Smart Ways to Boost Confidence When You Have Rosacea

by Erin L. Boyle Health Writer

You know the feeling all too well. Your face flushes. It feels hot. And maybe tender. This is rosacea, and you’re having a flare. It’s tough to look in the mirror and see your red skin, visible blood vessels, and pus-filled bumps staring back at you. Confidence crusher? You bet: In one survey, more than 90% of rosacea patients said the skin condition lowered their self-esteem. We’d be lying if we said it’s easy to feel great when your skin is behaving like a toddler throwing a tantrum, but there are ways to give your attitude a boost. Check this out.

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Understanding Rosacea

First things first. Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that impacts 16 million Americans. What it isn’t? Your fault. “You’ve got to understand that you did nothing to get this,” says Sharleen St. Surin-Lord, M.D., a dermatologist, assistant professor of dermatology at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C. “Some people are prone to rosacea, and some are not. If it runs in your family, you might get it. If you’re of a certain ethnic group [like Irish and Northern European], you can be more prone.”

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Know Your Triggers

Like things that set you off in your relationships, rosacea comes with a unique set of triggers that apply to you and you only. Being able to ID those triggers gives you some control over having a flare, and that can boost your confidence. Enter: a trigger diary. “With any self-esteem issue, it’s always a good idea to identify your triggers,” says Nicole Arzt, a licensed therapist in Fullerton, CA. “Dedicate a few weeks to writing down what happens before, during, and after a flare. You may start to notice a pattern.”

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Steer Clear of the Sun

One universal trigger you can control: Sun exposure. In fact, 81% of rosacea patients say direct sunlight is their biggest trigger. “When you have rosacea, your best friend is sunscreen,” Dr. St. Surin-Lord explains. “It will help prevent rosacea flares.” Because people with rosacea tend to have sensitive skin, your best bet is using a physical sunscreen instead of chemical one. Look for a fragrance-free product that contains zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or both, with a SPF of at least 30 or more.

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Rethink How You Think

Do you tell yourself “I’m flawed” when you flare? Negative self-talk about the disease can rattle your sense of self-worth. “Nothing inhibits confidence quite effectively as shame,” says Rochelle Walsh, a clinical social worker in Topeka, KS. How to break the habit? Arzt suggests a cognitive technique known as “thought-stopping.” When a negative thought arises, “picture an actual stop sign or some kind of symbol,” she says. “Some people even use a rubber band and flick it on their wrist to remind themselves to focus on something else.”

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Seek Motivational Quotes

Another way to raise your confidence? Keep inspirational sayings taped to your mirrors, fridge, and front door. “Motivational quotes help build self-esteem,” says Alisa Bedrov, a social psychology Ph.D.-candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who co-published a paper on the topic. Bedrov found that simply reading motivational quotes can promote positive health behavioral changes in people, while lessening depressive symptoms, “thus reducing some of the barriers to proper managing chronic conditions,” she says.

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Make Friends With Skin Products

It’s easier to forget about something you can’t see, so reducing the appearance of rosacea is a good step towards raising your confidence, says Dr. St. Surin-Lord—while also lessening stress, a big flare trigger! Look for tinted sunscreen—it functions like beauty/blemish (BB) balm, giving you a nice glow. Also, foundations with a green tint can offset the ruddiness of rosacea, and mineral makeup with mica will make your skin glisten, disguising some of the redness.

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But Skip These Cosmetic Ingredients

On the other hand, certain ingredients in skin-care products can make a flare worse (and that’s good for no one’s mojo!). Avoid products with these ingredients, which may aggravate your skin: Alcohol, camphor, fragrance, glycolic acid, lactic acid, menthol, sodium laurel sulfate, and urea. Also, be sure to dispose of unused cosmetic products every six to 12 months to avoid bacterial growth or contamination, and when applying makeup, use sterile brushes with soft bristles.

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Talk It Out with a Therapist

Sometimes, you just need to talk to someone skilled in mental health when you’re struggling with stuff as big as confidence about your appearance. “Counseling can help,” Walsh says. “Avoidance increases fear, so addressing these issues at their core is important.” Talk therapy and cognitive strategies might be helpful, she says, as well as EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), a psychotherapy treatment that can “help relieve negative cognitions of self, rooted in more traumatic experiences.”

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Give Your Body a Pass

Forget about body positivity and focus on the growing trend of “body neutrality” to help scale up your confidence. The idea: You don’t have to love (or hate) your looks—just accept them. In body neutrality thinking, your rosacea just is. Arzt explains: “We often talk about body positivity, but this may not always be the most realistic goal when you’re first working on confidence. Body neutrality means respecting your body for what it does, rather than expecting yourself to love it.”

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Use Social Media for Good

Social media can connect us, but also disconnect us. It can also dash confidence. “Many of my clients struggling with issues related to rosacea, acne, body dysmorphia, and so on can find triggering material of ‘perfect appearances’ online,” says Arzt. Those images can cause a confidence meltdown—but increasingly, the opposite is true as well. “Today, there are so many influencers and celebrities who are showing their true selves—scars and all," she says. "That can be really motivating and inclusive for people who are struggling.” Seek out those who get it.

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Don't Forget Self-Care

Self-care forms the foundation of self-confidence and self-esteem. “Treat your body and mind with kindness,” says Arzt. “Exercise regularly, eat healthy foods, spend time with people you love, and engage in your passions.” Rosacea, like most skin conditions, is chronic, so self-care is an essential part of treatment, notes Dr. St. Surin-Lord. So, too, are regular check-ins with your dermatologist. “Medicine has come so far," she says. "Today, we can treat to the point of people not even knowing you have rosacea because it’s so well controlled.”

Erin L. Boyle
Meet Our Writer
Erin L. Boyle

Erin L. Boyle, the senior editor at HealthCentral from 2016-2018, is an award-winning freelance medical writer and editor with more than 15 years’ experience. She’s traveled the world for a decade to bring the latest in medical research to doctors. Health writing is also personal for her: she has several autoimmune diseases and migraines with aura, which she writes about for HealthCentral. Learn more about her at erinlynnboyle.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinLBoyle.