The following post was written by a friend, Beth, who has followed me on this Korean skincare journey. She has rosacea, sensitive skin, and allergies to several common skincare ingredients. Over the past 6 months she has learned a lot about how to treat and deal with her sensitive skin. Since this seems to be an area in blogging where there is a lack of posts, I asked her to write a guest blog on the topic. If you want more information from her, please let us know in the comments!
My Skin History/How I got into K-beauty
For much of my life I, like lots of people I know, figured my skin was my skin. There wasn’t much I could do about my consistently red cheeks, weird flushing, and red bumps, just like I couldn’t remove my elbows. I thought skincare was 99% nonsense (I still think “toxins” are bullshit) and refused to spend money on it. I washed my face in the shower, threw on some moisturizer (when I remembered, mostly in the winter) after, and then went about my day.
I’ve slowly started to realized, with the help of my enabling friends, that I CAN do something about my skin; in fact, that my skin DESPERATELY needed help.
I’m writing this especially because there aren’t many resources out there for those who have rosacea and are interested in k-beauty. There’s this ONE blog entry (which is from a corporate blog, so you have to keep in mind that they’re trying to sell you something), some threads on reddit (this one is a good starting point), but that’s about it. Almost everything I’ve had to put together from my own research, experience, and lots of trial and error.
There are tons of websites out there talking about what rosacea is and how to treat it. To get you started, here’s the page on rosacea from the American Academy of Dermatology.
Two very important things to know about rosacea:
- It’s not something you can cure. I doubt my flushing will ever completely go away but it is already much much better than it used to be.
- Rosacea does get worse over time, especially if you don’t treat it. It can (GASP IN HORROR HERE) even get into your eyes eventually (ocular rosacea: DON’T GOOGLE IT).
That’s why you should of course talk to a medical doctor and look into prescription medication if needed (I’m on Metrogel). I’m not a dermatologist or medical doctor, so I can just tell you about my experiences with rosacea and how I’m dealing with it.
I’m not sure where I first heard about rosacea, but I really started researching it when I got into skincare a few months ago. My friends were really interested in products to treat acne, but I don’t have a lot of acne. (I know that sounds great, but just wait until you see the ingredients I have to avoid!)
I pretty much diagnosed myself with rosacea, although that diagnoses has since been confirmed by my primary care doctor and a dermatologist, and I think it’s pretty easy to recognize the signs: red cheeks, easily flushing especially in response to certain things. My face is almost always red in the cheeks, nose, and chin; I also have red spots/blemishes all over those areas, and some broken blood vessels around my nose. It’s hard to tell in pictures but here are a couple taken September 21st, 2016.
There are certain triggers that are pretty universal to those with rosacea: alcohol is the biggest one (red wine, WHHHHY do you hate my face so much?), but also heat, exercise, spicy food, wind, allergies, extreme cold, the sun, you know – THE WHOLE WORLD. While many people advise avoiding things that are triggers, I quickly decided that I wouldn’t go my whole life without spicy foods. Or alcohol. I mean, really.
Sunscreen is BY FAR the most important thing and the first step towards helping rosacea. The sun is the number 1 trigger for those with rosacea and skin damage will only make it worse. You need to be using a broad-spectrum more than 30 SPF sunscreen every day. EVERY. DAY.
There’s also lots of talk in the skincare world (at least the places I’ve looked) about the role of skin mites in rosacea. There has been some research studying increased levels of these dermodex mites (everyone has them, but in different levels) on those with rosacea. I don’t think anything been determined yet, but I figure it can’t hurt to be aware of dermodex and treat them as well.
Ingredients to Avoid
Instead of giving you a list of products to avoid (at least half of them have already been featured here any way!), I’m going to give a list of ingredients to avoid and ones that have worked well for me. If you’re interested in a more detailed run-down of the products I actually use, here is the link to our shared spreadsheet with reviews.
A note about ingredient lists: any skincare product from the US has to list their ingredients in order of concentration. If an ingredient appears at the top of the list, there is much more of it in the product than those that appear at the bottom of the list. However, other countries (particularly Korea in this case) don’t have to follow this rule. Some do, but avoid depending too much on the order of ingredients in k-beauty products. (More info from Tracy at Fanservice-b is available here.)
Ingredients to avoid (more information available here from Rosacea.org):
- Alcohol (this is where we get a little science-y; there are two major kinds of alcohol in products. Simple alcohols, like ethanol and denatured alcohol, are the WORST for rosacea. They are very drying and can cause an increase in flushing. I avoid these alcohols at all cost. Fatty alcohols, though, are included in almost all products and are much harder to avoid. They are not drying, and instead have occlusive properties. However, these fatty alcohols have been identified as acne triggers for some people, so I try to avoid them. This blog has lots more science information about the different kinds of alcohol. Many products may still have some alcohol in them even if they’re not listed in the ingredients too; if there is an extract from blueberries for example, alcohol is almost always used in the extraction process.)
- Witch hazel
- Shea butter (as a bonus, I’m allergic to this so I’m including it here in the products I personally avoid. This is used in a lot of make up and organic/natural products as well, so beware!)
Identifying and avoiding those products will help a lot. You have to read the ingredient list of EVERY. SINGLE. PRODUCT. I am not kidding. Every single thing that goes on your face (including makeup, sheet masks, sunscreens) needs to be checked.
Learn what ingredients work for you and which ones make you flush, turn red, tingle, break out, or react in some other way and remember to avoid it in the future. Basically, if it burns or causes redness, STOP.
Ingredients to Help
One of the biggest issues with sensitive skin (which is highly connected to rosacea) is a weakened moisture barrier. The weaker your barrier, the more likely you are to react to products and ingredients. This article from Kerry at Skin & Tonics has great information about why the skin’s moisture barrier is so important.
Healing to your moisture barrier and increasing the overall moisture in your face is one of the reasons why k-beauty (and other Asian beauty products) works so well for me; the focus on GENTLE cleansing with lots of layers of moisturizing is perfect for my skin.
Ingredients my skin likes (remember, ymmv):
- Aloe (pretty universally soothing)
- Snail mucus (my skin LOVES snail mucus. LOVES it.)
- Honey/propolis/royal jelly
- Tea tree (this is often to used to fight acne but also works to kill/diminish those dermodex skin mites I was talking about above.)
- Anything fermented (you know how probiotics are taking over the food world? They’re coming to skin care too, according to the Wall Street Journal. Probiotics and fermented skincare items are the next big thing in skin care and both are GREAT for rosacea.)
- Hyaluronic acid
If you’re just looking for somewhere to start, Cosrx has been a pretty dependable brand for me. Not all of their stuff is perfect but almost everything is at least free of my trigger ingredients and works well.
So, overall, the two most important things to remember about dealing with sensitive/dry skin and rosacea are
- Moisture, moisture, moisture. Rosacea is really bad about drying out already dry skin, and the best treatment is to give your skin alllll the moisture.
- Broad-spectrum sunscreen. I’ve had a hard time finding a good sunscreen to go under makeup; almost all sunscreens have alcohol of some kind (the simple alcohol helps the sunscreen to dry faster). I’ve settled for a kind now with just one fatty alcohol, but am still on the hunt for something better.
Is there anything else you’d like Beth to cover? What products work for your sensitive skin?