This was me 2 months ago…
My name is Heg. I am a musician and I have suffered from rosacea for two and a half years now. I was reluctant to write a blog about this but, as I’ve come on a bit of a journey trying to understand my skin and why I suffer from this condition it felt right to document it; for myself but mostly to share what I’ve learnt.
I hope other people suffering from rosacea can gain something from reading about my experiences.
It started in September 2012 on my left cheek in a very small patch. I had never heard of rosacea at that time and I assumed that what I was experiencing was nothing more than regular, harmless spots on my skin. If you’re reading this then you probably already know what rosacea is but briefly, in case you don’t, rosacea is a chronic skin condition causing facial redness, dilated blood vessels of the facial skin, papules, pustules and swelling.
There are four types of rosacea – 1. facial redness 2. bumps and pimples 3. enlargement of the nose and 4. eye irritation.
I discovered this information from my own research and worked out that I have types one and two from looking at pictures. When my rosacea got particularly bad earlier this year my eyes became irritated and bumps started to form around the eyes so it could have been a sign that I was developing type four as well.
The very first cluster of red bumps occurred at a time when my health was generally at an all time low. I had several chest infections very close together, persistent colds, asthma flare-ups and generally felt unwell with no energy or strength in my body.
The red bumps on my cheek became slowly but progressively worse, spreading across my cheek and becoming a deep red colour. I still did not go to a doctor as I just thought it was “spots” that would clear up on their own.
In early 2013 I decided to get it looked at and it was diagnosed as rosacea. I was told that there was no known cure or any real understanding about what causes it. Initially I wasn’t very phased by the diagnosis; actually it felt quite good to put a name to what was going on my face despite it being “incurable”.
I was prescribed an antibiotic cream (metronidazole) and sent on my way. I was told the gel wouldn’t work quickly but I might hope to see results in three months.
After over four months of metronidazole with no noticeable improvement, I tried different antibiotic creams to no effect including Duac which my skin was especially sensitive to, shelf bought creams including Dermalex (this did show some signs of reducing redness but didn’t actually get rid of the rosacea) and Mirvaso (no improvement).
In mid 2013 I decided to take a different approach which was prompted by continuing to feeling generally unwell and getting recurrent acute thrush following the multiple courses of antibiotics I had taken for the chest infections.
My body felt depleted and I was becoming more self-conscious of my face. I did some research into candida overgrowth following the antibiotics and wondered whether yeast overgrowth along with what I was eating could have an effect on both my general state of health and my skin.
This seems obvious to me now but it is so easy to be lured into thinking that if everybody else is eating a certain way then why can’t I? I couldn’t find much information about a connection with candida and rosacea, apart from a few websites, but I thought that a healthy change in my diet could only have a positive effect on my body – and I needed something to change.
I changed my diet quickly and dramatically, cutting out all refined sugars, gluten, dairy, red meats, processed foods, yeast, white starchy carbs, coffee and alcohol. Basically anything that contradicted boosting my immune system. Much to my surprise, the diet started to have an effect.
The bumps on my cheek became less red, smoother and started to disappear. I followed this strict regime for three months and by then the rosacea (which at this stage was only on my left cheek) had almost gone. This was September 2013. That September I went on a long trip to Thailand and I ditched my health regime in favour of my old sugar-ridden diet! After all, the rosacea had gone, I was feeling good and I wanted to enjoy myself!
The rosacea remained at bay for a few months. My life at this point became increasingly more stressful – my partner was very sick, work was constant (which I loved but it also came with stress and pressure which I laid heavily upon myself), my diet was poor and I was drinking alcohol regularly and in large quantities. As you’ve probably guessed, the rosacea returned.
This time on my right cheek and progressed very quickly into a burning red, itchy, invasive patch. Within a few weeks it had also returned on the left cheek as well. This was horrifying to me. I felt like I was not in control of my own body and all I could see when I looked in the mirror was ugliness and an unhealthy person.
The rosacea was back full force and worse than I’d ever seen it before. I had also developed flushing when I ate in the evenings. This is a most unpleasant symptom where my face became burning hot and flushed bright red across the cheeks, nose and forehead. This was happening whenever I ate anything; peculiarly though, not in the mornings.
It was enormously distressing to feel like I had no control over my body. I had to make a change again.
Over night I changed my diet. This time though, it was more of a conscious permanent change rather than seeing it as a quick fix. I began reading anything I could find about rosacea along with researching how nutrition effects your health and how stress impacts your body.
One website in particular jump started my journey into understanding how my body reacts to stress and poor diet and what I could do to help change my health.
I recommend taking a look at foodmatters.tv and watch their documentary Food Matters:
One month in, after cutting out all refined sugars, meat (except organic, sustainable fish), gluten, chemicals and preservatives, processed foods, dairy products, coffee and other stimulants, alcohol and following a daily meditation and yoga plan, my skin looks like this:
One month in:
Before and after:
I am still very much learning what affects my skin and it is still flaring up and down with stress. However, it hasn’t returned to how it was in the first picture, so something is definitely working!
Here are some of the websites I’ve found useful:
I’ll be writing more about how my skin develops over the coming months along with some deeper insights into the effects of stress. Thanks for reading and I hope other rosacea sufferers find this helpful!