April is National Rosacea Awareness Month. In a weird coincidence, both Lilit and Jennifer have rosacea, but they cope with it in very different ways. Jennifer’s up first:
There are a few days in your teenage years that are undeniably great. The first time you go on a date with someone you like. Prom, and subsequently making fun of how Prom could never deliver as anything you had supposed (the second is more fun than the first). Graduation. And, of course, the day you discover Finacea.
Oh, that last one didn’t register for you? Maybe that’s because you didn’t spend six years with a face that looked like a craterous tomato.
It took me a long time to realize I had Rosacea. I just woke up one morning when I was thirteen with suddenly bright red skin. And then, it started getting bumpy. Bumpy, and covered with horrible little skin eruptions and weird spider veins. Which, at the time, seemed normal. There is an article in pretty much every teen magazine that ought to be entitled “Wow, your skin looks leprous today.” When everyone’s skin is undergoing hormonal transitions, it wasn’t something that made me stand out.
And, when I felt insecure, I remedied the situation by applying foundation with a level of zeal typically only seen in Kabuki performers. I am amazed looking at photos from high school because my flesh color in those pictures is not my skin color. It’s not anyone’s skin color. It is the tone that can only be achieved when you start applying make-up with a foam paintbrush. But, fortunately, just as I was not the only fifteen year old with bad skin, I was also not the only girl in high school working that pancake make-up look.
It was in college when people started looking human-like that there first seemed to be a real problem. People started going outside without make-up, and, as far as I was concerned that was a first-rate tragedy. I distinctly remember Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes being published around that time and there being a portion where the main character laughs about how no sophisticated, New York woman would ever wear foundation during the day. I also recall laying the book down at that point and thinking, “Plum Sykes, you are a horrible person, with a horrible soul.”
And then, one day, one bright, sunny day, I had a wart on my foot. I went to a dermatologist. “Hey,” she said “you’ve got Rosacea. Want to take care of that?” And she showed me a pamphlet full of people who looked just like me! Then she wrote me a prescription for a cream called Finacea, which I’ve been smearing on my face twice daily ever since. It costs $25, and I buy it every two or three months. It beats buying foundation in bulk. Within a week, my skin no longer had weird little bumps all over it. Within a month, it took on a normal human color. I could walk around bare faced in the daylight, just like a sophisticated, New York woman!
To be fair, it’s still not super amazing great skin. I can’t drink red wine (it’s a Rosacea trigger) without waking up the next morning looking as though I’ve been slapped in the face repeatedly. I like to think this makes me seem like a woman of mystery and danger (really, it just makes people think I’m a recovering alcoholic when I refuse to drink red wine with them at dinner). But, more or less, as long as I keep slathering on Finacea, my skin is pretty okay. And in retrospect, I really do think the same can probably be said for Plum Sykes’ soul.
And now here’s Lilit.
It shouldn’t have surprised me to find out I had rosacea. After all, my mom’s side of the family is of Scottish extraction, and Anglo-Saxons are the people most likely to have rosacea. But I always just thought that my mom and I were naturally ruddy-cheeked, not that there was something wrong with me. And then one day not long after I moved to New York, when I was about 21, I decided to treat myself and go for my first-ever facial. The woman at the salon screamed when she saw my face. “I cannot do this for you!” she said. “You have an infection on your face!” Rather than deign to be in a room alone with me, she brought in her manager, who inspected my nose and cheeks under a flashlight.
“You have a skin condition,” the manager said gravely. “I think you should go to a doctor, not get a facial.” So, after getting over the massive embarrassment of leaving a beauty salon empty-faced, I finally went to a dermatologist. She told me that I had a mild type of rosacea and that I should use some over-the-counter products while closely monitoring my skin to see if it changed.
Although I’ve tried a lot of products, I’ve hit on a couple that I really like. While the Rosaclear System by Obagi is on the pricey side, it lasts a really long time. I can still wash my face and feel clean in the morning, but the products aren’t so heavy that I feel like I’m wearing a skin cream mask all day, which is how I felt after using a couple of other similar rosacea products. Not only that, but it also keeps me from breaking out. Many people with rosacea feel like they have to choose between taking care of the redness or taking care of pimples and other skin problems, so this is a great happy medium.
Colleen Williams turned me on to Eucerin, which actually has an entire line of products just for people with rosacea and other red-facey conditions. I’m a big fan of their Redness Relief Soothing Moisture Lotion, which has SPF 15. The unusual thing about it is that it’s green tinted. That makes sense, since green and red are opposite each other on the color wheel, but I still feel a little bit like a Martian in the morning when I put it on. But I’m a Martian who doesn’t have a face like a big bruised apple, so that’s fine by me.
In addition to the different products, there are also some lifestyle changes I’ve made. I’m vigilant about sunscreen year-round, and when it’s hot out I wear hats and huge sunglasses. This helps me not only to protect my face but to pretend I am a famous celebrity like Plum Sykes. I avoid most spicy foods (which, to be honest, isn’t that hard because I’m kind of a wuss) and, like Jennifer, go easy on the red wine. When I feel my face getting hot, I drink a glass of cold water or put a cold compress on my cheeks. Lest you worry, you can still be a drunk when you have rosacea. You just get to be one of those classy white wine spritzer drunks. Plus, your face won’t look like a swollen pomegranate, so it’s win-win.