As much as I work hard to avoid rosacea triggers and make lifestyle changes to keep my skin condition under control, there are times when flare-ups happen. Inevitably, flare-ups happen at points in my life when I can’t just hide myself from the rest of the world.
Flare-ups love to happen right before important occasions. That’s likely in part because my rosacea reacts to stress and anxiety, which I have in spades, particularly ahead of social events. As a result, there are times when, despite my best efforts, covering the redness is my only option.
That said, as with everything when you have rosacea, covering up the redness needs to be done in a certain way. My skin will only tolerate certain products and ingredients and among those, only some provide enough coverage to actually stop the redness from showing through.
Still, I’ve managed to find a system that works for me. My method likely won’t work for everyone as we all have our own triggers and skin intolerances, but I hope you find this helpful in coming up with the rosacea redness cover-up strategy that works for you.
Here’s how I cover rosacea with makeup:
- Cleanse – I always start with a clean face. The last thing I want to do is use makeup to push dirt, excess oil, dead skin cells, pollution, pollen, or other types of irritant against my already reactive skin. I cleanse with a very gentle product that washes away impurities without stripping my skin’s natural protective barrier. For more information about my cleansing routine, check out the post I made about that here: How I Created My Rosacea Skin Care Routine – Part 1 – Cleanser
- Moisturize – While moisturizing is important, something too heavy can alter the way makeup performs on my face. For this reason, I try to choose my best and most easily absorbed moisturizer, and I use as little of it as I can while still doing the job. I talk more about how I select my moisturizer in this blog post: How I Created My Rosacea Skin Care Routine – Part 2 – Moisturizer
- Sun protection – If I’m headed out for an evening, I skip this step. However, if I’m going out during the daytime, sunscreen is a must. I try to choose either an ultra-light fluid for very sensitive skin that will sit nicely under makeup (as opposed to a lotion or a cream) or I go for an all-natural zinc oxide product and apply a thin layer. Yes, it leaves whiteness behind on my face, but when all is said and done, I will be covering it all up with makeup that matches my natural skin tone, so the whiteness doesn’t matter much to me in this situation.
- Primer – I never used to believe in primer. I thought it was just another product cosmetics companies use to make money. Then I tried a very good one meant for reactive skin, and I couldn’t believe the difference it made to the way my makeup looked and performed over several hours. In my ever-so-humble opinion, if you are going to spend money on anything to make sure your makeup looks great without irritating your skin, it should be your primer.
- Concealer – I’ve seen a lot of debate in this area. Some people with rosacea swear by green tinted concealer, others use yellow. I use a pale green, and I try to apply as thin a layer as I can. If the green colour is too dark, my foundation won’t cover it up, and the finished product looks muddy and greenish. Not exactly the best look. I won’t use anything darker than a pale minty green. The lime-green and grass-green colour correctors cover the redness but they refuse to be covered by my foundation. That said, since we all have different skin tones, you might find that a different shade of green or the yellow will work for you. If you have access to a makeup specialist who has experience with covering redness, I highly recommend consulting with him or her so you can test a few shades of concealer with your skin tone and to make sure they won’t cause your skin to react.
- Liquid or cream foundation – I typically use two types of foundation. First liquid or cream, then a light powder on top. I find that the coverage is better this way and it looks more like “real” skin when all is said and done. That said, because a lot of layers of makeup are being applied, it’s always a good idea to use as little as possible. I use a medium-to-high coverage product and apply thin layers with a very soft brush using a dabbing motion instead of a sweeping one. I do one full layer and then touch up the areas that need a bit of extra help before blending it all in.
- Powder foundation – A high quality mineral makeup foundation can easily become your best friend. I use this to top off my look when I’m having a flare-up, but I use it on its own (without the concealer or liquid foundation) when I’m not having a flare-up. This gives that final layer of coverage with a more finished look than the liquid on its own. I apply it lightly with a very soft flat-top/kabuki brush using gentle swirling motions.
- Blush – Believe it or not, after all that effort to cover redness, I do apply blush. With a very light hand, I apply just a touch of sheer pink in the colour that naturally occurs on my face. I add just a tiny bit of it to the tops of my cheeks, over my nose and up the side of my face to my temples. The key isn’t to give my cheeks redness, it’s to break the uniformity left behind by the foundation. After all, I want to look like a person, not a mannequin!
I know that some people go ahead with highlighting and contouring after this point, but I don’t. I already have so many layers of makeup on by this step that I want to try to minimize the “extras.” After all, the more I apply, the more likely I am to have a reaction to something. That said, I go to town when it comes to applying colour to my eyelids and lips. I just make sure to choose gentle products (as my eyes tend to be sensitive, too).
A few extra tips that work for me:
- Read ingredients – At first, it can feel like you’re taking your first chemistry class and you’ve accidentally walked into the advanced lesson, but over time, you will start to learn the common substances and whether or not you want them on your skin. Some of the easier things to watch for are: fragrances, menthol, witch hazel, peppermint, clove oil, eucalyptus oil, salicylic acid, glycol acid and alcohols. For me, they’re an automatic no-no.
- Read labels – Look for products that say things like “hypoallergenic,” “non-comedogenic,” and that are designed for “sensitive skin” or “reactive skin.” None of these labels will guarantee that your skin won’t react to them, but they’re a good place to start.
- Keep brushes, sponges and other tools clean – If you give bacteria and other nasties the opportunity to grow on your makeup brushes, sponges and everything else you use to apply your makeup, they will. Spreading those critters over your face with each application will only increase the chance of irritation. I wash most of my brushes in a gentle, natural cleansing solution (I use soap nuts and water) and then rinse them after every use. That way, they’re dry and clean by the next time I need to apply makeup.
- Use light, uniform applications – It’s easy to want to slather a thick coating of makeup over your face to cover redness as much as possible, but putting your makeup on too heavily will look worse than it will if a bit of redness peeks through. Add makeup lightly and uniformly. When you work a bit at a time, you can be sure that you’re using the minimum amount of product required to get the job done.
- Wear makeup only when absolutely necessary – There was a time when I’d wake up in the morning and put makeup on, just in case. What if someone knocks on the door? What if I need to rush out at the last minute? The problem is that no matter how great the makeup is, it’s better for it not to be on your skin. My strategy now is to put makeup on at the last minute before I head out or have guests, then take it off the moment I get home. That way, my skin can be clean and “irritant-free” for as much time as possible. Yes, that does mean that I must occasionally receive mail at the door without any makeup on, but if the mail carrier doesn’t judge me for the old, beat-up track suit I wear when I’m hanging around the house, then a bit of extra rosiness on my face won’t make a difference!
That’s it. It sounds a lot more complicated than it really is. It certainly comes with a learning curve, but once I have the right products handy, it’s actually quite quick to apply, even at my worst.
I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to comment on any handy tips and techniques you have for covering your rosacea flare-ups. I’m always eager to learn more from other Rosy Friends! We’re all in this together.