use of harsh chemicals (natural and artificial), when you eliminate the use of abrasive products such as scrubs and face cloths, when you keep your hands off your face, and when you wash your face no more than twice daily (once in the morning and once at night).
What I also found to be funny was that the red light therapy that I am using to treat my rosacea symptoms is also helpful to people who have acne. It doesn’t stop them from getting the pimples in the first place, but it’s very effective for healing redness and scarring. I think that blue light is what kills acne bacteria so that the pimples don’t appear in the first place. I don’t know if blue light is used on rosacea, at all…but I am motivated to research that now!
Both skin conditions involve reactive, irritated, inflamed skin. They should both be treated gently and neither should be stripped of natural oils. They should be kept clean and moisturized and protected from the sun. Still, they are not the same.
Did using acne treatments make my rosacea symptoms present themselves earlier in my life?
This is a question that I have asked myself for some time now. Was all of the harsh treatment that I gave my skin a factor in the early development of rosacea symptoms? Did all of those harsh products, combined with the chlorine from the swimming pool in which I spent hours every day for the first 19 summers of my life, and the 1-2 sunburns I received every year, create a concoction that resulted in early-onset rosacea?
Honestly, I feel that it might have. Skin is an organ. It’s the largest one on your body and it’s your primary barrier between you and your environment. It is made up of millions of cells that are already facing sunlight, wind, heat, cold, bacteria, yeast, viruses, fungi, humidity, dryness, pressure, abrasion, and other factors that would kill you in an instant if you didn’t have one heck of a fantastic bio-shield to protect you (wow does that ever make it sound like we have weird super-powers!).
The fact that I abused mine as badly as I did for a solid decade or more, when I am already very pale, prone to sunburn, and prone to dryness didn’t give me much of a chance.
It’s true that the actual cause of rosacea is unknown, and while I may not have caused my rosacea through all of the terrible treatment that I gave my skin, what I feel is that I placed myself at far greater risk of developing it. The chance was already there. I have a number of risk factors including being pale and having it in my family genetics. But lifestyle plays a vital role in virtually every health issue, and that is where I failed myself.
This explains why I choose a natural rosacea treatment.
I’m not all-natural with my rosacea treatment, yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever be. I’m not against all human-made ingredients, and I’m not for all natural ingredients (after all, there are a lot of natural ingredients that can be harmful to rosacea, including witch hazel, peppermint, and many others).
What I do know is that I’m aiming to use my rosacea treatment to enhance the natural function of my skin. I’m treating my skin gently, with as few products and ingredients as possible, to help it to figure itself out.
I’m using a very gentle cleanser to take away dirt, product, and excess oils, but not all oils. Oil is good for all skin types. The key is in its balance. I’m protecting my skin from the sun with a very good quality sunscreen. I’m moisturizing with a product that is very high quality and that is meant for my skin type. I’m not wearing makeup unless I “have” to. I’m also working on proper hydration and eating a healthful diet while eliminating rosacea triggers and choosing more ingredients that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. I’m using red light to give the cells the energy they need to heal and to naturally reduce their inflammation.
After everything I’ve put my skin through, I’m now honouring my skin. In return, it has rewarded me by looking the best that it has been in fifteen years. Not a bad agreement!