Having lived with rosacea for 14 years, I have spent so much time and money finding ways to manage it. Contrary to popular belief, rosacea is an incurable skin condition. It is associated with facial redness and flushing, and as London-based consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk mentions, genetics, blood vessel abnormalities, hormonal influences, microorganisms and diet are all rosacea triggers. However, some of mine are unavoidable, such as extreme temperatures, stress and illness. I regularly alter what I eat, my lifestyle and my skincare routine in a bid to keep my skin under control, but often when my complexion flares up, I can do nothing about it. In those moments, makeup is something of a saviour.
Growing up, I had seen friends use concealer on acne, so I bought something cheap and covered my entire face with it. As you can imagine, the results weren't great. Over the years I have experimented with many other complexion products, always picking the heaviest coverage and thickest formulas, thinking that anything that masked my redness was doing the job. For such a long time, rosacea controlled the way I looked and felt. It made me self-conscious, it made me alter my behaviour, and it destroyed my confidence. But when I step out of the house with my makeup done, wearing grey lipstick or pink eyeliner, I redirect people’s attention away from my skin and decide what they see. This is incredibly empowering and it also allows me to temporarily forget my skin.
Of course, I don't believe that anyone living with rosacea (or any other skin condition) should wear makeup. That is an individual choice and it is about what makes you feel comfortable. But when I wear makeup, I feel like I have levelled the playing field, and I get to start from the same point as everyone else. While I have spent a lot of money and tried many products that my skin has completely rejected, I think I've finally found the perfect routine. Here's what works for me.
Alongside my rosacea, I also have seborrheic dermatitis (which causes scaly red patches, red skin and flaking) as well as oily skin, so I always like to use a primer. It helps my makeup last all day and alleviates the tight, taut feeling. My current go-to is The Ordinary's High-Adherence Silicone Primer, $4.90, which I apply to my T-zone. The non-greasy formula contains a team of advanced silicone particles to help blur the appearance of enlarged pores and to create a smooth base for makeup.
I spend the most time perfecting my foundation base because once this step is done, I feel like everything else is a bonus. In the past I used to pile on heavy formulas that made my skin feel smothered. Now, I prefer a few layers of a light foundation. I apply one layer to the areas of my face that are clear (my chin, jaw and the left side of my forehead), then I build up the coverage on the areas that need a little more help. Layering light foundation in this way lends a much more natural appearance to the skin, as you can still see moles, freckles and slight imperfections.
My current favourite foundation is the Oxygenetix Oxygenating Breathable Foundation, $64.31. It was designed to be used immediately after chemical peels and similar treatments, so it’s incredibly gentle on sensitive, reactive skin. It has an aloe vera base and not only gives natural coverage but helps to heal and soothe my skin. I also love The Ordinary Serum Foundation, $6.70. It's a very lightweight foundation that builds beautifully and feels like you aren't wearing anything at all. I always apply this with a damp Beautyblender, $26, rather than my fingers because I've found that the heat from my hands can sometimes cause flare-ups. Sponges help to minimize irritation.
I apply concealer to my under-eyes and will sometimes put a small amount on my cheeks if I want more of a full-coverage look. I use the tiniest amount of However much you think you need, halve it! To apply this, I use the very tip of the Beautyblender and blend it in really gently. I then set everything with loose powder to keep everything in place. Vichy's Dermablend Make-up Setting Powder, $35.84, is great and doesn’t make my skin look cakey.
I'm a cream blush convert and Glossier is my current obsession. When it comes to blusher, Cloudpaint, $22, is gorgeous and can be applied in a sheer way or built up for a more intense look. On top, I like Glossier's Haloscope, $27. It's the best highlighter I’ve used and gives you such a subtle glow with no glitter, which can aggravate skin. I use my ring finger to lightly pat cream products on to my face as rubbing tends to disrupt my carefully applied base and can also really annoy rosacea-prone skin.
I have blonde brows and don't feel like myself until I've drawn them on, so this is an integral step for me. I use very fine, gentle pencils as these give more of a natural finish, and my current favourite is the IT Cosmetics Brow Power Micro Pencil, $32. The brand's founder, Jamie Kern Lima, actually developed the brand out of frustration over her own rosacea-prone skin.
I have ocular rosacea and therefore very sensitive and watery eyes. My go-to eye makeup look is a coppery eyeshadow to bring out the green in my eyes, and I usually reach for the Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette, $68. If you love warm-toned colours, this is the palette for you. I finish my eye makeup with three coats of Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara, $5.96, which is my holy grail product. This is the only mascara that can hold its own while still making my short, fair lashes look their best. I typically finish the whole look with a bold lipstick. Makeup brings me a lot of joy and bright shades form a big part of that.
Before starting a new routine, whether makeup or skincare, it's important to know that rosacea is a very personal condition. Any skin expert would recommend patch testing products to make sure they agree with you before spending your money. And if you're struggling, it might be worth visiting a dermatologist.