Dealing with problem skin can have a majorly negative effect on your emotional well being, especially if you feel like you’re “too old” to be having acne breakouts. I know this because I myself experienced the struggle firsthand for over a decade.
Ever since middle school, I’ve had issues with persistent, non-cystic acne. For 15 years I tried every cream, ointment, and even pill the dermatology world had to offer. Sometimes the medicine would work, but 80% of the time it either did nothing or just made the problem worse.
I felt totally helpless; like the Skin Genetics Gods had cursed me and I simply could not win. The decade-long vicious cycle went something like this: my skin would break out in a series of small red of white pustules, I would apply whatever acne medication the dermatologist had prescribed- sometimes the tiny tubes costing me upwards of $200 I definitely did NOT have- and pray that I would wake up to magically clear skin. But no matter what I tried, the problem only seemed to get progressively worse.
My skin would be inflamed and dry (even though I thought I had oily skin because it was over-producing oil to compensate), and my small “zits” never seeming to disappear completely. My skin had a rough-looking quality to it that never went away. I never knew what was going to set off another breakout. At times, it would get so bad it would send me into a kind of depression; I would cancel plans to go out because I felt ugly. I wouldn’t pose for photos because I didn’t want pictures of my face online. I said ‘no’ to dates because I was hyper-aware of my broken out skin. My self-confidence was at an all-time low.
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?
- Rougher-looking, generally bumpy skin quality.
- Flakiness, especially on the cheeks near the nose
- Concentrated breakouts of 3-5 small reddish bumps or pustules that look like zits
- A propensity to sunburn easily
- Getting flushed or red after a hot shower or bout of exercise
- A history of eczema or keratosis pilaris (those red spots on the backs of your arms that look like chicken flesh)
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- European heritage
It wasn’t until just last year that a new dermatologist took one look at me and said, “no wonder your blemishes never go away. You don’t have acne, you have rosacea.”
Rosacea?? I thought rosacea was something older people got when they drank too much. I didn’t have super red, flushed skin, I had tiny bumps all over my face. But once the dermatologist started listing some lesser-known symptoms of rosacea, the puzzle pieces started to fall into place.
The dermatologist recommended I make some lifestyle switches right away.
For two weeks I avoided common rosacea triggers:
- Super spicy foods
- Alcohol, especially red wine
- Hot drinks, especially caffeinated ones like coffee
- Long, hot showers
- Prolonged sun exposure
- Extreme, or, out-of-your-normal-routine exercise
She then suggested I add the following to my daily routine:
- Drinking an extra glass of water a day
- Wearing sunscreen/a hat if I was going outside for more than an hour
- And this was the biggie: Switch my drying acne creams and face wash COMPLETELY for a natural, moisturizing bar soap and an intense deep moisturizer.
The last one was really counter-intuitive for me. I was so trained to think I had oily, acne prone skin. I was actually terrified that once I stopped my prescription wash and acne creams I would break out in a series of Mount Vesuvius size volcanic zits. But honestly? I was so desperate at that point I was willing to try anything.
So, for two weeks I did everything suggested. (Except for cutting out coffee. I’m not a superhero). I also looked up natural remedies for rosacea and foods that help heal skin from the inside out and incorporated a few of those into my routine (see the botaneri level up tip at the end to read what I found!).
In two weeks my skin hadn’t cleared completely, but it was darn close!
Now, a little over one year later, I still get a hormonal breakout on my chin/mouth area right before my period (thanks, genetics), but the overall quality of my skin has improved by about 80%. I don’t have those red zits on my cheeks and forehead anymore. My skin’s previous bumpy, rough quality has given way to a smoother, softer feel and look. And most importantly, I am so much more confident.
I still can’t believe it took over 10 years for a dermatologist to correctly diagnose my “acne” as rosacea! I’m putting this out into the world in hopes that if you’re struggling with a persistent problem with “non-cystic adult acne”, ask your derm if they think it could be rosacea. It may not be, but I wish someone would have suggested it to me as a possibility years ago.
If you do find out you have rosacea, fear not! The best thing you can do is be as gentle as possible with your skin. Don’t use anything harsh or drying. I completely switched to all-natural skincare and mostly-natural makeup. I now use natural hemp-oil bar soap and an intense jojoba and hemp oil moisturizing balm. I spot treat my hormonal breakouts with a mild benzoyl peroxide cream from my derm. I still get the occasional flare up, but this skincare routine, in combination with some of the lifestyle changes above, have made all the difference and I couldn’t be happier!
BOTANERI LEVEL UP TIP
One of the biggest game changers for me was actually using a raw honey face mask 1-2 times a week. You can read more about the amazing qualities of raw honey but the main things that make it so effective as a treatment for rosacea are its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities. Rosacea is essentially a condition where your skin is more susceptible to bacteria and becomes inflamed as a result. So, raw honey is one of the best, natural fighters of the condition!
About the author
As an only child who had to entertain herself a lot, Kelsey has always been a DIY fanatic! She grew up half beach bum in San Diego, CA, and half country bumpkin in Colorado Springs, CO. When she’s not researching natural DIY beauty and holistic wellness, you can see her pop up on TV once in a while on shows like ‘Modern Family’ and ‘New Girl’! Kelsey is a contributor to multiple editorial publications while also developing her original film and TV screenplays and writing a Young Adult novel.