In my last post, I described the methods I use to choose a cleanser I plan to try as a part of my rosacea skin care routine. In this post, I’ll take it to the next step of the routine, which is a rosacea moisturizer. True, there are times when I use a tonic (toner) or thermal water mist, but I’ll get into those on another day.
A rosacea friendly moisturizer is extremely hard to find. There are a lot of options, tons of claims, and countless possible ingredients. It’s very difficult to decide what to believe and what is just an empty promise made by a company that cares more about making fast money than helping anyone.
What makes it even more challenging is that even when I come across a fantastic company with incredible products and perfect-sounding ingredients, it’s still possible for my skin to react badly. On top of that, the first two weeks of a new product are typically a guaranteed flare-up anyway. So for at least two weeks, I won’t know if I even have a chance at being on the right track.
It takes about three months of use to truly know whether or not a rosacea moisturizer will not only be gentle enough not to cause flare-ups after the first two weeks, but also live up to any other promises it makes, such as anti-redness, inflammation-reduction, non-comedogenic intense hydration, etc.
It can feel like I’ve tried every rosacea moisturizer out there
Over the years, I’ve tried drugstore rosacea moisturizers, prescription creams, natural oils, products from tiny artisan companies and DIY recipes I’ve made at home. Some have worked very well. Some have started off well, working for weeks or months before leading to consistent flare-ups. Some have been disastrous.
I’ve caused painful, stinging and itching flare-ups with products that promised to be exceptionally gentle on my skin. I’ve dyed my face pumpkin orange through the regular use of purse sea buckthorn seed oil on my ghostly-white complexion. I’ve tried staggeringly expensive serums that made me stink to high heaven.
But I’ve been patient (as much as one can be), and I’ve been as “scientific” about my testing as I possibly can. Whenever I test a new rosacea moisturizer, I try to be consistent about everything else in my life. I take into consideration any extra time I spend in the sun, any consumption of known food triggers and dramatic changes in the weather (both temperature and humidity affect my skin). Hormonal changes are also important to consider, as are times of increased stress and anxiety. It’s a lot to track!
There are different kinds of rosacea moisturizer
When it comes to moisturizing rosacea-prone skin, there are several different types of product to consider. Here’s a brief run-down of my experience with each kind:
- Creams – these are the most common. They are my preference if only for the ease and comfort of use. That said, they’re not always the ideal option in terms of performance. I live in Canada. My part of the country experiences very cold winters (it’s not unheard of to experience quite a few days where the mercury drops well below -20ºC and the wind can make it feel ten degrees colder). Creams can stand up to that amount of cold, particularly when layered with another product such as a salve.
However, I find creams can be too heavy on my skin in the summer, despite the fact that my skin stays quite dry. Sweat and sunscreen make creams even less pleasant and they can lead to breakouts and redness.
- Oils – these can be either pure oils on their own (for example, extra virgin coconut oil or sea buckthorn seed or fruit oil), or a combination of oils (which may or may not include essential oils). These tend to be great as a base layer (under cream) for me in the winter or used alone as the only summer rosacea moisturizer.
With these, a little goes a long way. My skin always takes time to adjust to oils, and it can take me time to adjust to the amount I should be applying. I tend to be heavy-handed with products that should be used sparingly. Some cause my skin to break out, others are exceptionally soothing and this changes depending on the condition of my skin and the time of year. I’m slowly building a strategy for transitioning from one oil to the next as the weather dictates so that by the time the temperatures are at their hottest and coldest, I’m ready for it.
- Serums – I haven’t had a lot of luck with serums used directly onto my rosacea-prone skin. Yet even as I say this, I’m currently testing one that is incredible and I absolutely love it.
However, this is the first time I’ve ever tried a calming serum that hasn’t caused a powerful, hot and bumpy flare-up. I find most serums are all talk and no benefit. They feel oily and yet leave my skin dry (how my skin can be flaky and slimy at the same time still baffles me). They’re usually too harsh for my skin and I generally don’t like the way they smell. I’ve talked to other people who swear by them as the best thing they’ve ever used.
Aside from the one I’m trying at this very moment, I’ve disagreed in all other cases. This has led me to believe that a serum will either work very well or very badly and there’s no way to know which reaction it will be without testing it.
- Salves – These are a much heavier product. I personally wouldn’t use this type of rosacea moisturizer all the time because they are quite heavy. I use a sea buckthorn rosacea salve on the coldest winter days when I have to go outside in the freezing temperatures and biting winds. This added barrier works wonders for protecting my skin in a gentle way while I’m outside. Equally, I typically wash it off the moment I get inside because it is too heavy for my skin the rest of the time.
This is likely not a complete list, but it represents the forms I’ve tried. I recommend patch testing instead of slathering a new product all over your face. That way, if you do need to deal with irritation, at least it will be in a small spot and not the majority of your skin.
Take the time to educate yourself about a product and its ingredients. In this effort, actually contacting the company that makes the product can be an invaluable step. I never buy a new skin care product without talking to someone from the company first. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and see if sample/travel sizes are available so you can buy them at a lower price than the full-sized product. Over time, you’ll build up quite a bit of knowledge about the types of ingredients in these products. You’ll find out what they’re supposed to do for your skin and, if you try them, you can take note of whether they actually do provide those benefits in your unique case.
I have a large notebook dedicated to exactly those types of findings and notes. It seems goofy at first, but it becomes a fantastic personal resource over time. After trying the number of rosacea moisturizers I’ve tested, it would be impossible to rely on my memory alone for that number of ingredients!
Fortunately, it’s usually the products that contain fewer – rather than more – ingredients that work the best on my skin. That makes it much easier to conduct research and compare it against the notes I’ve already taken.
While I have discovered that finding a rosacea moisturizer is challenging, it was discovering a sunscreen that was the hardest. After 16 years of searching, I’ve only just managed to find one I truly love…but that adventure will have to wait until my next post. Until then, I hope this helps!