In honour of Rosacea Awareness Month fabulous beauty blogger and British Skincare Foundation Ambassador Lex Gillies talks candidly to Lumity about battling the skin condition and why by sharing her journey she hopes she can help others.
Growing up Lex Gillies didn’t suffer from teenage acne or embarrassing breakouts, in fact in her own admission her skin was “annoyingly good”. So when at 21-years-old her complexion began to severely flush, become mottled, dry and sore she hadn’t a clue what was happening.
Her doctors diagnosed her with the inflammatory skin condition rosacea and her no fuss beauty regime went out the window along with her confidence. She felt lost and confused and completely unsure how to deal with it.
But the now 35-year-old refused to let rosacea define her and instead of shying away from the skin condition she embarked on an epic skincare journey which she shares with her legions of blog – www.talontedlex.co.uk – and Instagram followers who embrace her honest approach to kicking rosacea’s backside.
“Of course! Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition which currently has no cure. It’s also very common, which surprises people as it’s still not really spoken about – it’s thought that there are about 415 million people living with rosacea worldwide.
“There are a few different subtypes, but the most common are type 1 which is what I have (characterised by persistent flushing, heat, broken veins, swelling of the face) and type 2 (similar to type 1 but presents more with redness and pustules).”
“I was diagnosed 14 years ago at 21 – it’s quite rare to be diagnosed at such a young age, as it’s more common in older people, so I feel lucky that my doctor literally took one look at my skin and said ‘yeah that’s rosacea’.”
“To be honest I was devastated. Up to that point I’d never had a medical issue that wasn’t ‘cured’ by a doctor. I assumed that I would go to see him, he would give me a cream, and my skin would go back to normal in a week. So to get a diagnosis of a condition that I’d never heard of, to be told there was no cure, and that it would probably get worse over time… I didn’t really know how to deal with that.
“The experience I had with my doctors in the early days of my diagnosis is partly why I started blogging about rosacea: I never wanted anyone to feel as lost and confused and hopeless as I did back then, so I share my experiences, advice, and tips on what might help others.”
“Annoyingly good! I’ve always been a bit pink-cheeked and pale, but I never really had spots or issues with my skin. I didn’t wear make up and didn’t have any skincare routine to speak of. Looking back at photos with a bit of hindsight, I think my rosacea started appearing in a very mild form when I was about 18-19 but I just thought that was how my skin was.
“I had moved away from home to university, I was drinking a lot, had a terrible diet, didn’t sleep enough, I was quite stressed. It wasn’t surprising that my skin wasn’t its best. But it got so bad I couldn’t ignore it: the flushing lasted longer and longer each time, my face was a deep mottled purple, and it was sore, dry, and cracking every time my face moved. It was such a contrast to what I was used to seeing when I looked in my mirror.”
“I often feel pressure to present a permanently confident and happy face to the world. I know that I have a lot of followers who look to me as proof that you can live a life with rosacea without letting it control you and I sometimes feel guilty for ‘letting them down’. But I think it’s important to acknowledge the down days.
“Skin conditions have an enormous emotional and psychological impact and ignoring that makes no sense to me. We’re often made to feel superficial or vain for being upset over our appearance, but it impacts every part of our life and changes the way we feel about ourselves.
“I want to show people that living with a skin condition is never linear, it’s never a straight line from diagnosis to healing (whatever ‘healing’ might look like to you). You do what you can day to day to deal with the way you feel, and if that means ranting on the internet to other red-faced strangers about your bad skin day then that’s okay!”
“I dread to think how many products I’ve tried over the years! I have now reached the point where I can look at a product description or ingredients and say yes or no.
“Triggers are very personal so it’s important to stress that what works for me may be your skin’s worst nightmare. But in general I gravitate towards products described as ‘soothing’, ‘calming’ and avoid ‘invigorating’, ‘clarifying’, ‘energising’ etc.
“My skin really doesn’t like tea tree, witch hazel, menthol, and strong fragrance. Any time I try anything new, even if it’s from a brand I love/it’s described as suitable for sensitive skin/everyone I’ve ever spoken to loves it, I will always do a patch test: I apply a little bit to my jawline and see how my skin reacts over the next 24 hours. It sounds like a lot of effort, but it’s so much easier than dealing with the fall out of a flare up!”
“That’s really kind, thank you! It took a lot of trial and error. I actually did a video where I recreated the make up I used to wear when I was first diagnosed to show how far I’ve come.
“The biggest lessons I’ve learned are: a few light layers are better than one thick, heavy layer; a damp Beauty Blender gives the best finish and doesn’t aggravate sensitive skin or dry patches; green concealer can really help to tone down redness if you have the patience to do the layers; and finally – my favourite tip – instead of covering the things you don’t like, draw attention to the things you do like. I wear bright lipsticks and choose eye make up that brings out my eyes so that people look where I want them to rather than at my skin.”
“No, but I work from home so that’s probably cheating! When I worked in an office I would never have gone to work without make up and I’m still not willing to leave the house without some make up and I’m not sure I ever will be. But I’m learning that that’s okay – if you feel comfortable going out without make up then that’s wonderful, but the stress of that situation makes my skin flare up so it feels very counter-intuitive to me!”
“I’ve pretty much changed every aspect of my life which sounds terrifying and overwhelming to those newly diagnosed, but a lot of it is common sense and it is also a balancing act.
“There is nothing that I’ve done that is a strict 100% rule. For example, I’ve massively cut down on alcohol, dairy, hot showers, late nights, sugar, using hairdryers/hair straighteners but occasionally I need wine… or cheese… or I choose to style my hair for a night out. You have to find the balance that works for you and fit your life around your skin.
“It is very tempting to carry on as normal and not want to change your life but I’m a firm believer that rosacea can be controlled if you have the patience and strength to want to do it.”
“It took me a long time to accept that I had a skin condition and that I would probably have to manage it for the rest of my life, but the most impactful change was realising that stress is the biggest enemy of my skin. By sitting and stewing in sadness and anger about my skin, I was feeding the rosacea.
“Worrying about how you look, feeling stressed about how others might view you, and crying about an uncertain future is perfectly understandable but it all makes your skin even more unhappy. You get into a never-ending cycle of stress – reaction – stress about the reaction – bigger reaction and it serves no one.
“I have some tips on my blog for stress management and how to deal with negative thoughts which you can read HERE, but the most important thing to remember is that your rosacea is not the most interesting or important thing about you. There is so much more to you than just skin.”
If you found this interesting here’s why your blushing could be rosacea.