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The Red Face Blues

Posted on September 21, 2023

“Why is your face so red? Are you OK?”

As a seasoned veteran of the condition known as rosacea, I have been plagued for years by insensitive questions feigning concern, such as that one.

I must disclose that in my early childhood, I had no clue as to where, when, or why my naturally rosy facial glow would suddenly become alarmingly vibrant. I’d often be alerted to my rising high color by a classmate blaring, “What’s wrong with your face?”

A pediatrician once gently explained to me, “It’s just your physiology.” So, at the time and in my innocent, uncluttered mind, I decided that must be all there was to it. It was just my physiology.

As a child with chronic eczema, I would hide my rash under clothing, subject myself to gym class in the hot midday sun, and later be the only student who looked scorched and on the verge of sunstroke. As time passed, I became accustomed to frequently presenting like a boiled lobster.

Later, as a young adult, I finally began to make the connection between triggers for rosacea and my eczema. It became a lifelong balancing act.

Rosacea and eczema are two distinct diagnoses. They’re both skin conditions. Their symptoms often overlap, causing significant discomfort, frustration, and embarrassment. The triggers might vary from one individual to another. Some triggers are avoidable, but others are not. After all, participation in daily life is mandatory.

However, preventing certain triggers eventually helped me prevent rude and intrusive comments that sometimes peppered public inspection and interaction. Here are a couple more classics:

  • “Your blood pressure must be through the roof! This is scary! You should go to the emergency room!”
  • “Have you been skiing? Wow! You obviously did not use sunscreen!”

As experience became my trusted teacher, I learned to navigate and reduce my triggers. I avoided extremes in temperature and sun exposure whenever possible. I lowered my exercise intensity and alcohol consumption — especially red wine. I started to choose my cosmetics carefully, disposing of those with an irritating chemical content or scent. I also avoided spicy foods and very hot drinks.

To say I could eliminate omnipresent stress, an additional trigger, would be hugely dishonest and inaccurate. However, I did initiate lifestyle changes specifically related to my workplace. I engaged in meditation, practiced Pilates, and made an attitude adjustment. The end result: reduced stress and fewer episodes of facial flushing related to excessive anxiety.

Fortunately, I never noted acnelike eruptions due to my rosacea, which I know that others commonly experience. I might’ve been more likely to seek medication from my dermatologist if I’d suffered from this symptom.

As I continued into older adulthood, I noticed the presence of tiny broken blood vessels called spider veins on my cheeks and nose. This is known as telangiectasia. These veins contributed to redness, burning, and sensitivity. They were also unsightly, so I consulted a physician and had a series of relatively painless laser treatments with a very positive outcome.

A noninvasive treatment such as wearing green makeup can also help. Essentially, it neutralizes the redness. You can try many high-quality brands. I used Clinique with a measure of successful camouflage.

Like my constant companion, eczema, rosacea presents an ongoing challenge. Having endured and absorbed a lifetime of experience, I’m now able to effectively manage my symptoms. I use the term “manage” because rosacea has no cure.

In fact, I often think of my jolly, ruddy-faced grandfather and realize he was clearly “managing” the same health issue. I call it the “red face blues.”

It cannot be denied that red is indeed a powerful color. It signifies strength, joy, love, and passion. But my ongoing goal is to keep the color red more in my wardrobe and less on my face.

On MyEczemaTeam, members discuss eczema from a specific point of view. Would you like to share your personal story to help others living with eczema? You can learn more about this paid writing opportunity from MyEczemaTeam here.

Members’ articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyEczemaTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. Content on MyEczemaTeam isn’t intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Posted on September 21, 2023
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Kathryn Carlino, MyEczemaTeam Member is a registered nurse with an extensive background in human services and adult wellness programs who has had chronic eczema since birth. Learn more about her here.

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