I am not blessed with good skin. Since the age of 15 or so, I have suffered from some sort of dermatological disturbance or other. For many years the doctors just called it acne: "teenage acne" first, then, as I approached my 40s and it became untenable to construe 36 as the new 16, my condition was promptly renamed "adult acne". I wondered how long these skin eruptions would persist - would my dispiriting ailment ever be relabelled "geriatric acne"? As the years passed with no remission in sight, it seemed a very real possibility.
On turning 50, I entered a brief phase of "menopausal acne", before a new hospital consultant pronounced my condition to be...drum roll..."perioral dermatitis". I quite liked this name, because "dermatitis" sounded reassuringly non-specific, even when qualified by its location ("around the mouth"). This was clearly not something I could have brought upon myself by eating lots of sticky buns and chocolate. But as it turned out I didn't suffer from perioral dermatitis for long, because at my next six monthly consultation, a new consultant took over, who was adamant that I was in fact suffering from rosacea.
Rosacea - it has a pleasing ring to it, possibly because it sounds a bit like "rose", but appearances are deceptive. Rosacea is in fact a ruddy nuisance. Your skin is prone to angry red patches, topped off with painful lumps and bumps that rise and fall with the precision choreography of a pus-propelled Mexican wave.
The first line treatment is antibiotics - both oral and topical - but in my reading around the subject, I was shocked to come across a long list of possible trigger factors compiled from patient histories. Here are the ones that sounded most relevant to my own lifestyle and diet
•Cheese (except cottage cheese)
•Broad-leaf beans and pods, including lima, navy or pea
•Citrus fruits, including tomatoes, bananas, red plums, raisins or figs
•Spicy and thermally hot foods
•Excessively warm environments
•Alcohol, especially red wine, beer, bourbon, gin, vodka or champagne
•Hot drinks, including hot cider, hot chocolate, coffee or tea
•"Lift and load" jobs
Skin care products
•Some cosmetics and hair sprays, especially those containing alcohol, witch hazel or fragrances
•Hydro-alcoholic or acetone substances
•Any substance that causes redness or stinging
Hello? That is my life right there that the Rosacea Organisation has described. Indeed it is pretty much the life of any middle-aged working woman. Well, speaking for myself it is, give or take the lima and navy beans. What are navy beans, anyway? Oh, and I am not a fan of Bourbon. But otherwise that is me to a "T".
So I am supposed to avoid sun...and cold...and wind? And humidity? That would also include rain, I take it, which tends to be jolly humid. That means I can only venture out on a mild, dry cloudy day, and must remain confined to barracks during all other types of weather. Which will doubtless increase my stress levels (another trigger), and prompt me to seek refuge from the stress of multiple weather constraints in a nice relaxing bath with a glass of wine (a double whammy of triggers!).
Though I must say that it has been no hardship at all to avoid exercise - gentle Pilates once a week (when I am in the country) can't surely do me any harm. I don't have a "lift and load" type job either, unless you count mauling my briefcase and luggage in and out of the boot of the car on work trips. And as a concession I have given up witch hazel spot zapping sticks, along with facial toners containing astringent, alcohol-based formulae (which is most of them!).
Even so, there were enough prohibitions on that list to put the wind up me good and proper (it's that wind trigger again!), so at my last hospital appointment I levelled with the consultant.
"Okay, so what's the deal with all these supposed triggers in the leaflet I've been given? If I followed that list to the letter I would end up like those poor kids you see on the Discovery Channel who live in a bubble - you know, where their parents can't hug them or their skin would fall off? What is a person really supposed to do?"
"Ah", replied the consultant. "I shouldn't worry in your case. You have some redness, but your rosacea manifests itself for the most part as papules and pustules rather than spontaneous flushing."
Hearing my face linked to such distasteful terms as "papules and pustules", I blushed deeply. But at the same time I was relieved that I could crank up the radiator and enjoy a G & T or two. And most importantly, I could carry on wearing perfume on a daily basis...
For in my case the trigger list proved to be a red herring more or less. And for everything else, there's Revlon ColorStay. Yes, for a foundation with light but forgiving coverage, it simply cannot be beaten.
Picture of rosacea sufferer from acnetreatmentforum.com, photo of girl with "face mask" from rosaceaworld.com, photo of windswept woman from nj.com, cartoon of man lifting load from safework.sa.gov.au, cartoon of spotty face from glamouredited.com, photo of mugs from myrosaceacure.com, phot of Revlon ColorStay from zimbio.com