Whenever it comes time to change one of the skin care products I use on my rosacea-prone face, I feel as though I’m preparing for battle. After all, it’s not just a matter of heading over to the nearest store to find the best sale or the prettiest bottle. I know that I’ll need to conduct research into various brands, check into every ingredient on the list for every formula I’m considering, and then spend up to three months at a time on every single product before I’ll know whether or not my face has “accepted” the change.
This is because the use of nearly every cleanser, topical treatment, moisturizer, sunscreen and other skin care product I’ve ever tried has started with a flare-up. Some of them have been as short as a day or two, others have been as long as several weeks. The length of the flare-up has nothing to do with how my skin will handle the product over the long-term, so I’m required to muddle through until I can decide whether or not my rosacea will back down or not.
At the moment, I feel very fortunate because I’m in a bit of a controlled phase in my rosacea skin care. It took a couple of years of constant research and testing, but I feel I’ve found a good rosacea skin care routine for myself. I wish that meant that I could simply tell you which products I’m using and that would give you all your answers, too, but as there are no two identical cases of this skin condition, that isn’t the case. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you and what you find to be a miracle product might cause constant flare-ups for me. Fun, right? Bleh!
That said, where I am hoping to be helpful to you as another rosacea sufferer is in the strategy I employ in order to discover the right products. It can be frustrating and time consuming, but if you stick to it you will eventually find the direction that is best for your unique version of this skin disorder.
What I Look for When Choosing a Rosacea Cleanser
Of all the rosacea skin care products I use, the cleanser has been the easiest one to select. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve been lucky or if that’s the same for everyone but that’s how it’s been for me. When I’m searching for a new rosacea cleanser, I start by looking for the following characteristics:
- Designed for sensitive/reactive skin
- Sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate-free
- Fragrance-free – that isn’t to say that it can’t have a smell, my current cleanser contains damask rose extract as a soothing ingredient that just happens to smell incredible. Just make sure the product doesn’t include added fragrances. Don’t settle for “unscented” which may contain fragrances to cover the smell of the ingredients. Look for the term “unfragranced” or “fragrance-free” and check the ingredients to be sure.
- Non-foaming – even bubbles can be too much for my skin. I always look for a cream cleanser.
- Minimal water use required – I’ve had the most luck with cleansers that are used on a dry face and that are only rinsed off with water once they’ve been massaged in. Some cleansers don’t need water at all (they’re wiped off with a microfiber cloth), but I’m not wild about that experience. As odd as it sounds, water – especially hard water – can be irritating and drying, so the less water is needed for cleansing, the better for my rosacea symptoms.
- Doesn’t contain any ingredients I’ve previously identified as triggers – taking note of irritation-causing substances over time can be a huge time- and frustration-saver.
Informing and Educating Myself
If I need more information about the product in order to find the answers I need, I will often contact the company that makes it. If they have the answers I need or if they don’t reply to my emails, I’ll move on to the next option.
Many companies are more than happy to talk about their products and how they should best be used on redness-prone and reactive skin. They may also make helpful suggestions with regards to other products they offer that will complement the cleanser being considered.
Once I’ve found a product that looks promising, I’ll either find out if tester-size samples are available, or I’ll purchase the smallest possible bottle of it. That way if the initial reaction I have to it is very bad, I’ll have spent as little as possible on it, and I won’t have much to either give away or throw away.
Testing the Rosacea Cleanser
Next, it’s time to start testing the product. The first test is nothing more than a patch test on a small part of the rosacea-prone part of my face. I try it once over a span of 24 hours and see what happens. That way, if the reaction is extremely bad, I won’t have covered my face in it.
If that works out, I start testing it as a regular part of my daily routine. I use it in the morning and the evening without changing any other products in my skin care routine. In this way, if I have a reaction, I’ll be better able to know what caused it.
According to a recent conversation I had with a dermatologist, one of the biggest mistakes rosacea patients make is in trying out too many products at once. It makes it too difficult to tell what is or is not working. It’s better to try one at a time and give that product enough time to prove itself. For me, this is the most frustrating part of choosing a rosacea cleanser – or any other skin care product for that matter.
The first few days of testing usually come with added redness, and I will typically end up with papules (they look like acne spots/pimple-like bumps). That said, this doesn’t mean the cleanser isn’t right for me. My skin just likes to throw a tantrum when exposed to anything new.
After a few days, I can start to tell whether or not my skin will begin to tolerate the new cleanser. However, it takes about three months to know that for certain. The skin takes time to adjust, heal and react. Its reactions can also change as a result of a range of additional factors such as sunlight exposure (or lack thereof), hormones, exercise, food choices, hydration and more. During that time, I take the opportunity to live my daily life and see how the cleanser holds up.
I take care to ask myself several questions. Do flare-ups come back after the initial wave? Does the product clean my face without stripping it of natural oils? Will it was off my sunscreen? Does it remove any makeup I happen to wear?
After three months have passed, I have a much better idea of how my skin will react to a cleanser over long-term use. Only then can I try out another product, such as a topical treatment.
Speaking of topical treatments, they are going to be the topic of my next rosacea skin care routine blog post. Until then, I hope this helps!